Scripture Verse

The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few. Matthew 9:37

Introduction

portrait
Ellen M. Gates
(1835–1920)

Words: Ell­en M. H. Gates, 1860. Com­pare What Can I Do?

Music: Beech­er John Zun­del, Chris­tian Heart Songs 1870 (🔊 pdf nwc).

Alternate Tunes:

If you know where to get a good pho­to of Zun­del (head-and-shoul­ders, at least 200×300 pix­els), would you ?

illustration
The Gleaners
Jean-François Millet (1814–1875)

Origin of the Hymn

The lines were writ­ten up­on my slate one snowy af­ter­noon in the win­ter of 1860. I knew, as I know now, that the po­em was on­ly a sim­ple lit­tle thing, but some­how I had a pre­sen­ti­ment that it had wings and would fly in­to sor­row­ful hearts, up­lift­ing and strength­en­ing them.

Lyrics

If you cannot, on the ocean,
Sail among the swiftest fleet,
Rocking on the highest billows,
Laughing at the storms you meet,
You can stand among the sailors,
Anchored yet within the bay,
You can lend a hand to help them,
As they launch their boats away.

If you are too weak to journey
Up the mountain steep and high,
You can stand within the valley,
While the multitudes go by;
You can chant in happy measure,
As they slowly pass along;
Though they may forget the singer,
They will not forget the song.

If you have not gold and silver
Ever ready to command;
If you cannot toward the needy
Reach an ever open hand;
You can visit the afflicted,
O’er the erring you can weep;
You can be a true disciple,
Sitting at the Savior’s feet.

If you cannot, in the conflict
Prove yourself a soldier true,
If, where fire and smoke are thickest,
There’s no work for you to do;
When the battlefield is silent,
You can go with careful tread,
You can bear away the wounded,
You can cover up the dead.

If you cannot, in the harvest,
Gather up the richest sheaves,
Many a grain both ripe and golden
Oft the careless reaper leaves;
Go and glean among the briars
Growing rank against the wall,
For it may be that their shadow
Hides the heaviest wheat of all.

Do not, then, stand idly waiting,
For some greater work to do;
Fortune is a lazy goddess,
She will never come to you.
Go and toil in any vineyard,
Do not fear to do or dare,
If you want a field of labor,
You can find it anywhere.