1858–1901

Introduction

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Born: Au­gust 3, 1858, Syr­a­cuse, New York.

Died: May 18, 1901, Na­ples, It­a­ly.

Buried: Oak­wood Ce­me­te­ry, Syr­a­cuse, New York.

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Biography

Babcock was the hus­band of Ka­ther­ine El­i­ot Tall­man (mar­ried 1882, Pough­keep­sie, New York).

He at­tend­ed Syr­a­cuse Un­i­ver­si­ty and Au­burn The­o­log­ic­al Sem­in­ary. He ranked high as a stu­dent and par­ti­ci­pat­ed in both ath­let­ic and mu­sic­al ac­tiv­i­ties. Tall, broad shoul­dered, and mus­cu­lar, he was pre­si­dent of the base­ball team, an ex­pert pitch­er, and a good swim­mer.

He played sev­er­al mu­sic­al ins­tru­ments, dir­ect­ed the school or­ches­tra, and played and com­posed for the or­gan. He was a sin­ger and lead­er of the glee club.

He could do im­per­so­na­tions, was clev­er at draw­ing, and had a knack with tools. He was also an av­id fish­er­man. He might have become a pro­fes­sion­al mu­si­cian had he not chos­en the min­is­try.

His first pas­tor­ate was at the First Pres­by­ter­i­an Church, Lock­port, New York. In 1886, he was called to Brown Mem­or­i­al Church, Bal­ti­more, Mar­y­land, where he oft­en coun­seled stu­dents at Johns Hop­kins Un­i­ver­si­ty.

As his fame spread, he was asked to preach at col­leg­es all over Am­er­i­ca. Bab­cock was not a great the­o­lo­gian or deep think­er, but had a tal­ent for pre­sent­ing spir­it­u­al and eth­ic­al truths with fresh­ness and ef­fect. In do­ing this, he was aid­ed by his ag­ile mind, wide range of know­ledge, dra­mat­ic abil­i­ty, speech flu­en­cy, and mag­net­ic per­son­al­i­ty.

After al­most 14 years in Bal­ti­more, Bab­cock was called to the pres­ti­gious pas­tor­ate of the Brick Pres­by­ter­i­an Church in New York Ci­ty, to fill the va­can­cy left by the re­tire­ment of Hen­ry Van Dyke. Bab­cock had been there on­ly 18 months when he made a trip to the Ho­ly Land. While ov­er­seas, he died of bru­cel­lo­sis.

Though Bab­cock pub­lished noth­ing dur­ing his life, his wife Kath­er­ine col­lect­ed and pub­lished ma­ny of his writ­ings af­ter his un­time­ly death as Thoughts for Ev­ery­day Liv­ing (New York: Charles Scrib­ner’s Sons, 1901). A vol­ume of his po­ems con­tained This Is My Fa­ther’s World. Bab­cock, of course, nev­er heard his fa­mous hymn sung.

Poem

Sailing Westward

Written on the Germanic, September, 1898

How stoutly and grimly our iron prow
Pushes its way to the West,
Like the sharp, steel point of a shining plow
That cleaves the green field’s breast.

How glorious the sun in the sky today;
Why rush with such haste along,
And lose the bright hours as we speed away,
And the gleam of the waves, and their song?

But the heart of the ship still throbs away,
It never dreams of rest;
How joyous, how winsome soe’er the day,
On, steadily on, to the West!

Now thunders the gale in its awful might,
’Tis madness to face such a sea.
Why brave such risks in a hopeless fight?
About ship! And off for the lea!

But the good ship will not flinch from her foe,
She has set herself for the fray.
Her orders are Westward, come weal, come woe,
And she cannot but obey.

Then onward through sunshine, and storm and night,
No tarrying here, my soul;
Thou must, if thou read thy chart aright,
Push steadily to thy goal.

Let pleasures delight thee, but not detain,
Let courage in storms rise higher,
And thy Pilot will bring thee thro’ joy and pain
To the haven of thy desire.

Maltbie Babcock (1858–1901)

Sources

Lyrics

Music