Pull for the Shore
DESCRIPTION: "Light in the darkness, sailor, day is at hand!" The sailor, clinging to the old boat (presumably meaning his sinful life) is urged to "cling to self no more" and "Leave the poor old stranded wreck, and pull for the shore."
AUTHOR: Philip P. Bliss (1838-1876)
EARLIEST DATE: 1872 (Bliss's collection _The Song Tree_, according to Julian)
KEYWORDS: ship religious nonballad
FOUND IN: US(So)
LOCSheet, sm1874 06588, "Pull for the Shore," John Church & Co (Cincinnati)/ George F. Root (Chicago), 1874 (tune)
cf. "Launch Thy Bark, Mariner!" (theme)
NOTES [348 words]: This song has, at best, a very limited place in tradition; I include it because it has some connection with the story of the Titanic. Also, it has been recorded by Tom, Brad, and Alice, which may make it known to users of the Index.
According to John Julian, editor, A Dictionary of Hymnology, 1892; second edition 1907 (I use the 1957 Dover edition in two volumes), p. 150, "This hymn, 'The Life-Boat,' has attained to great popularity. The incident upon which it is based, that of the rescue of a ship's crew by a life-boat, is given in detail by Mr. Sankey in his Sacred Songs, &c. No. 99 (large edition)."
I'm surprised it isn't widely printed today; it wasn't in any of the nine early- to mid-twentieth century hymnals I checked (Baptist, Episcopal, two types of Lutheran, Methodist, Mormon, non-denominational military, Presbyterian, and one I'm not sure about). The tune is magnificent. Of course, the words are a bit un-hymn-like. And, with the exception of the phrase "bright and morning star" (for which see Rev. 22:16), the words do not appear directly Bible-inspired -- though the whole thing might be suggested by Paul's shipwreck in Acts 27.
That phrase "bright and morning star" is interesting, by the way. The literal Greek text of Rev. 22:16 reads "the star the bright the morning." This isn't as clumsy in Greek as in English, perhaps, but I think it is an indication of the Aramaic habits of the writer. The King James Bible tried to preserve the feeling with its "bright and morning star" rendering; most of the newer translations simply say "bright morning star."
There is an interesting note on the dating: Laura Ingalls Wilder quotes this in Little Town on the Prairie, chapter 6. And it is sung by several men from a saloon (ironic, that). She quotes it again, in a more suitable context, in chapter 23. Wilder put it in a context that is after the song was composed (1881, I believe), but not much after; either it spread quickly, or Laura misremembered where she heard it.
For more on Philip P. Bliss, see the notes to "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning." - RBW
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