Sunday, May 03, 2020

The Better Country

The Better Country is a song found on page 508 in The Sacred Harp, Fourth Edition with Supplement. The words are by Rev. C. W. Ray (probably Charles Walker Ray, a Baptist pastor in New York and Philadelphia who wrote a number of hymns) and the music by John R. Bryant. Bryant wrote other tunes in J. L. White, including Walden (p. 488a, first printed in The Musical Million, and also in Union Harp and History of Songs on page 126). According to J. S. James, Bryant was born in 1861 in Newton County, Georgia, married Mamie (actually Minnie) Johnson in 1885, studied music under R. M. McIntosh, and was living in Atlanta, Georgia at the time James wrote the bio. He died the next year. The Lifeboat, 162 in Union Harp, was originally arranged by Bryant, but arranged by S. M. & T. J. Denson.

With L. L. Pickett and M. W. Knapp, Bryant was a compiler of Tears and Triumphs circa 1896.

1. O better country far away,
In fadeless beauty dressed,
Where toil-worn pilgrims soon shall lay
Their burdens down and rest.
No dreaded plague nor artful foe,
Their presence there invades;
Delights untold they each shall know,
In thy embow’ring shades.

2. O city fair, thy gates for me,
Thy king shall soon unfold;
Within thy courts I soon shall be,
And walk the streets of gold.
We now the dawn of glory know,
We sight the distant towers.
We catch the fragrance here below,
From thy celestial bow’rs.

3. O better country far away,
Whose glories one can tell,
Who would on earth forever stay,
Or weep to say farewell.
I soon shall reach the mansions blest,
From sin and sorrow free;
To kindred hearts we shall be press’d
And Zion’s King shall see.

The Progressive Farmer, June 16, 1896, page 4

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