Born: October 19, 1840, Marblehead, Massachusetts.
Died: December 11, 1904, Brooklyn, New York. His hymn It Singeth Low in Every Heart was sung to the tune Auld Lang Syne at his funeral.
Buried: Waterside Cemetery, Marblehead, Massachusetts.
Chadwick was the son of John White Chadwick and Jane Stanley, and husband of Annie Hathaway.
He attended the Normal School in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in July 1864.
In December 1864, he was ordained as minister of the Second Unitarian Church in Brooklyn, New York, and served there four decades.
He was a frequent contributor to the Christian Examiner, The Radical, Old and New, and Harper’s Magazine, and published numerous poems in American periodicals.
He was widely known for his sermons, which were published in a series of volumes.
Our life is like a ship that sails some day
To distant waters leagues on leagues away;
Not knowing what command to do and dare
Awaits her when her eager keel is there.
Birth, Love, and Death are ports we leave behind,
Borne on by rolling wave and rushing wind;
Bearing a message with unbroken seal,
Whose meaning fain we would at once reveal.
And there are friends that stand upon the shore,
And watch our sail till it is seen no more,
Oh, would that we might know the way
The brave ship goes for many a weary day!
It may not be. But ever and anon
Some order, sealed at first, we ope and con;
So learn what next, so east or westward fly,
And ne’er again that port of Birth espy.
How many another craft goes dancing by!
What pennants float from morn and evening sky!
By day how white our wake behind us streams!
By night what golden phosphorescent gleams!
There comes a day when Love, that lies asleep
The fairest island in the mighty deep,
Wakes on our sight. Its fragrant shores we reach,
And grates our keel upon its shining beach.
There do we stay awhile; but soon again
We trim our sails to seek the open main;
And now, whatever winds and waves betide,
Two friendly ships are sailing side by side.
Where lies their course in vain they seek to know,
Go forth, the Spirit says, and forth they go;
Enough that, wherever they may fare,
Alike the sunshine and the storm they share.
Islands that none e’er visited before
Invite to land with easy shelving shore;
Circes and sirens fling their challenge out,
Charybdis deafens Scylla’s deafening shout.
For still these ships keep joyful company,
And many new strange lands they haste to see.
In port of Love ’twas pleasant to abide,
But oh! Love’s sea is very deep and wide.
Ay, deep and wide, and yet there comes a day
When these fond ships must sail a parted way;
The port of Death doth one of them beguile,
The other lingers for a little while.
Lingers as near as she may dare to go,
And plies the cold, gray offing to and fro;
Waiting impatient for the high command
To sail into the shadow of the land.
Is this the end? I know it cannot be.
Our ships shall sail upon another sea;
New islands yet shall break upon our sight,
New continents of love and truth and might.
But still not knowing, still with orders sealed,
Our track shall lie across the heavenly field;
Yet there, as here, though dim the distant way,
Our strength shall be according to our day.
The sea is His, He made it, and His grace
Lurks in its wildest wave, its deepest place:
Our truest knowledge is that He is wise;
What is our foresight to His sweet surprise?
John White Chadwick
A Book of Poems, 1876