“Nearer, My God, to Thee” is a 19th century Christian hymn written by Sarah Flower Adams. The song is loosely related to the bible passages Genesis 28” 11-19 and refers to the story of Jacob’s dream. Aside from being a popular church hymn, this is also the song most closely related with the sinking of the RMS Titanic. It was believed that this was the last song that the Titanic band played as the ship was sinking.
Nearer, My God, to Thee Lyrics
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me;
Still all my song shall be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Chorus: Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
Darkness be over me, my rest a stone;
Yet in my dreams I’d be nearer, my God, to Thee,
There let the way appear steps unto heav’n;
All that Thou sendest me in mercy giv’n;
Angels to beckon me nearer, my God, to Thee,
Then with my waking thoughts bright with Thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs Bethel I’ll raise;
So by my woes to be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Or if on joyful wing, cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot, upwards I fly,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee,
There in my Father’s home, safe and at rest,
There in my Savior’s love, perfectly blest;
Age after age to be, nearer my God to Thee.
Written by Unitarian English poet Sarah Flower Adams in Loughton, Essex, England, the music was first composed by her sister Eliza Flower. In the UK, the hymn is associated with the hymn “Horbury” written by John Bacchus Dykes. In the rest of the world, the song is sung to the 1856 tune “Bethany” by Lowell Mason. Many Methodists prefer the tune “Propior Deo” (Nearer to God) written by Arthur Sullivan in 1872. These three versions are the most commonly heard versions of “Nearer, My God, to Thee” and the ones most commonly associated with the RMS Titanic.
“Nearer, My God, to Thee” is forever associated with the Titanic as one survivor reported that it was the last song played by the Titanic band as the ship sank. The “Bethany” version of the song was used in the 1943 Titanic movie and the “Horbury” version was played in Roy Ward Baker’s 1958 movie about the Titanic sinking titled A Night to Remember. The “Bethany” version was also used in the 1997 James Cameron movie Titanic.
It is said that the Titanic band leader Wallace Hartley was known for his like of the song and wished to have it played at his funeral. It is said that he would have been familiar with the “Horbury” and “Propior Deo” versions but not with the “Bethany” version. The “Propior Deo” version offers the opening notes that appear on Hartley’s memorial.
The tune was also sung by the doomed crew passengers of the SS Valencia when it sank off the Canadian coast in 1905. Speculation still exists to this day of whether or not the tune was actually played during the sinking of the Titanic, as the claim is made by a Canadian passenger who may not have even heard the band playing.