A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief/
Have I Done Any Good?
About the Song
Music by Will L. Thompson (1847-1909) and George Coles (1792-1858)
Text by Will L. Thompson (1847-1909) and James Montgomery (1771-1854)
Piano medley arranged by Sally DeFord
These two hymns started singing together in my head one day, and they haven’t stopped since; I can’t hear one without thinking of the other. (If you want detail on the genesis of this arrangement, you can read about it here.)
Piano solos don’t have lyrics but they’re important to this one. The words given below are in the order they might appear in the music–kinda. The middle verses of “A Poor Wayfaring Man…” describe different circumstances in which the poet envisioned himself. Because of the length, I let one musical verse (in minor, of course) stand for all of those.
We probably won’t personally run into people left injured on the roadside very often, nor will we usually have the choice to give our own lives in place of someone who’s been condemned. What we do have on ordinary days is the extraordinary opportunity to serve in ways that are within our reach: make a phone call… send a text… donate a needed item… mow a lawn… follow the Spirit… love… listen… smile.
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Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.
Has anyone’s burden been lighter today
Because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help was I there?
A poor, wayfaring Man of grief
Hath often crossed me on my way,
Who sued so humbly for relief
That I could never answer nay.
I had not pow’r to ask his name,
Whereto he went, or whence he came;
Yet there was something in his eye
That won my love; I knew not why.
Once, when my scanty meal was spread,
He entered; not a word he spake,
Just perishing for want of bread.
I gave him all; he blessed it, brake,
And ate, but gave me part again.
Mine was an angel’s portion then,
For while I fed with eager haste,
The crust was manna to my taste.
I spied him where a fountain burst
Clear from the rock; his strength was gone.
The heedless water mocked his thirst;
He heard it, saw it hurrying on.
I ran and raised the suff’rer up;
Thrice from the stream he drained my cup,
Dipped and returned it running o’er;
I drank and never thirsted more.
‘Twas night; the floods were out; it blew
A winter hurricane aloof.
I heard his voice abroad and flew
To bid him welcome to my roof.
I warmed and clothed and cheered my guest
And laid him on my couch to rest,
Then made the earth my bed and seemed
In Eden’s garden while I dreamed.
Stript, wounded, beaten nigh to death,
I found him by the highway side.
I roused his pulse, brought back his breath,
Revived his spirit, and supplied
Wine, oil, refreshment—he was healed.
I had myself a wound concealed,
But from that hour forgot the smart,
And peace bound up my broken heart.
In pris’n I saw him next, condemned
To meet a traitor’s doom at morn.
The tide of lying tongues I stemmed,
And honored him ‘mid shame and scorn.
My friendship’s utmost zeal to try,
He asked if I for him would die.
The flesh was weak; my blood ran chill,
But my free spirit cried, “I will!”
Then in a moment to my view
The stranger started from disguise.
The tokens in his hands I knew;
The Savior stood before mine eyes.
He spake, and my poor name he named,
“Of me thou hast not been ashamed.
These deeds shall thy memorial be;
Fear not, thou didst them unto me.”
Then wake up and do something more
Than dream of your mansion above.
Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure,
A blessing of duty and love.
Have I done any good in the world today?
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