Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Marion Franklin Ham

Marion Franklin Ham (February 18, 1867 - July 23, 1956) was born in Harveysburg, Ohio, where he grew up and completed high school.

Early association with the peculiar beauty of the fertile valleys of southern Ohio developed and fostered the poetic sentiment within him, according to a biographical sketch printed in the Magazine of Poetry in 1894. His first book of poetry, The Golden Shuttle (1896) was published to mixed reviews, though it was apparently successful enough to go through at least three printings. He was then living in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he had joined the Unitarian Church. In 1898 he was ordained, despite having no college education.

From Tennessee, he moved to Dallas, pastoring the First Unitarian congregation there, then went on to churches in Massachusetts. His earliest hymns appeared in the Unitarian New Hymn and Tune Book (1914), including one we have seen before and this one.

I hear thy voice, within the silence speaking;
Above earth's din it rises, calm and clear;
Whatever goal my yearning soul is seeking,
Its whispered message tells me thou art near.

In sorrow's hour, when frowning storm-clouds hide thee,
And faith can see no friendly stars above,
Still, through the gloom, thy words of comfort guide me,
And I find light and shelter in thy love.

When troubles come, our doubt and fear revealing,
And all the good seems sadly marred by wrong,
Amidst the discord, like sweet music stealing,
Thy voice, abiding, fills my soul with song.

O living voice, within the silence calling!
My spirit answers, wheresoe'er I roam;
Through life's brief day still keep my feet from falling,
And lead me, though the evening shadows, home.

Marion Franklin Ham, 1912; alt.
Tune: EIRENE (
Frances Ridley Havergal, 1871

Ham continued to write hymns for the rest of his life (many are still under copyright) which appeared in different denominational hymnals. His most well-known hymn to the Unitarians is probably As tranquil streams that meet and merge (1933), which became a sort of anthem for the joining of the Unitarian and Universalist denominations, long-discussed but only brought to fruition in 1961, after his death.

EIRENE is a tune by Frances Ridley Havergal, who remains primarily known for her hymn texts. I think some of her tunes are definitely worth another look.


AuntE said...

I had no idea Havergal wrote music! Thank you for teaching me something new today.

C.W.S. said...

Yes, I've found fourteen tunes by her thus far, searching through 19th c. hymnals, and I'm sure there are more. Some are "standard" hymn tunes like this one (and HERMAS, her most familiar), and some are closer to gospel song style. I expect to bring some more out into the open as time goes on.