Thursday, 27 September 2012

Background to "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind"

Quaker poet, abolitionist, and social reformer John Greenleaf Whittier was born in Haverhill MA in 1807.

He died in Hampton Falls N.H. in 1892

His remains were buried in Amesbury, MA.

Whittier was one of the founders of what became the Republican Party (the party of Abraham Lincoln)
The Quaker founded Whittier College in CA was named for him. (President Richard Nixon was a graduate of Whittier College).

The  hymn which many Christians know as “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind" is part of John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem "The Brewing of Soma"

The poem appeared in the Atlantic Monthly.  It started with an account, evidently from Max Muller's translation of Vashista, of the drink brewed by Hindu priests and drunk by worshippers, bringing "sacred madness" and "a storm of drunken joy."

Italicised words from

Whittier, a sober and sombre minded Quaker, was deeply suspicious of “Revivalist Religion”. So his poem links what he understood as the drug induced ecstasies of Hindu ceremony, with the frenetic excesses of Christian revivalism.

His ‘link’ stanza is this:

And yet the past comes round again,
And new doth old fulfil;
In sensual transports wild as vain
We brew in many a Christian fane (i.e. Christian revivalism jmp) 
The heathen Soma still!

Those words lead directly  into the familiar

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this! I have loved the hymn for many years but never knew its history.