Saturday, October 30, 2010

Adelaide Anne Procter

Today is the birthday of Adelaide Anne Procter (born in 1825), who wrote the text of one of the most popular songs of the nineteenth century, The Lost Chord, though she did not live to see her words joined to Arthur Sullivan's music.

In the book Lady Hymn Writers (1892) by Emma Raymond Pitman, we learn a few details of Procter's childhood. Even before she learned to write she was captivated by poetry, and

"...she made for herself a tiny album of note-paper, into which her favorite poems were copied for her, at her urgent request, by her mother. (...) This little album was cherished and carried around by the child, much as dolls are by other little girls."

Years later, her own poetry was published, first by Charles Dickens in his magazine Household Words, and later collected in Legends and Lyrics (1858-60). A smaller volume of primarily devotional poems followed, A Chaplet of Verses (1862). Some of her texts were later set to music and appeared in hymnals, such as this one.

My God, I thank thee, who hast made
The earth so bright,
So full of splendor and of joy,
Beauty and light;
So many glorious things are here,
Noble and right.

I thank thee, too, that thou hast made
Joy to abound;
So many gentle thoughts and deeds
Circling us round,
That in the farthest spot of earth
Some love is found.

I thank thee, God, that thou hast kept
The best in store;
We have enough, yet not too much
To long for more:
A yearning for a deeper peace
Not known before.

Adelaide Anne Procter, 1858
Frederick C. Maker, 1876

Procter died in 1864, reportedly worn down by the charitable work which to her was much more significant than her poetry. Dickens wrote of her:

"Perfectly unselfish, swift to sympathize and eager to relieve, she wrought at such designs with a flushed earnestness that disregarded season, weather, time of day or night, food, rest. Under such a hurry of the spirits, and such incessant occupation, the strongest constitution will commonly go down. (...) And so the time came when she could move about no longer and took to her bed."

The popularity of her poetry continued to increase after her death for many years to come, and undoubtedly there were many other little girls who loved her works before they had learned to write. I hope some of them had mothers who wrote down their favorites for them to carry about.

One Year Ago: Adelaide Anne Procter

Two Years Ago: Christopher Wordsworth

No comments: