A Book, A Song
Fast-forward to the completed draft. I decided that I really liked how the verse fit in with the story, and decided to keep it where it was. I had checked the date, and it was written in the 1800s, so it would be acceptable for my 1940's character to know it. But then...then I heard the entire song with four verses one day on the radio. See, I grew up singing three verses. And I had no idea that a fourth one even existed. But the words, y'all, to that one verse. I stopped what I was doing and quickly searched it online to be sure it was a verse that had been written by the original author, and not one that someone had added later.
And it was then that I realized my spur of the moment decision to include one verse in a small part of the story really hadn't been just my decision. Only God could have fit a song so well with a book.
Be Still, my soul, when dearest friends depart. And all is darkened in a veil of tears. Then you shall better know His love, His heart, who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears. Be still, my soul. Thy Jesus can repay from His own fullness all He takes away.
As my critique partner later said, it seemed as if the song had been written to go with the book. Or that my book had been written to go with the song. Neither were true. God had managed to fit the two together in a way that I never would have imagined.
And Be Still, My Soul? Well, it now holds a very special place in my heart. ;)
(All information below written by Dr. Michael Hawn and taken from this website.)
The formation of "Be Still, My Soul" as it appears in our hymnal covers three countries – Germany, Scotland, and Finland – and well over 100 years.
Little is known about the author of this hymn. Katharina Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel was born in 1697. The date of her death is unknown. As her name suggests, she may have come from an aristocratic family. Other than that she was connected with a small court at Köthen, north of Halle, in Germany, little is known of her life. Some hymnologists suggest that she may have become a Lutheran nun. We know her as the author of "Stille, mein Wille; dein Jesus hilft siegen" published in a collection entitled Neue Sammlung geistlicher Lieder (A new collection of spiritual songs) in 1752, one of several of her texts included there.
This text appears at the time of German pietism, similar in spirit in many regards to the Wesleyan revival in England of the same era. Philipp Jacob Spener (1635-1705) led the German pietistic movement. Though not a hymn writer himself, he inspired a revival in German hymnody characterized by faithfulness to Scripture, personal experience, and deep emotional expression. Katharina von Schlegel is thought to be the leading female hymn writer of this period.
The hymn comes to us via a translation by Jane L. Borthwick (1813-1897), a member of the Free Church of Scotland. Borthwick was second only to Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878) in bringing the riches of German hymn heritage to the English language. Her translation included five of the original six stanzas, appearing in Hymns from the Land of Luther, second series (1855).
The tune FINLANDIA complements this stirring poem wonderfully. The melody comes from a symphonic tone poem by Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) by the name of Finlandia, Op. 26. Sibelius wrote it as a patriotic offering in 1899 with a revision in 1900. This composition was performed as the final of seven pieces as the music to accompany a series of tableaus, each reflecting portions of Finnish history. Out of agitated and tumultuous opening music, symbolizing the struggles of the Finnish people, emerges the serenity of the hymn-like melody we know as FINLANDIA, symbolizing hope and resolution.
The Peace Celebrations of 1899 provided the political backdrop for the composition as well as a subtle protest by the composer against the rising censorship from Russia felt in the nearby Scandinavian countries. The censorship was so intense that the composition could not be programmed publically under its formal title Finlandia, as the Russian Empire would deem that too patriotic. In order to please the Russian censors, other titles were devised such as "Happy Feelings at the Awakening of Finnish Spring."
Finally, David Evans (1874-1948), a Welsh Oxford-trained organist-choirmaster and music professor, matched the translation with the tune for the Revised Church Hymnary (London, 1927). This pairing was brought to the United States when it was used in the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. for The Hymnal (1933).
- Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.Leave to thy God to order and provide;In every change, He faithful will remain.Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav’nly FriendThrough thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
- Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertakeTo guide the future, as He has the past.Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;All now mysterious shall be bright at last.Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still knowHis voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.
- Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,And all is darkened in the vale of tears,Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repayFrom His own fullness all He takes away.
- Be still, my soul: the hour is hast’ning onWhen we shall be forever with the Lord.When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.Be still, my soul: when change and tears are pastAll safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
- Be still, my soul: begin the song of praiseOn earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,So shall He view thee with a well-pleased eye.Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divineThrough passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.