Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sarah Flower Adams - Nearer My God To Thee

So he [Jacob] came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it...
- Genesis 28:11-12

Sarah Flower Adams lived in England the first half of the nineteenth century, and wrote the poem based loosely on the Genesis verse.  Her sister Eliza Flower put it to music, although the version heard on the shores of the New World uses a different tune.  It rapidly became wildly popular on both sides of the Atlantic, most famously as the reported last song played on the Titanic as it sank.

But it was well known much earlier than 1912.  At the battle of Gettysburg during the American War of Southern Independence, the survivors of Pickett's Charge  staggered back to their lines to this tune played by a band in the Army of Northern Virginia.

Today the Queen Of The World and I head north to Gettysburg for a horseback tour of the battlefield.  This song will be much in mind today.

Nearer My God To Thee (Songwriter: Sarah Francis Adams (words), (music))
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me;
Still all my song shall be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Chorus: Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
Darkness be over me, my rest a stone;
Yet in my dreams I'd be nearer, my God, to Thee, 
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee! 
There let the way appear steps unto heav'n;
All that Thou sendest me in mercy giv'n;
Angels to beckon me nearer, my God, to Thee, etc.
Then with my waking thoughts bright with Thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs Bethel I'll raise;
So by my woes to be nearer, my God, to Thee, etc.
Or if on joyful wing, cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot, upwards I fly,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee, etc.


Roy said...

I just returned from three days at Gettysburg. (October 16 - 18)

While I was there this trip, I accomplished one thing that had been on my bucket list for a while.

I walked Pickett's charge from the Virginia (Robert E. Lee) monument to the angle of the stone wall - and then back again.

While on my way across, I was humming "Bonnie Blue Flag" and keeping step with the timing of that tune. It took about twenty minutes to march to that stone wall. It helps that the park service keeps a pathway mowed and you do not have to scale or climb under the fence lines at the Emmittsburg road. (There are gaps that you can go through.)

I spent about an hour at the stone wall, the North Carolina monument, (the true "High Water" mark), and the Lewis Armistead memorial, thinking about the fortitude it took for those men to make that assault - and the fortitude it took for the Union soldiers to stick in place and resist them.

It was a very moving experience.

On the way back across, (the retreat),I hummed "Dixie". This was mostly so I could keep up the route-step. I did not know about the playing of "Nearer My God to Thee". Had I known, it would have been much more appropriate.

I highly recommend that you take the time and do this if you haven't already. From the Virginia monument as you look across that field, it looks a little intimidating, but I am 62 years old and had no problem. If you are in reasonably good shape and can walk at a brisk pace, it will take less than an hour for the march there and back again. Add whatever time you might spend at the stone wall.

Roy said...

Some notes to add to my comment above:

First, I shed all of my excess baggage before I started out. I left the camera in the car and only took my hat. The soldiers back then had somewhat more "stuff" to contend with.

Second, the weather was grand the day I did it - partly sunny and about 75 degrees. It was very hot and humid on July 3rd 1863.

There were two other Civil War geeks in my party that were with me on the march. However, we were the only ones. We had that field entirely to ourselves. Somewhat different from back then.

Finally, the Dobbins House restaurant in Gettysburg is a really good place to eat. It's in an old inn that was "Four score and seven years" old at the time of the battle. The wait is long and the seating is tight and it's expensive. But it was a FINE meal and worth every bit of the hassle.