GOLDEN HOURS: HYMNS AND SONGS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
Golden Hours: Hymns and Songs of the Christian Life by Elizabeth Prentiss.
The "poor little book" appeared under the title of Religions Poems, afterwards changed to Golden Hours; Hymns and Songs of the Christian Life. In a letter of Mrs. Prentiss to a friend, written in 1870, occurs this passage: "Most of my verses are too much my own personal experience to be put in print now. After I am dead I hope they may serve as language for some other hearts. After I am dead! That means, oh ravishing thought! that I shall be in heaven one day."
Until the fall of 1873 her husband and two or three friends only knew of the existence of these verses, and their publication had not crossed her mind. But shortly after her return from Dorset she was persuaded to let Mr. Randolph read them. She soon received from him the following letter:
The poems must be printed, and at once! "We"—that is, the firm living at Yonkers—read aloud all the pieces, except those in the book, at one sitting, and would have gone on to the end but that the eyes gave out. Out of the lot three or four pieces were laid aside as not up to the standard of the others. The female member of the firm said that Mrs. Prentiss would do a wrong if she withheld the poems from the public. This member said he should give up writing, or trying to write, religious verses.
I am not joking. The book must be printed. We were charmed with the poems. Some of them have all the quaintness of Herbert, some the simple subjective fervor of the German hymns, and some the glow of Wesley. They are, as Mrs. R. said, out of the beaten way, and all true. So they differ from the conventional poetry. If published, there may be here and there some sentimental soul, or some soul without sentiment, or some critic who doats on Robt. Browning and don't understand him, or on Morris, or Rossetti, because they are high artists, who may snub the book. Very well; for compensation you will have the fact that the poems will win for you a living place in the hearts of thousands—in a sanctuary where few are permitted to enter.—The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss (1882).