Gabriel's Horn, Pastor George Weaver, July, 2018

posted Jun 29, 2018, 11:08 AM by Lois Kerchner
Heav'n and Earth Are Praising Thee

There are two songs in our United Methodist Hymnal attributed to Mary A. Lathbury. You might think two songs are not all that much compared for example to those of a Charles Wesley or Fannie Crosby, but nonetheless this is certainly not anything just to be sneezed at or considered without significance. Actually, I came across the name of this particular hymn writer one morning recently in browsing through the hymnal prior to worship. And it actually was her middle name that caught my attention.

If you look up the Index of Composers, Arrangers, Authors, etc. at the back of the U.M. hymnal, you will find this reference on page 918: “Lathbury, Mary Artemesia (1841-1913) 599, 687.” With an interesting middle name like that my curiosity was aroused to the point that I decided to do some further research by computer. Actually, for whatever it might be worth, I discovered that everywhere else where I found her full name listed, that the spelling was Artemisia with an “i” rather than “Artemesia.” I wasn't really sure how to resolve or what to make of that other than it must be misspelled in the hymnal.

On the website, “Hymnary.org,” there is a list of 69 hymn texts attributed to Mary Artemisia Lathbury. The two from that list that made it into our current hymnal are “Break Thou the Bread of Life,” and “Day is Dying in the West.” She also wrote, “Day is dawning in the east; Souls are gath'ring for the feast,” with a refrain as follows:

“Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts! Heav'n and earth are full of Thee, Heav'n and earth are praising Thee, O Lord Most High!” This is the same refrain Lathbury used in the much more familiar and popular hymn “Day is Dying in the West,” which is #687 in the red hymnal.

Mary Artemisia Lathbury's father was a Methodist minister and she had two brothers as well who were ministers. She loved poetry and art from a very early age. Regarding her talent for art and verse, she indicated that one day she had heard a voice that she believed was God saying to her: “Remember, my child, that you have a gift of weaving fancies in verse and a gift with the pencil of producing visions that come to your heart; consecrate these to Me as thoroughly as you do your inmost spirit.”

Mary Lathbury studied art in Worcester, Massachusetts, and taught art and French at the Newbury Academy in Vermont, as well as in New York. She was associated with the Chautauqua Movement near Chautauqua, New York, and was known as the poet laureate of Chautauqua.” Her works include The Work and Workers of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, with Frances Elizabeth Willard, 1883

· Ring-a-Round-a-Rosy: Pictures and Verse (R. Worthington, 1885)
· Poems of Mary Artemisia Lathbury, Chautauqua Laureate (1915)


Mary Artemisia Lathbury lived in a bygone era and by now is mostly forgotten. I still don't know all that much about her, but from the relatively little information available she must have been an interesting and delightful person. It was good to have come across her name by randomly paging through the UM Hymnal. One never knows what treasures another day may bring.

George Weaver, Pastor of Maturing Ministries
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