Saturday, May 24, 2008

More Voices Found: Emily Divine Wilson

Emily Divine Wilson was born on this day in 1865, about a month after the end of the Civil War. In later years her husband was a prominent Methodist minister in Philadelphia, and helped lead camp meetings on the New Jersey shore, where this gospel song was almost certainly sung.

Sing the wondrous love of Jesus,
Sing of mercy and of grace.
In the mansions bright and bless├Ęd
Christ prepares for us a place.

When we all get to heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory!

While we walk the pilgrim pathway,
Clouds will overspread the sky;
But when trav'ling days are over,
Not a shadow, not a sigh.

Let us then be true and faithful,
Trusting, serving every day;
Just one glimpse of Christ in glory
Will the toils of life repay.

Onward to the prize before us!
Soon its beauty we’ll behold;
Soon the pearly gates will open;
We shall tread the streets of gold.

Eliza E. Hewitt, 1898; alt.
Tune: HEAVEN ( with refrain)
Emily Divine Wilson, 1898

Emily Wilson may have been playing the piano for some of those camp meetings -- there really isn't much known about her. This is her best-known tune but probably not the only one, so I will be keeping an eye out for more. If you like banjos with your gospel songs, try this version (but you may nearly miss the melody on the keyboard when it comes in). The tune works best with a lot of energy behind it from both the accompaniment and the congregation, and kind of a rollicking tempo.

Of course, this song is not in a style readily recognized by many Episcopalians, but Voices Found does include two gospel songs by Fanny Crosby, so it wouldn't have been impossible for them to have included this one, since both the text and the tune are by women. Happily, it was restored to the 1989 United Methodist Hymnal after having been removed previously.


Dorothy said...

Oh, I love this one, C.W.S.! Thanks for reminding me of it.

Leland Bryant Ross said...

Yes, a wonderful song. We sing it frequently, morning and evening both.