Whittier Poem Set to Music at WC

May 3, 2019

Senior and Music Prof Team Up on Project Featuring Poetry, Music and Quakerism

A conversation between a Wilmington College student and faculty member resulted in John Greenleaf Whittier’s timeless poem, “Twilight,” set to new music.

PICTURED: 19th century poet John Greenleaf Whittier

Senior Carley G. Wilson, a senior from Batavia majoring in psychology, has been working the past six months on promoting the social media presence of WC’s Peace Resource and Quaker Heritage centers.

“I have tried to involve faculty from various departments in hopes to demonstrate how Quakerism is encountered in the classroom,” she said, noting she’s featured several faculty members on #TalkTuesday segments on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Wilson reached out to Dr. Brianna Matzke, assistant professor of music, to inquire about her knowledge of music history in the world of Quakerism. They discovered the 19th century American poet, Whittier (1802-92), was a Quaker who was especially well known for his writings about the abolition of slavery.

“Through our research, we encountered a poem turned into a song called “Twilight” that was written 10 years before his death,” she said. “The song is a beautiful demonstration of encountering God’s light and feeling God guide us to our ultimate purpose.”

Wilson said they were excited to learn the song has never been re-mastered, so Matzke “graciously” re-mastered it and asked Joshua Woodward, a sophomore from Cincinnati, to sing.

The lyrics from Whittier’s poem, “Twilight,” include:

“When on my day of life the night is falling,

And in the winds from unsunned spaces blown,

I hear far voices out of darkness calling

My feet to paths unknown.

 Be near me when all else is from me drifting

Earth, sky, home’s pictures, days of shade and shine,

And kindly faces to my own uplifting

The love which answers mine.

 There from the music round about me stealing,

I fain would learn the new and holy song,

And find at last, beneath Thy trees of healing,

The life for which I long.”


Listen to Brianna, Carley and Joshua’s version below: