Home  »  The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century  »  Samuel John Stone (1839–1900)

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

By Critical and Biographical Essay by Alfred H. Miles

Samuel John Stone (1839–1900)

SAMUEL JOHN STONE, son of the Rev. William Stone, was born at Whitmore, Staffordshire, on the 25th of April, 1839. He was educated at the Charterhouse School, and at Pembroke College, Oxford, where he graduated B.A. in 1862. On taking Holy Orders, he became Curate of Windsor in 1862, and of St. Paul’s, Haggerston, in 1870, succeeding his father as vicar of the same parish in 1874. His principal works are “Lyra Fidelium” (1866); “The Knight of Intercession and other Poems” (1872); “Sonnets of the Christian Year,” first published in the Leisure Hour and afterwards in volume form (1875); “Order of the Consecutive Church Service for Children, with Original Hymns” (1883); and “Hymns Original and Translated” (1886). “The Knight of Intercession,” Mr. Stone’s first volume of general poetry, has run through a number of editions, and many of his hymns have become popular, nearly fifty of them having come into general use.

The Rev. John Julian says: “Mr. Stone’s hymns vary considerably in metre and subject, and thus present a pleasing variety, not always found in the compositions of popular hymn-writers. His best hymns are well designed and clearly expressed. The tone is essentially dogmatic and hopeful. The absence of rich poetic thought and graceful fancy is more than atoned for by a masterly condensation of Scripture facts and of Church teaching, given tersely and with great vigour. His changes and antitheses are frequently abrupt, in many instances too much so for congregational purposes, and his vocabulary is somewhat limited. His rhythm, except where broken either by long or by compound words, is rarely at fault, and his rhyme is usually perfect. A few of his hymns are plaintive and pathetic, as the tender ‘Weary of earth and laden with my sin’; others are richly musical, as ‘Lord of the harvest! it is right and meet’; but the greater part are strongly outspoken utterances of a manly faith, where dogma, prayer, and praise are interwoven with much skill. Usually the key-note of his song is Hope.”

But Mr. Stone’s muse was not wholly occupied with devotional verse; indeed, his hymns comprise but a small portion of his volume, in which nature, legendary, pastoral, idyllic, and descriptive poems, memorial verses, songs and sonnets, form the largest portion, though it must be admitted that the religious spirit is ever present, be the mood whatever it may. Humour, moreover, has its part, as the following will show:—

  • The Soliloquy of a Rationalistic Chicken
  • On the Picture of a Newly Hatched Chicken Contemplating the Fragments of Its Native Shell
  • Most strange!
  • Most queer,—although most excellent a change!
  • Shades of the prison-house, ye disappear!
  • My fettered thoughts have won a wider range,
  • And, like my legs, are free;
  • No longer huddled up so pitiably:
  • Free now to pry and probe, and peep and peer,
  • And make these mysteries out.
  • Shall a free-thinking chicken live in doubt?
  • For now in doubt undoubtedly I am:
  • This problem’s very heavy on my mind,
  • And I’m not one to either shirk or sham:
  • I won’t be blinded, and I won’t be blind!
  • Now, let me see;
  • First, I would know how did I get in there?
  • Then, where was I of yore?
  • Besides, why didn’t I get out before?
  • Bless me!
  • Here are three puzzles (out of plenty more)
  • Enough to give me pip upon the brain!
  • But let me think again.
  • How do I know I ever was inside?
  • Now I reflect, it is, I do maintain,
  • Less than my reason, and beneath my pride
  • To think that I could dwell
  • In such a paltry miserable cell
  • As that old shell.
  • Of course I couldn’t! How could I have lain,
  • Body and beak and feathers, legs and wings,
  • And my deep heart’s sublime imaginings,
  • In there?
  • I meet the notion with profound disdain;
  • It’s quite incredible; since I declare
  • (And I’m a chicken that you can’t deceive)
  • What I can’t understand I won’t believe.
  • Where did I come from, then? Ah! where, indeed?
  • This is a riddle monstrous hard to read.
  • I have it! Why, of course,
  • All things are moulded by some plastic force
  • Out of some atoms somewhere up in space,
  • Fortuitously concurrent anyhow:—
  • There, now!
  • That’s plain as is the beak upon my face.
  • What’s that I hear?
  • My mother cackling at me! Just her way,
  • So prejudiced and ignorant I say;
  • So far behind the wisdom of the day!
  • What’s old I can’t revere.
  • Hark at her. “You’re a little fool, my dear,
  • That’s quite as plain, alack!
  • As is the piece of shell upon your back!”
  • How bigoted! upon my back, indeed!
  • I don’t believe it’s there;
  • For I can’t see it; and I do declare,
  • For all her fond deceivin’,
  • What I can’t see I never will believe in!
  • The hymn “Lord of our souls’ salvation,” written for the occasion of the National Thanksgiving on the recovery of the Prince of Wales (February 27th, 1872), was abbreviated to four verses by the author for use at the service at St. Paul’s Cathedral, but was used generally throughout the country in its complete form.