There’s not a bird with lonely nest

There’s not a bird with lonely nest. Baptist Wriothesley Noel* (1799-1873).

According to JJ, p. 1162, this was found in Noel’s A Selection of Psalms and Hymns adapted chiefly for Congregational and Social Worship (1832), and in Edward Bickersteth*’s Christian Psalmody (1833). It had seven stanzas:

There’s not a bird with lonely nest
In pathless wood or mountain crest,
Nor meaner thing, which does not share
O God! in Thy paternal care.
There’s not a being now accurst,
Who did not taste Thy goodness first;
And every joy the wicked see
Received its origin from Thee.
Each barren crag, each desert rude,
Holds Thee within its solitude;
And Thou dost bless the wand’rer there
Who makes his solitary prayer.
In busy mart and crowded street,
No less than in the still retreat,
Thou, Lord, art near our souls to bless
With all a parent’s tenderness.
And every moment still doth bring
Thy blessings on its loaded wing;
Widely thy spread through earth and sky,
And last to all eternity.
Through all creation let Thy name
Be echoed with a glad acclaim;
Thy praise let grateful churches sing,
With praise let heaven for ever ring.
And we, where’er our lot is cast,
While life and thought and feeling last,
Through all our years, in every place,
Will bless Thee for Thy boundless grace.

JJ noted that it was ‘commonly attributed’ to Noel, ‘and we see no reason to doubt the authorship.’ It was often shortened to four stanzas (1, 3, 4, 7), and in this form it continued to be used in many books. It was found in Roundell Palmer*’s The Book of Praise* (1862), in all seven stanzas, in the ‘Joy’ section of Part IV; and in Thomas Rawson Birks*’s The Companion Psalter (1874). In addition to some Sunday-school books, it was included in BCH (1900) and BCH Revised (1933). It was popular in the USA in the first half of the 20th century, and appears in a number of books, chiefly those for young people. It was found in the distinguished collection, The New Hymnal for American Youth (New York and London, 1930), edited by H. Augustine Smith*, and in some Baptist and Congregational Church books.


JRW (with thanks to Gordon Bell)


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