Monday, August 10, 2009

Mary Artemesia Lathbury

Mary Artemesia Lathbury, born today in 1841, wrote and edited books and magazines for children, but is probably most known today for two hymns, though she wrote many more. According to, Break thou the bread of life, discussed here last year, appears in more than 536 hymnals, and today's hymn in more than 456 hymnals.

Evening hymns are sung by a shrinking number of congregations each year, but this one is still the opening hymn at each Sunday night service at the
Chautauqua Institution, with which Lathbury was long associated and where she wrote this text. The first two verses were written in 1877, set to music by the Institute's music director, William Fiske Sherwin, and Lathbury added the additional two verses two years later.

Day is dying in the west;
Heav’n is touching earth with rest;
Wait and worship while the night
Sets the evening lamps alight
Through all the sky.

Holy, holy, holy, O God of Hosts!
Heav’n and earth are full of Thee!
Heav’n and earth are praising Thee,
O Lord most high!

God of life, beneath the dome
Of the universe, thy home,
Gather us who seek thy face
To the fold of thy embrace,
For thou art nigh.

While the deepening shadows fall,
Heart of love enfolding all,
Through the glory and the grace
Of the stars that veil thy face,
Our hearts ascend.

When forever from our sight
Pass the stars, the day, the night,
God of angels, on our eyes
Let eternal morning rise
And shadows end.

Mary A. Lathbury, 1877 & 1879; alt.
Tune: CHAUTAUQUA ( with refrain)
William F. Sherwin, 1877

There is a similar hymn with a morning text sung to this tune which begins Day is dawning in the east, Souls are gathering for the feast which is attributed to Mary Lathbury, but it does not seem to have appeared in any hymnals until long after her death in 1913.


Leland Bryant Ross said...

The morning adaptation brings to my mind the Christian Science hymn Abide with me. Fast breaks the morning light (at least I think that's how it starts) to EVENTIDE. But I don't think they attribute the text to Lyte!

There aren't very many churches around that do serious Evening worship on a regular basis, and most of the few I know of are more into chant than what we Baptists would call "hymns" (though of course some, perhaps many, of the chanted texts are hymns...)

C.W.S. said...

I had things like that in mind too, so I'm not entirely convinced that Lathbury wrote the morning version, though it's possible.