Friday, August 29, 2008

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Today is the 199th birthday of Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (1809 - 1894), a doctor and Harvard Medical School professor who is better known today for his literary pursuits -- he was a poet, a novelist, and a writer of humorous essays (though he also published medical books as well). He was also a co-founder of the Atlantic Monthly magazine which is still published today. Born into an old New England family, his father was a Congregational minister, and his mother a descendant of poet Anne Bradstreet. His son, Oliver Wendell Jr., became a justice of the United States Supreme Court. The illustration at the left is a memorial postcard issued after his death (click to enlarge) with a quotation from his poem The Voyage of the Good Ship Union.

Holmes also wrote a number of hymns, including this one, which appeared at the end of his book The Professor at the Breakfast Table.

God of all being, throned afar,
Thy glory flames from sun and star;
Center and soul of every sphere,
Yet to each loving heart how near!

Sun of our life, thy quickening ray,
Sheds on our path the glow of day;
Star of our hope, thy softened light
Cheers the long watches of the night.

Lord of all life, below, above,
Thy light is truth, thy warmth is love,
Thy rainbow arch, our covenant sign;
All that illumines earth is thine.

Grant us thy truth to make us free,
And kindling hearts that burn for thee,
Till all thy living altars claim
One holy light, one heavenly flame.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1848; alt.
Tune: MENDON (L.M.)
German melody; arr. Samuel Dyer, 1828

Holmes appears as a character, along with his literary circle of friends from Cambridge, MA (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, and J.T. Fields) in the recent popular historical mystery The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl (recommended).


Leland Bryant Ross said...

The postcard is on the left, not the right. fwliw. Did you consider any alternatives to MENDON?

Leland aka Haruo

C.W.S. said...

Always had trouble with that left/right thing (fixed now).

I know that the Cyber Hymnal doesn't use MENDON but it's the only tune I've ever sung this text to and I like it better than their options. I've mentioned liking ARIZONA here before, but I don't think it's suited to these words.

No comment on CHURCH ALIVE?

Leland Bryant Ross said...

Sorry, I've been having computer problems, and haven't taken the time to recompose my comment on "The Church Alive". As you may recall, I had written an extensive comment which Blogger refused to post because you had in the meantime taken the post down...

Leland aka Haruo