Scripture Verse

Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped. Psalm 124:7


Daniel B. Towner (1850–1919)

Words: He­ze­ki­ah But­ter­worth, in White Rib­bon Vi­bra­tions, by Flo­ra H. Cas­sel, fifth edi­tion (Hast­ings, Ne­bras­ka: 1890). Fourth verse by Pe­ter P. Bil­horn, in Songs of Re­demp­tion and Praise, ed­it­ed by John A. Da­vis & John R. Cle­ments (Chi­ca­go, Il­li­nois: Bil­horn Bro­thers, 1906), page 77.

Music: Da­ni­el B. Tow­ner, 1919 (🔊 pdf nwc).

Hezekiah Butterworth (1839–1905)

Origin of the Hymn

Some years ago, in The Youths Com­pan­ion, ap­peared the first three verses of this song…They were af­ter­wards found in the vest pock­et of a man who died while in pri­son.

During a meet­ing held in one of a West­ern state’s pri­sons, af­ter the ser­mon, the chap­lain, Rev. Gun, D. D., gave an in­vi­ta­tion for any who so de­sired to speak. Sev­er­al spoke. I sang the three vers­es this song then con­tained.

For a mo­ment there was a death-like silence, when a man wear­ing pri­son clothes trem­bling­ly arose, sup­port­ing him­self on the bench in front of him, and with a qui­ver­ing voice said: Gen­tle­men, ac­cord­ing to the sen­ti­ment of that song, al­though I serve my time, and re­solve to do bet­ter, I can ne­ver rise to the po­si­tion I once oc­cu­pied.

He sank back, co­vered his face with his hands and be­gan to sob. Ma­ny were touched by his emo­tion, and wept with him. I bowed my head in shame as I con­sid­ered the sad truth of his state­ment.

That night, on bend­ed knees, I said: O God! I can­not sing those vers­es again; they do not con­tain the grace of Thy love and pow­er to save and lift men up.

While thus pray­ing, the fourth as it now ap­pears in the song, came to me. I could scarce­ly wait for the next Sun­day, that I might go and sing the ad­di­tion­al verse.

The hour came, and in a few words I thanked the man who had re­proved me, sat down to my li­ttle or­gan, and sang the song again. There seemed to be lit­tle in­ter­est dur­ing the sing­ing of the first three vers­es, but there was a marked change when the new verse rang out.

The bless­ing of God and the Ho­ly Ghost fell up­on the meet­ing. The man who ut­tered the re­proof the pre­vi­ous Sun­day was the first to bow his head and weep. Many fol­lowed.

The chap­lain asked those would accept the mer­cy and love of God of­fered in the fourth verse, to lift their right hand. Many re­spond­ed, and thank God! the hand of my re­prov­er was among them.

A few years af­ter, at the close of a meet­ing held in the Y.M.C.A. Au­di­to­ri­um of Chi­ca­go, I was about to leave, when a well dressed gen­tle­man stopped me, took hold of my hand and said: God bless you, Bro­ther Bil­horn. I’d ra­ther see you than the Pre­si­dent of the Unit­ed States.

I said, You have the bet­ter of me. Who are you, please?

He seemed great­ly sur­prised that I did not re­cog­nize him. He then said, Don’t you re­mem­ber the fourth verse of The Bird with a Brok­en Wing? Grasp­ing his hand again, I said, How goes it with you? Goes it? Why haven’t you heard? I was par­doned a year af­ter you were there. In­stead of serv­ing the sen­tence of eight years, I served a lit­tle more than three.

I found good em­ploy­ment at once and have since paid my in­debt­ed­ness with in­ter­est and com­pound in­terest, my fa­mi­ly are with me again.

I a trust­ee and a dea­con in a church and I am as hap­py as it pos­si­ble for me to be. I could not re­frain from shout­ing Glo­ry to God!

In the win­ter of 1902, in a west­ern ci­ty, at the close of the Sun­day ev­en­ing ser­vice where I had re­lat­ed this in­ci­dent and sung the song, as the peo­ple were leav­ing the church, a fine ap­pear­ing gen­tle­man ap­proached me, hand­ed me his bu­si­ness card and re­quest­ed me to call up­on him the next day.

I com­plied with his re­quest and found him in one of the fin­est bu­si­ness plac­es in the ci­ty in which he had be­come a part­ner.

He told me how in that Sun­day pri­son meet­ing he had sat be­side the man who had re­proved me, and on the fol­low­ing Sun­day had list­ened to the fourth verse of the song, been blessed by it and re­solved to live a Chris­tian life.

By the grace of God he is to­day a re­spect­ed ci­ti­zen in the so­cial and church life of his ci­ty and help­ful to those about him.

Peter Bilhorn


I walked in the wood­land mea­dows,
Where sweet the thrush­es sing,
And found on a bed of moss­es,
A bird with a brok­en wing;
I healed its wing, and each morn­ing
It sang its old sweet strain,
But the bird with the brok­en pin­ion,
Never soared as high again,
Never soared as high again.

I found a young life brok­en
By sin’s se­duc­tive art,
And, touched with a Christ­like pity,
I took him to my heart;
He lived with a nob­ler pur­pose,
And strug­gled not in vain,
But the life that sin had strick­en,
Never soared as high again,
Never soared as high again.

But the bird with the brok­en pin­ion
Kept an­oth­er from the snare,
The life that sin had strick­en,
Raised an­oth­er from des­pair;
Each loss has its own com­pen­sa­tion,
There’s heal­ing for each pain,
But the bird with the brok­en pin­ion
Never soared as high again,
Never soared as high again.

But the soul that comes to Je­sus
Is saved from ev­ery sin,
And the heart that ful­ly trusts Him
Shall a crown of glo­ry win;
Then come to the dear Re­deem­er,
He’ll cleanse you from ev­ery stain.
By His won­der­ful love and me­rcy,
You shall sure­ly rise again.