O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go
Sandra McCracken's rendition
Many conjectures have been made regarding the cause of the mental distress which prompted the author to write this text. A very popular account, although never substantiated, is that this text was an outgrowth of Matheson's fiancee's leaving him just before their marriage when she learned of his impending total blindness. Although this story cannot be documented, there are many significant hints in this hymn reflecting a saddened heart, such as the "flickering torch" and the "borrowed ray" in the second stanza, the tracing of the "rainbow through the rain" in the third stanza, as well as the "cross" in the last verse. Fortunately, Dr. Matheson did leave an account of his writing of this hymn:
"My hymn was composed in the manse of Innellan on the evening of the 6th of June, 1882. I was at that time alone. It was the day of my sister's marriage, and the rest of the family were staying overnight in Glasgow. Something happened to me, which was known only to myself, and which caused me the most severe mental suffering. The hymn was the fruit of that suffering. It was the quickest bit of work I ever did in my life. I had the impression rather of having it dictated to me by some inward voice than of working it out myself. I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes, and equally sure it never received at my hands any retouching or correction. I have no natural gift of rythm. All the other verses I have ever written are manufactured articles; this came like a dayspring from on high. I have never been able to gain once more the same fervor in verse."
101 Hymn Stories