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~From Greenland’s Icy Mountains

       “Write something for us to sing at the service tomorrow morning,” Dr. Shepley, vicar of Wrexham, said to his son-in-law, Reginald Heber, in 1819.

       Dr. Shepley was to preach next day in behalf of foreign missions, and he was chatting over the subject of his discourse with a few friends. Heber, already known as a writer of verse, withdrew to another part of the room, and soon returned with the first three stanzas of “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains,” just as we sing them now. The only exception: in the seventh line of the second verse he wrote savage, which he afterward changed to heathen.

       Dr. Shepley was satisfied, but Heber was not until he added the triumphant fourth stanza, beginning:  “Waft, waft, ye winds his story.”

       In 1823 Heber went as a missionary to India, where he died after three years of patient and loving service.

—W. J. Hart


From Greenland’s Icy Mountains[1]

1           From Greenland’s icy mountains,

From India’s coral strand,

Where Afric’s sunny fountains

Roll down their golden sand;

From many an ancient river,

From many a palmy plain,

They call us to deliver

Their land from error’s chain.

2           What tho the spicy breezes

Blow soft o’er Ceylon’s isle,

Though ev’ry prospect pleases,

And only man is vile!

In vain, with lavish kindness,

The gifts of God are strown;

The heathen, in their blindness,

Bow down to wood and stone.

3           Shall we, whose souls are lighted

With wisdom from on high,

Shall we to men benighted

The lamp of life deny?

Salvation! O salvation!

The joyful sound proclaim,

Till earth’s remotest nation

Has heard Messiah’s name.


[1]Eckert, Paul, Steve Green’s MIDI Hymnal, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1998.






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