Strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Hebrews 11:13
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–).
O HOW BLEST TO BE A PILGRIM. Words © 1978, 1996 Covenant Publications. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Send permission requests to Covenant Publications, 5101 N. Francisco Ave., Chicago, IL 60625; 773-907-3328.
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 ev’ry burden
We shall enter Canaan’s land.
Songs of vict’ry there shall greet us,
Like the thund’ring 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.