The hymn How Can I Keep from Singing first appeared in an 1869 collection of Sunday School songs, entitled Bright Jewels. The Rev. Robert Lowry had written the music, and it’s believed that Anna Bartlett Warner, who used the pen name Amy Lothrop, wrote the original words. Anna also wrote the words to the well-loved Sunday School song that begins, “Jesus loves me, this I know . . . ”
Anna’s father was Henry Warner, a wealthy New York City lawyer, who lost most of his fortune in the 1837 depression. The family moved to their summer home (Good Craig) on Constitution Island in the Hudson River. It was there that Anna and her sister Susan began writing books and hymns to earn money. They also conducted Bible classes for cadets at the Military Academy at West Point, which was nearby.
The successful publication of their hymns and books was not enough to eliminate their financial difficulties; they were constantly in debt for most of their lives. How did they manage without losing hope? A friend tells this story of a conversation she once had with Miss Anna:
“One day when sitting with Miss Anna in the old living room she took from one of the cases a shell so delicate that it looked like lace work and holding it in her hand, with eyes dimmed with tears, she said, ‘There was a time when I was very perplexed, bills were unpaid, necessities must be had, and someone sent me this exquisite thing. As I held it I realized that if God could make this beautiful home for a little creature. He would take care of me.’ ”
My life flows on in endless song; Above earth’s lamentation,
I hear the sweet, tho’ far-off hymn That hails a new creation;
Thro’ all the tumult and the strife I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul– How can I keep from singing?
What tho’ my joys and comforts die? The Lord my Saviour liveth;
What tho’ the darkness gather round? Songs in the night he giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm While to that refuge clinging;
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, How can I keep from singing?
I lift my eyes; the cloud grows thin; I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smooths, Since first I learned to love it;
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart, A fountain ever springing;
All things are mine since I am his– How can I keep from singing?