HYMN 145 I'm a Pilgrim, And I'm a Stranger
Swedish: Jag är främling, Jag är en pilgrim
Text: Mary Stanley Bunce Dana Shindler (1810-1883) Tune: Oskar Ahnfelt (1813-1882)
1. I'm a pilgrim, and I'm a stranger, I can tarry, I can tarry but a night; Do not detain me, for I am going To where the fountains are ever flowing: I'm a pilgrim, and I'm a stranger, I can tarry, I can tarry but a night.
2. There the glory is ever shining; O my longing heart, my longing heart is there: Here in this country so dark and dreary I long have wandered, forlorn and weary: I'm a pilgrim, and I'm a stranger, I can tarry, I can tarry but a night.
3. Of the city to which I'm going My Redeemer, my Redeemer is the light; There is no sorrow, nor any sighing, Nor any sinning, nor any dying: Of the city to which I'm going My Redeemer, my Redeemer is the light.
MEDITATION As my father lay dying in the hospital, my brother and sister and I took turns watching over him until he was gone. It was about ten days. On the table beside his bed was our hymnal, The Concordia. We agreed that we would sing through the familiar hymns in the book while we were there, lingering over his special favorites. By this time he was on a morphine drip to ease his pain and no longer was able to communicate. But we knew that hearing was the last thing to go, so we persisted. It was a comfort to us to sit beside him and touch him, hear his breathing, breathe in his familiar fragrance, and give thanks for him.
We lingered over this song most frequently. Not only was the text perfect for the time, but the tune was filled with the kind of longing for heaven that filled the hearts of many Christians. “O my longing heart, my longing heart is there.” He loved to sing that. We did too. By the end of our watch, we didn’t need the book.
The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan was a favorite book in Christian homes around the world. His mother and father had it in Norwegian and it was well read. I got the book for my tenth birthday and still use it, in fact, am rereading it now. It tells of that journey from this world to the next and all the difficulties and temptations along the way.
The notion of life being a struggle and battle against the evil one as we journey toward “Life! Life! Eternal life!” as Christian, the pilgrim, cries as he flees his home and family, has not seemed to interest people much of late, although it may be picking up—there is a new movie on it just now—given our situations. But as life grows harder and more difficult to manage, we begin to see we need help and that things here come to a grim ending without the hope of heaven.
Jesus gives us a different ending to the story of our lives, and so, with the pilgrim in the song, we long for the end in that city where “My Redeemer, my Redeemer is the light.”
HYMN INFO Mary Shindler was one of the early women hymn writers in America. She lived in the south so she knew about the southern harmony tradition. She published several books of poetry over her lifetime. Raised as a Presbyterian, she tried Unitarianism for a bit, but became an Episcopalian when she married her second husband, an Episcopal priest. With her first husband she had moved west into Iowa, but in 1838, he and their son were taken by a fever, which Mary survived. She returned to her family in South Carolina. Now she published a book of poems known as The Southern Harp which became a best seller and made her some money. Her publishers asked her to write other works, one of them, The Northern Harp, which also did well. She continued writing. In 1848 she married Rev. Robert D. Shindler, who taught at Shelby College in Kentucky. They then moved to Nacogdoches, Texas, where he died. She moved to Memphis where she lived until her death.
Somehow this text made it to Sweden where Betty Ehrenborg (1818-1880) the founder of the Swedish Sunday school, translated it. It appeared in Sionstoner, the songbook of the Swedish revival. Oskar Ahnfelt found two tunes for it. The compilers of the Concordia took the English text and used it with one of Ahnfelt’s tunes. I can't find the Concordia version on line, but this tune has a similar sound.
LINKS Einar Ekberg, https://youtu.be/0ld6HrW257I
Anders Andersson https://youtu.be/LKbW43NC3sM
Per-Arne Wahlgren https://youtu.be/-3TH3I_A4DM
The Church Hill Boys