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When I Survey Life’s Varied Scene

Words: Anne Steele, 1760
Music & last four lines: Ross Hauck 2020

Verse 1
When I survey life’s varied scene,
Amid the darkest hours,
Sweet rays of comfort shine between,
And thorns are mix’d with flowers.
Lord, teach me to adore Thy hand,
From whence my comforts flow;
And let me in this desert land
A glimpse of Canaan know.

Verse 2
Is health and ease my happy share?
O may I bless my God;
Thy kindness let my songs declare,
And spread Thy praise abroad.
While such delightful gifts as these,
Are kindly dealt to me,
Be all my hours of health and ease
Devoted, Lord, to Thee.

Verse 3
When present suff’rings pain my heart,
Or future terrors rise,
And light and hope almost depart
From these dejected eyes,
Thy pow’rful word supports my hope,
Sweet cordial of the mind!
And bears my fainting spirit up,
And bids me wait resign’d.

Verse 4
And oh, whate’er of earthly bliss
Thy sov’reign hand denies,
Accepted at Thy throne of grace,
Let this petition rise:
“Give me a calm, a thankful heart,
From ev’ry murmur free;
The blessings of Thy grace impart,
And let me live to Thee.”

Verse 5
O May the hope that Thou art mine,
My path of life attend;
Thy presence through my journey shine,
And bless its happy end.
‘Til then, whate’er my days shall bring
On Thee my trust is stayed.
Thy Love shall tune my heart to sing
And draw eternal praise.

_____________________________

The Story Behind This Hymn:

“Anne Steele was born at Broughton, Hampshire in 1717. Her father was a timber merchant, and at the same time officiated as the lay pastor of the Baptist Society at Broughton. Her mother died when she was 3. At the age of 19 she became an invalid after injuring her hip.

At the age of 21 she was engaged to be married, but her fiancé drowned the day of the wedding. This hymn was written after the death of her beloved.

For most of her life, she exhibited symptoms of malaria, including persistent pain, fever, headaches, and stomach aches.

Caleb Evans, in his preface to Steele’s posthumous Miscellaneous Pieces in Verse and Prose (1780), noted that she had been bed ridden for “some years” before her death:

“When the interesting hour came, she welcomed its arrival, and though her feeble body was excruciated with pain, her mind was perfectly serene. . . . She took the most affectionate leave of her weeping friends around her, and at length, the happy moment of her dismission arising, she closed her eyes, and with these animating words on her dying lips, “I know that my Redeemer liveth,” gently fell asleep in Jesus.”

(Quoted from: https://hymnary.org/person/Steele_A)