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Irish-born Joseph M. Scriven (1819-1886) wrote the words of this classic hymn near Port Hope, Ontario, in 1855. Scriven's life was filled with difficulties, poor health having forced him to give up his ambition of a career in the army, and in 1844 his fiancée died in a drowning accident on the eve of their wedding. In the wake of his grief, Scriven moved to Ontario, Canada where he made a new life for himself as a teacher. However, his plans for marriage were dashed again when his new bride-to-be died after a short illness in 1855. Scriven wrote this heart-warming hymn, with the words "Oh, what needless pain we bear," to console his sick mother in Dublin. Originally a poem, it is thought his intention was to comfort her after the death of his second fiancée.
Scriven originally published the poem anonymously in Horace Hastings's 1865 Social Hymns, Original and Selected. Charles Crozat Converse, a United States attorney who also worked as a composer of church songs, set the text to music three years later. Scriven finally received proper credit in Hastings's 1886 Songs of Pilgrimage, but in the same year he tragically drowned in Rice Lake.
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