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"Dear Lord and Father of Mankind" is a hymn with words taken from a longer poem, The Brewing of Soma by American Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier. The adaptation was made by Garrett Horder in his 1884 Congregational Hymns.
The text set appears below. Some hymnal editors omit the fourth stanza or resequence the stanza so that the fifth stanza as printed here comes last.
If sung to Parry's tune, "Repton", the last line of each stanza is repeated.
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The Brewing of Soma is the Whittier poem (1872) from which the hymn is taken. Soma was a sacred ritual drink in Vedic religion, going back to Proto-Indo-Iranian times (ca. 2000 BC), possibly with hallucinogenic properties.
The storyline is of Vedic priests brewing and drinking Soma in an attempt to experience divinity. It describes the whole population getting drunk on Soma. It compares this to some Christians' use of "music, incense, vigils drear, And trance, to bring the skies more near, Or lift men up to heaven!" But all in vain—it is mere intoxication.
Whittier ends by describing the true method for contact with the divine, as practised by Quakers: Sober lives dedicated to doing God's will, seeking silence and selflessness in order to hear the "still, small voice" described in I Kings 19:11-13 as the authentic voice of God, rather than earthquake, wind or fire.
Hubert Parry originally wrote the music for what became Repton in 1888 for the contralto aria 'Long since in Egypt's plenteous land' in his oratorio Judith. In 1924 Dr George Gilbert Stocks, director of music at Repton School, set it to 'Dear Lord and Father of mankind' in a supplement of tunes for use in the school chapel. Despite the need to repeat the last line of words, Repton provides an inspired matching of lyrics and tune. By this time, Rest, by Frederick Maker (matching the metrical pattern without repetition), was already well established with the lyrics in the United States.
Tunes it can be sung to are
The American composer Charles Ives took stanzas 14 and 16 of The Brewing of Soma ("O Sabbath rest.../Drop Thy still dews...") and set them to music as the song "Serenity"; however, Ives quite likely extracted his two stanzas from the hymn rather than from the original poem. Published in his collection, 114 songs, in 1919, the first documented performance of the Ives version was by mezzo-soprano Mary Bell accompanied by pianist Julius Hijman.