Scripture Verse

Strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Hebrews 11:13


Joel Blomqvist (1840–1930)

Words: Ro­bert Low­ry, 1864. First pub­lished in Hap­py Voic­es, 1865, num­ber 220 (Shall We Ga­ther at the Ri­ver?). Trans­lat­ed from Eng­lish to Swed­ish by Jo­el Blom­quist (1840–1930) & Lars P. Ol­lén. Trans­lat­ed from Swed­ish to Eng­lish by Sig­ne L. Ben­nett (1900–1996) & Glen V. Wi­berg (1925–).

Music: Han­son Place Ro­bert Low­ry, 1864 (🔊 pdf nwc).

Robert Lowry (1826–1899)

When I dis­co­vered that this ear­ly Am­eri­can hymn by Ro­bert Low­ry had made it across the At­lan­tic to Swe­den, my cu­ri­osi­ty was aroused. Hymn writ­er and com­pos­er, Jo­el Blom­quist [sic] (1840–1930) was drawn by the text and me­lo­dy to cre­ate a pa­ra­phrase of the hymn.

In the ear­ly 70s I pur­chased an LP en­ti­tled Sor­gen och Glad­jen (Sor­row and Glad­ness) by a Swed­ish jazz group who played the me­lo­dy of “At the Ri­ver” un­der the ti­tle of Blom­quist’s “O hur sa­ligt att få van­dra” (O How Blest to Be a Pil­grim).

I learned fur­ther that his ver­sion was in our first of­fi­cial hym­nal Si­ons Ba­sun (1908) and was loved and oft­en sung by our fore­bears.

I later dis­co­vered that my friend Signe Ben­nett (1900–1996) at North Park Church had done some pre­lim­in­ary work trans­lat­ing Blom­quist’s pa­ra­phrase. It was quite li­ter­al and lacked po­et­ry, and I felt a strong urge to fin­ish what she had be­gun.

This trans­la­tion first ap­peared in New Hymns and Trans­la­tions (1978) then in The Song Goes On (1990) and cur­rent­ly in The Co­ve­nant Hym­nal. A Wor­ship­book (1996) Hymn 758. O How Blest to Be a Pil­grim was sung by more than a thou­sand peo­ple in the mid­night Ser­vice of Ho­ly Com­mun­ion at the Co­ve­nant Cen­ten­ni­al in Min­ne­ap­olis [Min­ne­so­ta] on June 22, 1985.

Glen Wiberg, 2004


O how blest to be a pil­grim,
Guided by the Fa­ther’s hand;
Free at last from ev­ery bur­den
We shall en­ter Ca­naan’s land.


Songs of vic­t’ry there shall greet us,
Like the thun­der­ing of a migh­ty flood,
Endless prais­es be to Je­sus,
Who re­deemed us by His blood!

On this side of Jor­dan’s ri­ver,
Sighs too deep for words are known,
But we look for bright to­mor­rows
In Je­ru­sa­lem our home.


There no clouds of dark­ness ga­ther,
Neither sor­row, tears, nor woe,
Nothing harm­ful e’er shall en­ter,
Sin and pain we will not know.


Here from loved ones we are part­ed,
Earthly sor­rows ne­ver cease,
But with­in that glo­ri­ous ci­ty
We shall meet again in peace.


O may none give up the jour­ney,
Left in dark­ness on the shore,
May we all at last be ga­thered
When our pil­grim­age is o’er.