Austin Miles' Methodist Hymn: In The Garden
An astonishing story lies behind the making of one of the most beautiful of Methodist hymns. Written in 1912 by C. Austin Miles, as a commission by a music publisher, "In the Garden" was no less spiritually inspired for all its secular beginnings.
Written in 1912 by C. Austin Miles, as a commission by a music publisher, “In the Garden” was no less spiritually inspired for all its secular beginnings. Miles left an accounting of the writing of it. He describes sitting in a darkened room and taking up the Bible for inspiration.
“My hands were resting on the Bible while I stared at the light blue wall. As the light faded, I seemed to be standing at the entrance of a garden, looking down a gently winding path, shaded by olive branches. A woman in white, with head bowed, hand clasping her throat, as if to choke back her sobs, walked slowly into the shadows. It was Mary. As she came to the tomb, upon which she place her hand, she bent over to look in, and hurried away.... Mary reappeared; leaning her head upon her arm at the tomb, she wept. Turning herself, she saw Jesus standing, so did I.”
I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses,
and the voice I hear falling on my ear,
The son of God discloses.
The image of Mary arises out of the initial stanza, as she seeks her lost son. People who are bereaved take comfort and succor from the lyrics of the refrain, in which it becomes clear that the loved one’s spirit is yet alive and ever present. The stanza is generally sung in a sweet, almost unsure, light and wistful tone, while the refrain is sung joyfully with great strength and conviction.
And He walks with me, and he talks with me
And He tells me I am His own,
And the Joy we share as we tarry there
none other has ever known.
“I awakened in full light,” finished Miles in his accounting, “gripping the Bible, with muscles tense and nerves vibrating. Under the inspiration of this vision I wrote as quickly as the words could be formed the poem exactly as it has since appeared. That same evening I wrote the music.”
It does not take a terribly religious individual to grasp in the hearing of the song its seamless content and timeless power to tame grief. This can only have come of Miles’s astonishing spiritual experience the night he wrote it whole of one piece. It is a hymn that eases pain for all who sing it or hear it sung.