1 'Tis my happiness below
Not to live without the cross;
But the Savior's pow'r to know,
Sanctifying every loss:
Trials must and will befall;
But with humble faith to see
Love inscrib'd upon them all.
This is happiness to me.
2 God in Israel sows the seeds,
Of afflictions, pain and toil;
These spring up, and choke the weeds,
Which would else o'erspread the soil;
Trials make the promise sweet,
Trials give ne life to pray'r;
Trials bring me to his feet,
Lay me low, and keep me there.
3 Did I meet no trials here,
No chastisement by the way;
Might I not, with reason fear,
I should be a cast away:
Bastards may escape the rod,
Sunk in earthly vain delight;
But the true born son of God,
Must not, would not, if he might.
William Cowper (pronounced "Cooper"; b. Berkampstead, Hertfordshire, England, 1731; d. East Dereham, Norfolk, England, 1800) is regarded as one of the best early Romantic poets. To biographers he is also known as "mad Cowper." His literary talents produced some of the finest English hymn texts, but his chronic depression accounts for the somber tone of many of those texts. Educated to become an attorney, Cowper was called to the bar in 1754 but never practiced law. In 1763 he had the opportunity to become a clerk for the House of Lords, but the dread of the required public examination triggered his tendency to depression, and he attempted suicide. His subsequent hospitalization and friendship with Morley and Mary Unwin provided emotional st… Go to person page >
'Tis my happiness below. W. Cowper. [In Affliction.] Appeared in Lady Huntingdon's Collection, 1774, No 143, in 3 stanzas of 8 lines, and in the Olney Hymns, 1779, Bk. iii., No. 16. In the Lady Huntingdon Collection it precedes, and in the Olney Hymns it follows Cowper's "God moves in a mysterious way" and seems to have been written at, or about the same time, and under the same circumstances. Its modern use is mainly confined to America where, in its full, or in an abridged form, it is somewhat popular.
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)
'Tis my happiness below, p. 1178, i. From the manuscript volume described under Cowper, W., p. 1625, ii,, this hymn, on p. 209, is given as "by Mr. W. C. of Olney, 1773." This shows, as stated at p. 1178, i., that it was a companion hymn to "God moves in a mysterious way," and was written at or about the same time, and before his attempted suicide in October 1773. In the MS. st. ii., 1. 7, reads:—
"Trials lay me at His feet,
Lay me low and keep me there."
When printed it was altered to:—
"Trials bring me to His feet,
Lay me low and bring me there."
See Notes & Queries, Sept. 24, 1904.
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, New Supplement (1907)