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The story in poetry – Part Two

The story in poetry – Part Two
The story in poetry – Part Two
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh
By the Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer

Background text: Genesis 3:1-9, 20-24

Devotional text: Matthew 5:14-16

In last’s week’s column, we began to look at a wonderful poem, consisting of 58 stanzas, with each made up of four lines. The author was a woman in her early 30s, and she wrote the poem while being bed-ridden due to a serious illness.

The year was 1866; the place was Clapham, Surrey, England. The author, Arabella Katherine Hankey, the daughter of a wealthy banker, also known as Katherine or Kate Hankey. Last week, we read a brief story of her life as a writer and evangelist.

Today, we look at Part Two of her book written in poetic form titled “The Old, Old Story.” We learned last week that Part One of her poem became the popular hymn “Tell Me the Old, Old Story,” with music added by William Howard Doane.

As we turn to the second part of her poem, titled “The Story Told,” we find the last 50 stanzas from which would become another popular hymn, “I Love to Tell the Story.”

While in the first hymn we looked at, it was easy to see the same words turned into song from those eight stanzas found in Part One; however, the same cannot be said for the hymn that came from Part Two.

Although the first stanza from Part Two became the first half of the first verse in “I Love to Tell the Story,” the rest of the hymn comes from various lines found among the 50 stanzas.

When I read the entire poem, I became moved by the words of Hankey, for she began this part of her poem with the Garden of Eden and ended it with the Holy Spirit, who is still with us today.

Her words take us through the temptation of Adam and Eve, their “fall” from God’s grace, and then to the birth of Jesus. She wrote of “his purpose to seek and save the lost.”

Then, she takes us through Jesus’ three-year ministry when so many people were taught by him. She tells us that Jesus never showed weariness when he addressed the people. Instead, the crowds always found him to be a loving, helping, listening Man of God.

Hankey takes us through the crucifixion, calling Jesus the Man of Sorrows, who died without sin, who suffered for our sins. In Hankey’s words, we read, “His hands and feet were pierced, he cannot hide his face; and cruel men stand staring, in crowds about the place. They laugh at him and mock him! They tell him to ‘come down,’ and leave that cross of suffering, and change it for a crown.”

Two of the later stanzas tell us, “Oh, wonderful redemption! God’s remedy for sin! The door of heaven is open, and you may enter in!” and then, “But when he left his people, he promised them to send ‘The Comforter’ to teach them, and guide them to the end.

And that same Holy Spirit is with us to this day, and ready now to teach us the ‘new and living way’.”

Music for the second hymn was composed by William Gustavus Fischer. He was born in 1835 in Baltimore and began singing in a German church at the age of 8. Later, he would learn to read music and play both piano and organ.

Still later in life, he would lead large choirs in musical festivals and teach music classes. He became the professor of music at Girard College during the decade between 1858 to 1868.

Under Fischer, “I Love to Tell the Story” was published in “Joyful Hymns,” Nos. 1 to 3 for the Methodist Episcopal Book Room in 1869.
From there, this hymn started appearing in more publications such as the 1874 “Gospel Songs” edited by Paul Bliss and the 1875 “Gospel Hymns and Sacred Songs” edited by Bliss and Ira David Sankey.

Throughout the years, Hankey’s two hymns have continued to appear in hymnals and continue to be sung by music artists of today.

After reading about Hankey’s poem that became two of the wonderful traditional hymns still sung today, I wanted to read the poem in its entirety myself. Under wholesomewords.org, I found the eight stanzas in Part One followed by the 50 stanzas of Part Two.

Today, since her book is more than 150 years old, it has become part of the public domain. However, Hankey’s book is still published in limited quantities. Scholars see Hankey’s work as “being culturally important … and important enough to be preserved, reproduced and generally available to the public.”

I never know what I will find when I search out the back stories of hymns. I hope you find the writing of Arabella Katherine Hankey’s story as interesting and uplifting as I have.

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