He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Matthew 14:23
Mrs. Brown was living at Ellington [Connecticut] withfour little children, in a small unfinished house, a sick sister in the only finished room, and not a place above or below where I could retire for devotion.
Not far off stood the finest house in the neighborhood, with a large garden. Towards this the poor woman used to bend her steps at dusk, loving, as she writes,to smell the fragrance of fruits and flowers, though I could not see them,and commune with Nature and God.
This she did, never dreaming that she was intruding, till one day the lady of the mansion turned rudely upon her withMrs. Brown, why do you come up at evening so near our house, and then go back without coming in? If you want anything, why don’t you come in and ask for it?Mrs. B. adds,There was something in her manner more than her words, that grieved me. After my children were all in bed, except my baby, I sat down in the kitchen with my child in my arms, when the grief of my heart burst forth in a flood of tears. I took pen and paper, and gave vent to my oppressed heart.
The poem then written is headedAn Apology for My Twilight Rambles, Addressed to a Lady, Aug. 1818.The original has nine stanzas, the second beginning,I love to steal awhile away.
Years after, when Nettleton was seeking original matter for his Village Hymns (1824), this piece was abridged and altered into the present familiar form, either by Mrs. Brown herself, her pastor (Mr. Hyde), or Nettleton. Its popularity was great from the first. In 1853 it was included in the Leeds H. Bk., and thus became known to English collections. It is found in Lyra Sac. Amer., p. 29.
Quoted in Julian, p. 185
I love to steal awhile away
From every cumbering care,
And spend the hours of closing day
In humble, grateful, prayer.
I love in solitude to shed
The penitential tear,
And all His promises to plead
Where none but God can hear.
I love to think on mercies past,
And future good implore,
And all my cares and sorrows cast
On God, whom I adore.
I love by faith to take a view
Of brighter scenes in heaven;
The prospect doth my strength renew,
While here by tempests driven.
Thus, when life’s toilsome day is o’er,
May its departing ray,
Be calm at this impressive hour,
And lead to endless day.