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Alfred H. Miles, ed. The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.

By Critical and Biographical Essay by Alfred H. Miles

Edward Henry Bickersteth (1825–1906)

EDWARD HENRY BICKERSTETH, D.D., Bishop of Exeter, was the son of the Rev. Edward Bickersteth, sometime Secretary of the Church Missionary Society, and Rector of Walton, Herts, whose “Christian Psalmody,” published in 1833, had great influence upon the progress of Christian song. Edward Henry Bickersteth was born at Islington in the month of January 1825, and was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. with honours 1847, M.A. 1850. Taking Holy Orders, he became successively Curate of Banningham, Norfolk, and Christ Church, Tunbridge Wells; Rector of Hinton-Martell, 1852; Vicar of Christ Church, Hampstead, 1855; Dean of Gloucester, and Bishop of Exeter, 1885.

Bishop Bickersteth published “Poems” (1849); “Water from the Well-Spring” (1852); “The Rock of Ages” (1858); “Commentary on the New Testament” (1864); “Yesterday, To-day, and For Ever” (1867); “The Spirit of Life” (1868); “The Two Brothers and other Poems” (1871); “The Master’s Home Call” (1872); “The Reef and other Parables” (1873); “The Shadowed House, and the Light Beyond” (1874); “Songs of the House of Pilgrimage” (undated); and “From Year to Year” (1883). He also edited several hymnals, the most important of which was “The Hymnal Companion to the Book of Common Prayer” (1870).

Of his original poems Bishop Bickersteth’s “Yesterday, To-day, and For Ever” is the principal, though his choicest verses will be found in the volume “From Year to Year.” The former work is a blank-verse poem of twelve books, describing the death of a Christian and his visions and experiences in the other world. The poem contains many fine descriptions, and has been very popular, more than fifteen editions having been called for. Of his shorter poems some have been widely used as hymns. Julian says: “His thoughts are usually with the individual, and not with the mass: with the single soul and his God, and not with the vast multitude bowed in adoration before the Almighty. Hence, although many of his hymns are eminently suited to congregational purposes, and have attained to a wide popularity, yet his finest productions are those best suited for private use.” The following selections from the volume “From Year to Year” will amply bear out this criticism, and justify their place in this volume.