Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father…So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.@Matthew 10:29–31
portrait
Civilla D. Martin (1866–1948)

Ci­vil­la D. Mar­tin, 1905.

Charles H. Gab­ri­el (🔊 pdf nwc).

illustration

Early in the spring of 1905, my hus­band and I were so­journ­ing in El­mi­ra, New York. We con­tract­ed a deep friend­ship for a cou­ple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doo­lit­tle—true saints of God. Mrs. Doo­lit­tle had been bed­rid­den for nigh twen­ty years. Her hus­band was an in­cur­a­ble crip­ple who had to pro­pel him­self to and from his bus­i­ness in a wheel chair. Despite their af­flic­tions, they lived hap­py Chris­tian lives, bring­ing ins­pir­a­tion and com­fort to all who knew them.

One day while we were visit­ing with the Doo­lit­tles, my hus­band com­ment­ed on their bright hope­ful­ness and asked them for the sec­ret of it. Mrs. Doo­lit­tle’s reply was sim­ple: His eye is on the spar­row, and I know He watch­es me. The beau­ty of this sim­ple ex­pres­sion of bound­less faith gripped the hearts and fired the im­ag­in­a­tion of Dr. Mart­in and me. The hymn His Eye Is on the Spar­row was the ou­tcome of that ex­per­i­ence.

Civilla Mar­tin

The next day Martin mailed the poem to Gabriel, who wrote the music. Singer Ethel Waters (1893–1977) so loved this song that she used its name as the title for her autobiography, and it appears on her tombstone. The song has also been performed by Marvin Gaye, Andy Griffith, Whitney Houston, Mahalia Jackson, Gladys Knight, Jessye Norman and others.

Why should I feel discouraged,
Why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely,
And long for Heav’n and home,
When Jesus is my portion?
My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

Refrain

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

Let not your heart be troubled,
His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness,
I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth,
But one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

Refrain

Whenever I am tempted,
Whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing,
When hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him,
From care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

Refrain