My Faith Looks Up to Thee
DESCRIPTION: "My faith looks up to thee, Thou lamb of Calvary." "Oh let me from this day Be wholly thine." The singer asks for strength and guidance, and asks, "O bear me safe above."
AUTHOR: Words: Ray Palmer (1808-1887) / Music: Lowell Mason (1792-18720
EARLIEST DATE: 1831 (Hastings and Mason's Spiritual Songs for Soical Worship, according to Marilyn Kay Stulken, _Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship_, Fortress Press, 1981, p. 500); words reportedly written 1830
KEYWORDS: religious nonballad
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Fireside, p. 282, "My Faith Looks Up to Thee (Olivet)" (1 text, 1 tune)
ADDITIONAL: Charles Johnson, One Hundred and One Famous Hymns (Hallberg, 1982), pp, 100-102, "My Faith Looks Up To Thee" (1 text, 1 tune)
NOTES: Julian, p. 877, writes of this song, "This hymn was written by the author when fresh from college, and during an engagement in teaching in New York. (McKim, p. 383, says it was a girls' school.) This was in 1830. The author says concerning its composition, 'I gave form to what I felt, by writing, with little effort, the stanzas. I recollect I wrote them with very tender emotion, and ended the last line with tears.' A short time afterward the hymn was given to Dr. Lowell Mason, if thought good, in a work then being compiled by him and Dr. T. Hastings." The tune Mason wrote is known as "Olivet."
Julian reports that Palmer was "s[on] of the Hon. Thomas Palmer, a Judge in Rhode Island, [and was] b[orn] at Little Compton, Rhode Island, Nov. 12, 1808. His early life was spent at Boston, where he was for some time clerk in a dry-goods store. At Boston he joined the Park Street Congregational Church, then under the pastoral care of Dr. S. E. Dwight. After spending three years at Phillips Academy, Andover, he entered Yale College, New Haven, where he graduated in 1830. In 1835 he became pastor of the Central Congregational Church, Bath, Maine.... In 1850 he was appointed to the First Congregational Church, at Albany, New York. He resigned in 1878, and retired to Newark, New Jersey. He d[ied] at Newark, Mar. 29, 1887."
Reynolds, p. 146, and McKim, p. 384 an interesting anecdote: Lowell Mason met Ray Palmer soon after Mason first saw the words to this poem. which of course he set to music, and Mason told Palmer, "Mr. Palmer, you may live many years and do many good things, but I think you will be best known to posterity as the author of 'My Faith Looks Up to Thee'!" Reynolds notes that Mason was right. In other words, Palmer never did anything else of any note. Even this song's success, I suspect, is due more to Mason's tune than to the lyrics. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.2
- Julian: John Julian, editor, A Dictionary of Hymnology, 1892; second edition 1907 (I use the 1957 Dover edition in two volumes)
- McKim: LindaJo H. McKim, Presbyterian Hymnal Companion, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993
- Reynolds: William Reynolds, Companion to Baptist Hymnal, Broadman Press, 1976
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