Saturday, November 14, 2015
Will You Not Tell It Today? – Jessie Brown Pounds
It most likely coalesced in this 26-year old single young woman as she lived in northeast Ohio (see map here), and was influenced, at least indirectly, by her father. Jessie Brown (she later married a preacher named Pounds) may have even listened to one of her father’s evangelistic messages as she considered her musical question “Will You Not Tell It Today?”. It sounds like someone trying to prod a listening heart into action, so maybe it was a father speaking to his daughter, and she repeating the conversation. She also may have had an editor from one point in her life, and maybe even a president (Garfield), to credit for the poetry she composed that year. And, there may have been others in her world whose debates had stirred her spirit to self-reflection. Jessie was the product of a community, and so she reciprocated, someone might say.
Jessie Brown’s precocious childhood probably left very few acquaintances surprised at her progression and achievement as a writer-poet-composer. Her father’s conversion and eventual choice to become a pastor and her mother’s role as a schoolteacher undoubtedly influenced Jessie’s knowledge-seeking spirit in childhood. It’s said that this schoolgirl listened to lots of debates among the Hiram (northeast Ohio)-area intellectuals – including James A. Garfield -- as religion and politics were thrown about verbally. It was no accident that Jessie was a writing prodigy as a teenager and went to college at Hiram before needing to withdraw unfortunately because of poor health. She’d also been sickly as a child, and therefore most likely got a concentrated dose of her mother’s teaching and her father’s preaching in the home. When she was 15, Jessie was producing articles for Cleveland newspapers and faith-based publications, and later was mentored by Isaac Errett, the well-known editor of Christian Standard. She spent most of her life of 60 years in her native area, thinking and writing of life there. Much of her productivity was the at least 400 (some say 800) hymn poems she composed, reflecting the ardent heart she possessed for spreading the Christian faith. Her words in “Will You Not Tell It Today” were a product of the area’s local Christian community, the Disciples of Christ. The words sound like what might have been sung during an evangelism campaign, or what might have been more commonly called a ‘meeting’. The first two verses have her pondering personally the gratitude she has for her Savior, and how that compels the hymn’s question. Verse three turns the focus completely on hearers who’ve yet to commit. It’s a three-verse pattern very familiar to meeting-goers, certainly, and also to a young woman trained hearing others talk, teach, preach, debate, and urge others to a viewpoint.
Jessie Brown did what came easy for her, given the upbringing she experienced. She also loved her northeastern Ohio home, and left it only on occasion, it’s said. The nurture she felt found its way through her hands onto the pages of hundreds of songs and other written words, and so she was doing something that could be described as circular. What she received, she put back into her output, which fed her community, and must have fed her too so that she could go on repeating this cycle. Hey, that kinda sounds like a church, doesn’t it? Now you know how to get fed.
See following sites for biography of composer: http://www.hymnary.org/text/if_the_name_of_the_savior_is_precious_to