Words: , 1818:

Mrs. Brown was liv­ing at Ell­ing­ton with “four lit­tle child­ren, in a small un­fin­ished house, a sick sis­ter in the on­ly fin­ish­ed room, and not a place above or be­low where I could re­tire for de­vo­tion.” Not far off stood the fin­est house in the neigh­borh­ood, with a large gar­den. To­wards this the poor wo­man used to bend her steps at dusk, lov­ing, as she writes, “to smell the fra­grance of fruits and flow­ers, though I could not see them,” and com­mune with Na­ture and God. This she did, ne­ver dream­ing that she was in­trud­ing, till one day the la­dy of the man­sion turned rude­ly up­on her with “Mrs. Brown, why do you come up at ev­en­ing so near our house, and then go back with­out com­ing in? If you want an­y­thing, why don’t you come in and ask for it?” Mrs. B. adds, “There was some­thing in her man­ner more than her words, that grieved me. Af­ter my child­ren were all in bed, ex­cept my baby, I sat down in the kitch­en with my child in my arms, when the grief of my heart burst forth in a flood of tears. I took pen and pa­per, and gave vent to my op­pressed heart.”

The poem then writ­ten is head­ed “An Apol­o­gy for My Twi­light Ram­bles, Ad­dressed to a Lady, Aug. 1818.” The orig­in­al has nine stan­zas, the se­cond be­gin­ning, “I love to steal awhile away.” Years af­ter, when Net­tle­ton was seek­ing orig­in­al mat­ter for his Vill­age Hymns (1824), this piece was abridged and a­ltered into the pre­sent fa­mil­iar form, ei­ther by Mrs. Brown her­self, her pas­tor (Mr. Hyde), or Net­tle­ton. Its pop­u­lar­i­ty was great from the first. In 1853 it was in­clud­ed in the Leeds H. Bk., and thus be­came known to Eng­lish col­lect­ions. It is found in Ly­ra Sac. Amer., p. 29.

Quoted in the

Music: Wood­stock (Dut­ton), , in Amer­i­can Psalm­o­dy, by De­o­da­tus Dut­ton and Elam Ives, Jr., 1829.

I love to steal awhile away
From every cumbering care,
And spend the hours of closing day
In humble, grateful, prayer.

I love in solitude to shed
The penitential tear,
And all His promises to plead
Where none but god can hear.

I love to think on mercies past,
And future good implore,
And all my cares and sorrows cast
On God, whom I adore.

I love by faith to take a view
Of brighter scenes in heaven;
The prospect doth my strength renew,
While here by tempests driven.

Thus, when life’s toilsome day is o’er,
May its departing ray,
Be calm at this impressive hour,
And lead to endless day.