Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Anna Laetitia Waring

Welsh poet Anna Laetitia Waring was born today in 1823 (some sources say 1820) in the small town of Plas-y-Felin, near Neath, where she spent her early life. Her family were Quakers, but in 1842 she joined the Church of England, reportedly due to her interest in the Anglican sacraments. She also learned Hebrew so that she could read those scriptures in the original.

Never married, she and her family moved to Bristol around 1850, where she took an interest in prison reform, visiting prisoners and volunteering with the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society.

She began writing hymns while still in her teens, but her first collection, Hymns and Meditations, was not published until 1850 (perhaps thanks to her improved access to publishers), consisting of nineteen texts. Another collection, Additional Hymns (1858) was eventually incorporated into later editions of her first book with some other texts for a final total of thirty-nine hymns. In 1911, the year after Waring's death, Hymns and Meditations was reissued again with a new section written by her friend Mary S. Talbot titled In Remembrance of Anna Laetitia Waring which included some of her secular poetry and brief biographical information, little of which had been available before.  Also, like many of the women who wrote hymns over the centuries, we have no portrait or photograph of Waring.

Today's hymn appeared in her first collection under the heading "I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. (Psalm 23:4)".  It's not a paraphrase, but was certainly inspired by that psalm - the Presbyterian Handbook to the Hymnal (1935) calls it "steeped in the spirit of the psalter."  A chart at shows that this text became even more popular in the twentieth century, appearing in at least 495 hymnals to date, by their (incomplete) count.

In heavenly love abiding, 
No change my heart shall fear.
And safe in such confiding, 
For nothing changes here.
The storm may roar around me, 
My heart may low be laid,
But God is round about me;
How can I be dismayed?

Wherever God may guide me,
No want shall turn me back.
My Shepherd is beside me, 
And nothing can I lack.
With wisdom ever waking, 
Our path is ever clear.
We know the way we’re taking,
We walk without a fear.

Green pastures are before me,
Which yet I have not seen.
Bright skies will soon be over me, 
Where threat'ning clouds have been.
My hope I cannot measure,
My path to life is free.
My Savior has my treasure,
And ever walks with me.

Anna Laetitia Waring, 1850; alt.
Tune: NYLAND (
Traditional Finnish melody

In his Dictionary of Hymnology, John Julian writes of Waring's work: "Her hymns are marked by great simplicity, concentration of thought, and elegance of diction."

Samuel Miller Waring (1792-1827), an uncle of hers, had followed the same path of Quakerism to Anglicanism and also wrote hymns and poems, some collected in Sacred Melodies (1826).

Nine Years Ago: Anna Laetitia Waring

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