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Article reprinted from: Ninde, Edward S.  The Story of the American Hymn. Abingdon Press, 1921.

bulletMore on Frederick Lucian Hosmer on this site
Portrait adapted from an out-of-copyright image. This version  2003 Jone Johnson Lewis. May be used for educational purposes by Unitarian Universalist congregations as long as this copyright statement is included.  All other rights reserved.


IT is only within the last few years that Dr. Hosmer's poems have to any extent found their way into our hymnals, and even yet their exceptional merits are not fully appreciated. More than a decade ago Dr. Julian, the eminent hymnologist, made the statement: "Amongst Unitarian hymn writers of the last twenty years Mr. Hosmer is the most powerful and original known to us;" and certainly no one has arisen in the meantime to endanger his supremacy.

Dr. Hosmer was born at Framington, Massachusetts, in, 1840, and after receiving his education he entered the Unitarian ministry, serving as the pastor of several churches in the middle West. From his boyhood he had a strong poetical bent, but unlike so many others referred to in this Story, he wrote very few hymns before he was forty years of age. All the more interest therefore attaches to the little poem, "The Mystery of God," composed in 1876, one of the earliest from his pen, and one of the best:

"O Thou, in all thy might so far,
In all thy love so near,
Beyond the range of sun and star,
And yet beside us here, --

"What heart can comprehend thy name,
Or, searching, find thee out,
Who art within, a quickening flame,
A presence round about?

"Yet though I know thee but in part,
I ask not, Lord, for more:
Enough for me to know thou art,
To love thee and adore.

"O sweeter than aught else besides,
The tender mystery
That like a veil of shadow hides
The light I may not see!

"And dearer than all things I know
Is childlike faith to me, That makes the darkest way I go
An open path to thee.

As a prayer of simple childlike faith, love for God, yearning to be near him, and yet reverently content to bide his time for fuller knowledge, without prying into forbidden mysteries, this hymn has a peculiar charm.

A large number of Dr. Hosmer's compositions appeared in The Thought of God in Hymns and Poems, which he and his friend Mr. E. C. Gannett brought out in a first series in 1885, and in a second series in 1894. Quite a group of these hymns are now in general use. One in particular deserves to he still better known. It is entitled "My Dead," and it must have been written out of the author's own experience. It is full of tender comfort for the hour of bereavement:

"I cannot think of them as dead
Who walk with me no more;
Along the path of life I tread
They have but gone before.

"The Father's house is mansioned fair
Beyond my vision dim;
All souls are his, and here, or there,
Are living unto him.

"And still their silent ministry
Within my heart hath place,
As when on earth they walked with me
And met me face to face.

"Their lives are made forever mine;
What they to me have been
Hath left henceforth its seal and sign
Engraven deep within.

"Mine are they by an ownership
Nor time nor death can free;
For God hath given to love to keep
Its own eternally."

Article reprinted from:
Ninde, Edward S.  The Story of the American Hymn. Abingdon Press, 1921.

More on Frederick Lucian Hosmer on this site

* People marked with an asterisk have appeared on postage stamps (in most cases, US stamps). Thanks to George Barner and Jon Durbin for supplying the information about stamps.

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