1 How blest the righteous when he dies!
When sinks a weary soul to rest!
How mildly beam the closing eyes!
How gently heaves th’expiring breast!
2 A holy quiet reigns around,
A calm which life nor death destroys;
And naught disturbs that peace profound
Which his unfettered soul enjoys.
3 Farewell, conflicting hopes and fears,
Where lights and shades alternate dwell;
How bright th'unchanging morn appears!
Farewell, inconstant world, farewell!
4 Life’s labor done, as sinks the clay,
Light from its load the spirit flies,
While heaven and earth combine to say,
"How blest the righteous when he dies!"
Source: The Hymnal and Order of Service #597
"This hymn was not the composition of the deceased, as has been mistakenly reported. It was extracted with some modifications from a longer copy of verses which appeared in the Iris many years ago, the author of which we understood to be Mr. Robert Barnard, formerly of this town, and one of the Society of Friends. The opening of the original lines being 'Sweet is the scene when virtue dies,' was altered [to "How blest, &c.,"] for an obvious reason when the stanzas were adopted for Mr. Cotterill's hymnbook. We can further say that he was peculiarly delighted with them. The following exquisite poetical stanza follows the first as they stand in the hymn-book:— "'So fades a summer cloud away, So sinks the gale when storms are o'er, So gently shuts the eye of day, So dies a wave along the shore.'"From this extract it is evident that the alterations in the text of the poem to adapt it for congregational purposes were made by Montgomery for Cotterill. Montgomery's guess as to the authorship of the original was disproved by the publication of Mrs. Barbauld's Works in 1825 with the poem therein. This form of the hymn is in common use in all English-speaking countries. -- John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)