SOME of Christendom’s greatest recent hymns have come to her by means of Reginald Heber, an English cleric who ended his career and life in 1826 as bishop of the Church of England’s missionary diocese of Calcutta in India. (To my mind, the nineteenth century qualifies as recent.) Heber’s hymns, which range from the sublime “Holy, Holy, Holy” to the wondrously-manly “The Son of God goes forth to War,” rightly retain a certain popularity even in the still-more-recent world of the twenty-first century. But not all Hebers are created equal, and a glance at the text of “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains” will reveal why many contemporary congregations might consider its message incompatible with their cherished modern values:
NO, not the 1903 Jack London novel. A different author, and a different literary form. Yet it deals with a similar environment, and it appeared only a few years later, in 1911. “The Call of the Wild” this time comes from Robert W. Service, a fellow most famous for his poem “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” I am fond of the “Cremation,” of course, for who does not like a little Yukon ghosting? But I think this one is a bit more profound.