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Tuesday, September 29, 2020
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Home News The Midweek Hymn: In the Garden

The Midweek Hymn: In the Garden

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SOMETHING a bit different this week, and it may not be to everyone’s taste, but I think it’s lovely.

In the Garden was written by C Austin Miles (1868-1946). He trained and worked as a pharmacist in Philadelphia, but gave up the profession in 1892 to become an editor and manager at the Mack-Hall publishing company. He wrote about 4,000 gospel songs, telling the Philadelphia Record in 1940: ‘Apparently, the church music was stored up in me, dammed up by my preoccupation in other fields. When I began to write, it just poured out.’

In 1912 the founder of Mack-Hall, Dr Adam Geibel, asked Miles to write something for Easter that was ‘sympathetic in tone, breathing tenderness in every line; one that would bring hope to the hopeless, rest for the weary, and downy pillows to dying beds.’

Unable to think of a theme Miles picked up a Bible and read John Chapter 20, which tells the story of Mary visiting Jesus’s tomb, finding his body gone, then meeting him in the garden. He recalled that he felt as if he were standing there witnessing the friendship between Mary and her Lord. He thought, ‘This is not an experience limited to a happening almost 2,000 years ago but it is the daily companionship with the Saviour that makes up the Christian’s daily walk.’  He wrote out the words of the song straight away, then joined his family for dinner. Afterwards he went back to the verses and in only a few minutes the tune had come into his head.

Hall-Mack rushed the song to publication and licensed it to scores of other publishers. It soon became one of the most popular gospel songs in the world.

For all its success, Miles, who died in 1946 at the age of 78, earned only $4 for the song, but he never expressed regrets. ‘I suppose I never thought of money,’ he told the Philadelphia Record. ‘I just kept on writing music. I did it all hours, at breakfast, in the trolley cars, and in my night shirt. It just came tumbling out. Sometimes words first, sometimes the music and often both together. I’ve always felt it was what I was meant to do and I’ve been happy at it. A lot of money wouldn’t have made me any happier.’

These are the words:

1 I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.

Refrain:
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

2 He speaks, and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing;
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing. [Refrain]

3 I’d stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling;
But He bids me go; thro’ the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling. [Refrain]

The song was featured in the last scene of the 1984 film Places in the Heart.

This is a lovely duet by the Church Sisters.

I couldn’t resist this one, especially as Alan and I are big cactus fans.

Finally, Elvis. This was on his 1967 album of gospel songs, How Great Thou Art, for which Presley won a Grammy Award for Best Sacred Performance.

PS: I am sure a TCW commenter mentioned this song a while ago in connection with a story about a prisoner, possibly? Needless to say I can’t find it, but if this rings a bell please remind us all.

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Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth is a retired national newspaper journalist. She runs the Subbing Clinic in a hopeless attempt to keep up standards, and co-runs A & M Records where she indulges her passion for 60s pop.

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