Academic journal article The Hymn

Congregational Hymns from the Poetry of John Greenleaf Whittier: A Comparative Study of the Sources and Final Works, with a Bibliographic Catalog of the Hymns

Academic journal article The Hymn

Congregational Hymns from the Poetry of John Greenleaf Whittier: A Comparative Study of the Sources and Final Works, with a Bibliographic Catalog of the Hymns

Article excerpt

Congregational hymns from the poetry of John Greenleaf Whittier A comparative study of the sources and final works, with a bibliographic catalog of the hymns by Samuel J. Rogai. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2010. 166 pp. ISBN 978-0-7864-4478-6. US $45.00.

As readers will learn from this book, John Greenleaf Whittier never set out to be a writer of congregational song; he was a lifelong Quaker who had scant personal experience with congregational singing. The fact that his hymns appeared in 2,120 hymnals of various denominations between 1843 and 2000 is the result of the efforts of hymnal editors rather than the initiative of the poet himself. This is the paradox illuminated in Congregational hymns from the poetry of John Greenleaf Whittier by Samuel J. Rogai. The author, by his own declaration, is particularly interested in the "influence of one writer or text upon another," and with this in mind, he explores in detail how various editors drew material from the literary poems of Whittier to create hymns for congregational use. Rogai is a life member of The Hymn Society and a retired professor of English. He has written numerous scholarly articles and books including A general introduction to hymnody and congregational song and Guide to the hymns and tunes of American Methodism.

The author examines four of Whittier's poems in depth, perhaps the best known of which is "The brewing of Soma," the source of "Dear Lord and Father of mankind." After placing each poem in the context of Whittier's deeply-held Quaker faith and the events occurring in society at the time he was writing, Rogai then examines the stanzas of the poems which were selected by hymnal editors, and the editorial choices and changes that were made for publication. He notes, for instance, that "Dear Lord and Father of mankind" has also been called "Dear Lord, embracing humankind," and "Dear Father, Lord of humankind," which, he good-humoredly points out, can make it hard to find it in the index of first lines. …

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