Scripture Verse

Strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Hebrews 11:13


Joel Blomqvist

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

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.