Personal Choice 22
O Love that wilt not let me go
O Love that wilt not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee; I give thee back the life I owe, That in thine ocean depths its flow May richer, fuller be.
O light that followest all my way, I yield my flickering torch to thee; My heart restores its borrowed ray, That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day May brighter, fairer be.
O Joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to thee; I trace the rainbow through the rain, And feel the promise is not vain, That morn shall tearless be.
O Cross that liftest up my head, I dare not ask to fly from thee; I lay in dust life’s glory dead, And from the ground there blossoms red Life that shall endless be.
George Matheson (1842 - 1906) was a Scottish minister and hymn writer and prolific author. He was blind from the age of 17. O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go was written on the evening of Matheson’s sister’s marriage. Years before, he had been engaged, until his fiancée told him that she could not go through life with a blind man. He went blind while studying for the ministry, and his sister had been the one to care for him through the years, but now she was gone. He was now 40, and his sister’s marriage brought a fresh reminder of his own heartbreak. It was in the midst of this circumstance and intense sadness that Matheson wrote this hymn, which he said was written in five minutes.
I lost my faith at an early age after returning from a seminary in Melbourne and turning my back on a religious vocation. Matheson’s hymn though still returns me again and again to Thomas Hardy’s superb poem The Oxen where he reflects on the faith of his childhood and on a Christmas Eve at the age of 75 - ends his poem with the lines:
Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
‘Come; see the oxen kneel,
“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,’
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.
Nevertheless a magnificent poem of love and joy, light and hope.