Saturday, June 23, 2018

Beautiful Isle of Somewhere -- Jessie B. Pounds

Jessie Hunter Brown Pounds was 36, and had been sick, perhaps not an uncommon circumstance for her. Did that morning’s unfortunate physical discomfort cause Jessie to imagine a “Beautiful Isle of Somewhere”, where she would never have to suffer the same way again? Indianapolis (its flag is shown here) was her new home, where she and her new husband were beginning their lives together, worshipping and serving at the church where he (John Pounds) was the pastor. So, it must have made Jessie especially uneasy to miss accompanying her husband to the church that day. Would the other church members be worried about her? If she couldn’t be with him physically, maybe Jessie could be with John by thinking on a topic they both appreciated – heaven. Was it in fact his sermon topic for the day?

Jessie was no stranger to either sickness or hymn-writing as she thought about her latest poem in 1897, the morning she felt ill in Indianapolis shortly after marrying. She’d reportedly been sick often as a child, prompting her family to educate her at home rather than to send her to public school. So, it must have been there under her parents’ tutelage where she began writing poetry. Jessie, a teenager living in northeastern Ohio, was soon sending her poems to a Cleveland newspaper. It was an editor who coaxed Jessie that her poems could be hymns, a suggestion that she took to heart. As someone has said, the rest is history, some 800 hymns later by some accounts. So, was it her sickly nature as a child that was the necessary familiar setting, creating the scene one Sunday morning as Jessie sat at home? She’d been married just a few weeks, so being unable to accompany her husband to worship must have been doubly painful, on top of the physical malady that afflicted her that day. Heaven was obviously on her mind, so she wrote a new poem to explore how its environment would be a blessing, somewhere. The earth’s shortcomings also must have been on her mind, as she longed to go to the somewhere else place, a beautiful isle. Separation, even briefly, from her man, and a sickly body were the dual conditions that spurred ‘Beautiful Isle…’, a result that came to fruition swiftly. Her thoughts had concluded in just the few hours that she spent alone. It must have quickened her spirit to think of that serene island and how it would overwhelm her present misery.

It’s no surprise that the things Jessie considered about the heavenly ‘somewhere’ outnumbered those earthly maladies she wanted to leave behind. Sunshine and songbirds, and especially a living God (v.1); lengthy days, completed duties, a strong heart, and a welcome reward [guerdon](v. 2); a lightened load, rippling clouds, and singing angels (v. 3) were all mental images that Jessie saw. Only a fleeting undefined sadness (v. 1) translated from her thoughts down to the pen she held. Truth and renewal (refrain) were also conditions that Jessie particularly exclaimed as she considered Somewhere, over and over again. Somewhere might be thought of like ‘Someday’ or ‘Sometime’, a hope-filled, confident expression. No maybe about it in Jessie’s verses. Somewhere is real. You got Somewhere to go?   

See here for the song’s story:

See here for brief biography of the author:

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