Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Did Cyrus Wheelock Write “My Native Land, Farewell”?
 


Did Cyrus Wheelock Write “My Native Land, Farewell”?

By: Amy Tanner Thiriot - November 26, 2012

[Part of a week-long series about Cyrus Hubbard Wheelock and the poetry of Hannah Last Cornaby. See index here.]

 

Mormon pioneer John Southwell noted that Elder Cyrus Wheelock wrote “My Native Land Farewell,” a hymn usually called “The Gallant Ship is Under Way.” Most sources, including 19th-century LDS hymnbooks and B. H. Roberts’ History of the Church attribute the poem to William W. Phelps. Others attribute it to Texas pioneer Nathaniel Hunt Greer or English poet Robert Southey.

None of them wrote it.

Here is the story of a hymn that played an important role in early Mormon history.

The text for the hymn, a poem originally called “The Missionary Embarking,” shows up in the December 1825 Evangelical Magazine and Missionary Chronicle, printed in London. The author is listed as “H.E.”

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The 1825 London printing may be the first time it was published, but it may have been published previously in another source, because two months later it showed up in The Religious Intelligencer in Connecticut.

Emma Smith and W. W. Phelps included the poem in the first Latter-day Saint hymnal. W. W. Phelps altered a number of hymns for use in the hymnbook, most famously, “Joy to the World,” so he was probably the one who made changes to this poem, including altering the line “I go, devoted to His Cross” to “I go devoted to his cause.”

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Previous to showing up in the 1835 Latter-day Saint hymnal, the poem was included in an 1833 Reformed Methodist hymnal printed in Geneva, New York, but the editors of that hymnal made some particular changes that eliminate it as Phelps’s source for the poem. I have not found “The Missionary Embarking” in any of about a hundred other early American hymnbooks printed before 1835 and available online, so Phelps may have gotten it from a religious publication other than a hymnbook.

The hymn became a favorite with departing missionaries. Upon leaving New York on March 9, 1840 for England, Brigham Young noted, ”A large number of Saints came down to the wharf to bid us farewell. When we got into the small boat to go out to the ship, the brethren sang, ‘The gallant ship is under weigh;’ we joined them as long as we could hear.”

A number of emigrants, notably some of the handcart pioneers of 1856, mention singing the song as they left their homes in England.

“The Gallant Ship is Under Way” was often used interchangeably with the hymn “Yes, My Native Land, I Love Thee”:

Yes, my native land, I love thee,
All thy scenes I love them well—
Friends, connexions, happy country,
Can I bid you all farewell?
Can I leave thee,
Far in distant lands to dwell?

* * *

In 1843, distinguished Edinburgh surgeon and philanthropist Richard Huie published a little volume called Sacred Lyrics. He noted in the preface:

Written at various periods, during the limited and uncertain leisure of a toilsome profession, [these little pieces] were usually dispatched, as soon as copied, to the friends for whose comfort or edification they were composed; or to one or other of those religious periodicals, which the Author experienced a pleasure in countenancing. Of collecting them into a volume, or of claiming a place amongst the Sacred Poets of his country, he had for a long time no idea whatever; nor did he anticipate that they would ever become so numerous, as to make it worth his while to publish them on his own account.

But although for a number of years appearing anonymously, the Author found that they attracted some measure of attention; and were from time to time copied into Collections of Sacred Poetry. On some occasions of that nature, his name was attached to the pieces; and although this was done without his knowledge or consent, it rendered concealment of the authorship impossible, even if he had been anxious about the matter. He has accordingly for some time past, been in the habit of annexing his signature to his Lyrics; and this has given rise to an urgent and often expressed wish, on the part of his friends and others, that he would collect and publish them, in some such form as that in which they now appear.

“The Gallant Ship is Under Way” was the first in a series of three poems: “The Missionary Embarking,” “The Missionary At Sea” and “The Missionary’s Grave.” It is very much in the style of Huie’s other poems, and it does not seem to have been used after the early 1830s except by Mormon missionaries and emigrants, so there is little reason to doubt that he did, in fact, write it.

* * *

“The Gallant Ship is Under Way” remained in LDS hymnals, usually attributed to W. W. Phelps, until about the turn of the century. Here is the W. W. Phelps version from the 1835 hymnal, just as the missionaries and emigrants would have sung it as they left their native shores.

1

The gallant ship is under way,
To bear me off to sea,
And yonder float the streamers gay,
That say she waits for me.
The seamen dip their ready oar,
As ebbing waves oft tell—
They bear me swiftly from the shore:
My native land farewell.

2

I go but not to plough the main
To ease a restless mind,
Nor do I toil on battle’s plain
The victor’s wreath to twine.
‘Tis not for treasures that are hid
In mountain or in dell!
‘Tis not for joys like these I bid
My native land farewell.

3

I go to break the fowler’s snare,
To gather Israel home:
I go the name of Christ to bear
In lands and isles unknown.
And when my pilgrim feet shall tread
On land where darkness dwells,
Where light and truth have long since fled
My native land farewell.

4

I go an erring child of dust,
Ten thousand foes among;
Yet on His mighty arm I trust
That makes the feeble strong—
My sun, my shield, forever nigh,
He will my fears dispel:
This hope supports me when I sigh—
My native land farewell.

5

I go devoted to his cause,
And to his will resign’d;
His presence will supply the loss
Of all I leave behind.
His promise cheers the sinking heart,
And lights the darkest cell,
To exil’d pilgrims grace imparts—
My native land farewell.

6

I go because my master calls;
He’s made my duty plain—
No danger can the heart appal
When Jesus stoops to reign!
And now the vessel’s side we’ve made;
The sails their bosoms swell:
Thy beauties in the distance fade—
My native land farewell.

See the following link for three versions of “The Gallant Ship is Under Way,” along with the text to  “Yes, My Native Land, I Love Thee.”



7 Comments »

  1. It’s interesting to note the change in the spelling of “weigh” to “way”–perhaps as the publishers/editors got farther and farther removed from the sea and from the image of the ships’ anchors being “aweigh.”

    But, if Richard Huie was the author, where did the initials “E.H.” come from? Was it a pseudonym? An attempt at concealing his identity, as suggested in the 1843 publication? Or was it a misattribution even then?

    Comment by Mark B. — November 26, 2012 @ 7:35 am

  2. Although Huie had a distinguished medical career, he was truly a minor poet and his little book has never been treated academically, as far as I can tell. According to the searchable online literature, it was reviewed twice at the time he published it.

    From the first review:

    “A shade of not unpleasing melancholy, such as saddens some of the sweetest strains of the author’s friend [James] Montgomery* tinges many of these Lyrics, but only brings into brighter relief that blessed hope which forms the sunny termination of each vista.” (Presbyterian Review, 1843)

    The second review says in its entirety:

    We owe an apology to the accomplished and excellent author of this beautiful little volume for being so late in bringing it before the notice of our readers. We have perused many of the lyrics with peculiar pleasure. There is great variety as to the degrees of merit, but generally there runs through the whole a vein of genuine poetry, with occasional beamings of original sanctified genius, and throughout an elevated strain of piety, with good taste. Rarely is there to be met a volume of sacred poetry possessing so many charms. It will be esteemed a treasure by many; it will beguile their hours of solitude, and elevate their devotional frame. It furnishes many a gem fitted to hold a place in the faithful mind, and it will prove a suitable companion in hours of sadness or of joy. It has our very hearty commendation. (Scottish Congregational Magazine, 1843).

    Neither reviewer questioned the authorship. That is, of course, not any more conclusive in itself than the reasons I gave, but perhaps a glance at the text of Sacred Lyrics and the three missionary poems (pages 109-115) would help.

    As to the question of H.E., I have no idea. Perhaps those were the initials of one of the friends Huie mentions. Perhaps they were the initials of his dog. I really don’t have an explanation!

    But I think the poem does provide an interesting insight into the influence of the evangelical movement into early Mormon missionary efforts.

    ___
    *James Montgomery (1771-1854), author of “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief,” “The Lord is My Shepherd,” and “Prayer is the Soul’s Sincere Desire” in the 1985 LDS hymnal.

    Comment by Amy T — November 26, 2012 @ 8:33 am

  3. Wonderful, wonderful detective work.

    This level of attention needs to be paid to the rest of our hymnal. While it has been done for a few of our hymns, not enough of them have received this kind of attention.

    Comment by Kent Larsen — November 28, 2012 @ 11:57 am

  4. I’ve got a better idea Kent. Let’s toss half of what’s in the hymnal before we start on that herculean task!

    Comment by Mark B. — November 28, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

  5. Well, if you don’t want to sing those hymns, I won’t get in your way. But as I’m interested in the hymns as historical artifacts, I’m not really interested in throwing any of them away — in fact I want to include all the ones that have already been dropped.

    What your purpose is determines everything…

    Comment by Kent Larsen — November 28, 2012 @ 12:53 pm

  6. Thank you for the kind comment, Kent, and it’s particularly meaningful coming from someone of your reputation.

    The online archival and library resources that make this kind of research possible are truly amazing. I often wish I had immediate access to the Church History Library, the Family History Library, and large university libraries (the Marriott and Harold B. Lee libraries in particular) but living in a semi-rural community on the other side of the country from all these resources is becoming less and less a problem, even just in the last couple of years.

    Comment by Amy T — November 28, 2012 @ 3:02 pm

  7. My brother just linked to an album on Facebook that I meant to mention on this page back when I wrote this, so it’s nice that he just discovered it and shared it.

    The album is called “Emma’s Songs” and is based entirely on music in the original LDS hymnbook. Musicians Mark Geslison and Geoff Groberg included this hymn on track #13.

    http://geslisongroberg.com/music/emmas-hymns/

    The music is played on antique or recreated instruments. I’ve listened to the album many times, and always tend to start with “The Gallant Ship is Under Way.”

    Comment by Amy T — July 21, 2013 @ 7:38 pm

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