One Sweetly Solemn Thought

Words by Phoebe Cary Music by Philip Phillips

"One sweetly solemn thought
Comes to me o'er and o'er.”




A gentleman traveling in China found at Macao a company of gamblers in a back room on the upper floor of a hotel. At the table nearest him was an American, about twenty years old, playing with an old man. While the gray-haired man was shuffling the cards, the young man, in a careless way, sang a verse of” One sweetly solemn thought,” to a very pathetic tune. Several gamblers looked up in surprise on hearing the singing. The old man, who was dealing the cards, gazed steadfastly at his partner in the game, and then threw the pack of cards under the table.

“Where did you learn that song? ”he asked. The young man pretended that he did not know that he had been singing. ”Well, no matter, ”said the old man, ”I have played my last game, and that's the end of it. The cards may lie there till doomsday, and I'll never pick them up. ”Having won a hundred dollars from the young man, he took the money from his pocket and, handing it over to the latter, said: ”Here, Harry, is your money; take it and do good with it; I shall with mine."

The traveler followed them downstairs, and at the door heard the old man still talking about the song which the young man had sung. Long afterward a gentleman in Boston received a letter from the old man, in which he declared that he had become a ”hardworking Christian, ”and that his young friend also had renounced gambling and kindred vices.

This hymn was composed in a little third-story bedroom one Sunday morning in 1852, after the author had come from church. Miss Carey was then twenty-eight. She died in Newport, Rhode Island, nineteen years later.