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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

Henry Alford (1810–1871)

HENRY ALFORD was born at 25, Alfred Place, Bedford Row, London, on the 10th of October, 1810. He was a son of Rev. Henry Alford, Rector of Aston Sandford. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1829, and graduated in 1832. He was ordained as Curate of Ampton in 1833, and became Fellow of Trinity in 1834. He was Vicar of Wymeswold from 1835 to 1853, Incumbent of Quebec Chapel, London, from 1853 to 1857, and Dean of Canterbury from 1857 until his death, which took place on the 12th of January, 1871. He was Hulsean Lecturer 1841–2. His literary labours were manyfold and incessant, the greatest of his undertakings being his edition of the Greek Testament, a work which took him twenty years to complete. His earlier hymns were published in the Christian Observer and the Christian Guardian (1830), and these were followed by a volume, “Poems and Poetical Fragments” (1833); “The School of the Heart and Other Poems” (1835); “Hymns for the Sundays and Festivals throughout the Year” (1836); “The Abbot of Muchelnaye” (1841); “Psalms and Hymns” (1844); “Poetical Works” (1845); “A Year of Praise” (1867); and “The Lord’s Prayer” (1869); besides which he contributed verse to Macmillan’s Magazine and Good Words.

Dean Alford’s general poems were never popular, nor do they possess the qualities which secure the “audience fit, though few,” which is the consolation of so many who miss wider recognition. His translations show the scholar rather than the poet, and his other poems lack originality of thought and poetic felicity of diction.

The following lines, dated 1862 and entitled “Life’s Answer,” were contributed to Macmillan’s Magazine:

  • I know not if the dark or bright
  • Shall be my lot:
  • If that wherein my hopes delight
  • Be best or not.
  • It may be mine to drag for years
  • Toil’s heavy chain:
  • Or day and night my meat be tears
  • On bed of pain.
  • Dear faces may surround my hearth
  • With smiles and glee:
  • Or I may dwell alone, and mirth
  • Be strange to me.
  • My bark is wafted to the strand
  • By breath divine:
  • And on the helm there rests a hand
  • Other than mine.
  • One who has known in storms to sail
  • I have on board:
  • Above the raving of the gale
  • I hear my Lord.
  • He holds me when the billows smite,
  • I shall not fall:
  • If sharp, ’tis short; if long, ’tis light;
  • He tempers all.
  • Safe to the land—safe to the land,
  • The end is this:
  • And then with Him go hand in hand
  • Far into bliss.