Above: An Advertisement from the Pittsburgh Daily Post, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, May 24, 1848, Page 4
Accessed via newspapers.com
WILLIAM BINGHAM TAPPAN (OCTOBER 24 OR 29, 1794-JUNE 18, 1849)
U.S. Congregationalist Minister, Poet, and Hymn Writer
William Bingham Tappan comes to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days via The Pilgrim Hymnal (1931/1935).
Our saint came from a Congregationalist family of New England. He had a younger brother, Daniel Dana Tappan (1798-1890), who became a prominent Congregationalist minister. Daniel, like his older brother, wrote poetry, such as “The Prince of Peace” (1889). The brothers’ parents were Samuel Tappan (a schoolmaster) and Aurelia Bingham Tappan, who married on April 26, 1789, at Beverly, Massachusetts. Our saint, christened on November 9, 1794, at Beverly, grew up with both parents until April 29, 1806, when his father died. Our saint was 12 years old and in the sixth grade at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. That event changed Tappan’s life. Out of necessity he dropped out of school, moved to Boston, Massachusetts, and apprenticed himself to a clock maker. There he remained for nine years, until 1815. In Boston Tappan, in the words of The Handbook to The Lutheran Hymnal (1942), “fell in with evil companions” (page 587). Aurelia prayed for him and helped to rescue him from a life defined by bad choices.
Tappan, as an adult on the straight and narrow path, lived in various places. He worked in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from 1815 to 1818. Then he studied in Somerville, New Jersey, for a time. Next, from 1819 to 1826, he taught in Philadelphia. On August 31, 1822, our saint married Amelia Colton (1796-1886). In 1826, at Philadelphia, he became superintendent of the American Sunday School Union, founded two years earlier. Tappan worked for that organization for the rest of his life, traveling extensively to speak on behalf of the religious education of children and youth. He relocated to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1829, moved back to Philadelphia in 1834, and settled in Boston in 1838. Tappan became a Congregationalist minister in 1841.
The Second Great Awakening had stimulated the growth of Sunday schools, some of which overshadowed worship services in certain locations. There was a need for educational materials suitable for this movement. Although the American Sunday School Union was an ecumenical organization, its theological orientation was heavily Reformed. In fact, state branches in New England functioned as branches of the Congregationalist Church.
Tappan wrote poems and published collections of them. They were:
- New England, and Other Poems (1819),
- Lyrics (1822),
- Poems (1822),
- Lyric Poems (1826),
- The Poems of William B. Tappan (1834),
- The Poems of William B. Tappan, Not Contained in a Former Volume (1836),
- The Poet’s Tribute: Poems of William B. Tappan (1840),
- Poems and Lyricks (1842),
- The Daughter of the Isles, and Other Poems (1844),
- Poetry of the Heart (1845),
- The Sunday School, and Other Poems (1848),
- Sacred and Early Poems (1848), and
- Late and Early Poems (1849).
Later volumes of Tappan’s verse included the following:
Tappan’s work appeared in various collections, including volumes of hymns with temperance and antislavery themes. Some of his poems also graced Lyra Americana, or, Verses of Praise and Faith from American Poets (1865), selected and edited by the Rev. George T. Rider, M.A.
Most of Tappan’s hymns have fallen into disuse since the 1800s. This is unfortunate, for the quality of his texts far exceeds that of most contemporary contributions to hymnals. One text from 1818 follows:
There is an hour of peaceful rest;
To mourning wanderers given;
There is a joy for souls distrest;
A balm for every wounded breast:
‘Tis found above–in heaven.
There is a soft, a downy bed,
‘Tis fair as breath of even;
A couch for weary mortals spread
Where they may rest the aching head
And find repose–in heaven.
There is a home for weary souls,
By sin and sorrow driven,–
When tossed on life’s tempestuous shoals,
Where storms arise and ocean rolls,
And all is drear–but heaven.
There faith lifts up her cheerful eye,
To brighter prospects given;
And views the tempest passing by,
The evening shadows quickly fly,
And all serene–in heaven.
There fragrant flowers immortal bloom,
And joys supreme are given;
There rays divine disperse the gloom;
Beyond the confines of the tomb
Appears the dawn of heaven.
The following text dates to 1822:
‘Tis midnight; and on Olive’s brow
The star is dimm’d that lately shone:
‘Tis midnight; in the garden now
The suff’ring Saviour prays alone.
‘Tis midnight; and, from all removed,
Emmanuel wrestles lone with fears:
E’en the disciple that he loved
Heeds not his Master’s grief and tears.
‘Tis midnight; and, for others’ guilt,
The Man of Sorrows weeps in blood:
Yet he that hath in anguish knelt
Is not forsaken by his God.
‘Tis midnight; from the heav’nly plains
Is borne the song that angels know:
Unheard by mortals are the strains
That sweetly soothe the Saviour’s woe.
Tappan’s mother, Aurelia, died in 1846, aged 77 years. He followed her in death on June 18, 1849, at West Needham, Massachusetts. He was 54 years old, and the cause of death was cholera.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
FEBRUARY 5, 2016 COMMON ERA
THE SAINT OF SAINT AVITUS OF VIENNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP
THE FEAST OF EDWARD HAYES PLUMPTRE, ANGLICAN PRIEST
THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF JAPAN
THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILEAS AND PHILOROMUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS
Dear God of beauty,
you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to
William Bingham Tappan and others, who have composed hymn texts.
May we, as you guide us,
find worthy hymn texts to be icons,
through which we see you.
In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-3a, 5-15
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK
THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR
THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP
THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH