John Greenleaf Whittier, author of the text Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, would be horrified to know his poem had become a hymn. Whittier, an American poet and devout member of the Society of Friends (Quakers), disapproved of “noise” and other distractions during religious meetings. So he did what any good poet would do when he has a bee in his bonnet: he wrote a poem about it.
His poem, The Brewing of Soma, begins with Vedic priests brewing a hallucinogenic drink called Soma in order to draw closer to the divine. Of course, everybody just ends up intoxicated and Whittier likens this act to adding music – and other trappings – to Christian worship. He then closes the poem with six stanzas asking for God’s forgiveness for such foolishness.
And, ironically, those six stanzas became the hymn Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.
The tune you sing for Dear Lord and Father of Mankind largely depends on which side of the Atlantic you’re on. One of the hymn’s tunes, Repton, was originally an aria in the oratorio Judith by English composer C. Hubert H. Parry. In 1924, Repton School music director George Gilbert Stocks snagged Parry’s tune, set Whittier’s text to it for the school’s chapel services, and it became popular in the U.K. But across the pond, Repton didn’t quite catch on. So in the U.S. you’ll most likely sing Whittier’s words to Rest – a tune by British organist and music professor Frederick C. Maker.
With the popularity of the two tunes, I couldn’t decide which to use when writing my arrangement of Dear Lord and Father of Mankind. So I exercised excellent diplomacy and used – you guessed it – both as a medley. If I’m completely honest, this is not one of my favorite works that I’ve written (although I do like parts of it) but it’s a nice, solid arrangement that is simple to play and has a number of good uses. I hope you enjoy it in church services…even though Whittier probably wouldn’t. 🙂
forgive our foolish ways;
reclothe us in our rightful mind,
in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise.