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"One Sweetly Solemn Thought"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Phoebe Cary and her sister Alice wrote a considerable volume of verse, much of it with a religious or uplifting tone. "Nearer Home," or as it is sometimes called from its first line, "One sweetly solemn thought," was written by Phoebe after returning home from church one Sunday in 1852. It was published in 1854; and although its author long regarded it with indifference, it was set to music a number of times and became a favorite hymn throughout the entire United States. It is the one piece of work by which Phoebe is still remembered. The basic idea of the poem is that each day brings us closer to "the undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns." But the author of "Nearer Home," unlike Hamlet, does not shrink from the journey. Like William Wordsworth (1770–1850), in "Ode: Intimations of Immortality," she will be returning to her true home, after a brief sojourn on earth. Death will not be something to fear, but a triumph, a reward for having lived in this world. As no one regrets passing from an imperfect condition into a perfect one, the author looks forward to the new life that will begin after the death of the body. The first four stanzas of the seven that comprise the poem are as follows:

One sweetly solemn thought
Comes to me o'er and o'er;
I am nearer home to-day
Than I ever have been before;
Nearer my Father's house,
Where the many mansions be;
Nearer the great white throne,
Nearer the crystal sea;
Nearer the bound of life,
Where we lay our burdens down;
Nearer leaving the cross,
Nearer gaining the crown
But lying darkly between,
Winding down through the night,
Is the silent, unknown stream,
That leads at last to the light.