O Love, that wilt not let me go

O Love, that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
O Light, that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to Thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in Thy sunshine's blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.
O Joy, that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be.
O Cross, that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from Thee;
I lay in dust life's glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

The author was inspired to write this hymn in 5 minutes during a time of distress.


Uvita De Osa, Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Karen Hymnlover asked what "from the ground there blossoms red" means. When blood begins to pool on the ground, it looks like blossoms out like the opening of a flower. So from under the cross, as the blood of Christ blossomed in the dirt, His blood brought "life that shall endless be".

Anthony Ohre

Port Harcourt, Delta State, Nigeria

A spiritual song that sees me through pain. It boost my spirit whenever I sing it. God bless the composer.

Karen Hymnlover

Aiken, SC, United States

What does "And from the ground there blossoms red life" mean? Is it figuratively referring to Christ's life blood in us? The previous line is about being " in dust life’s glory dead", and before that, "O Cross, that liftest up my head". So, "red life" means alive in Christ versus dead in sin?

Love the info about "climbing" and "tracing" the rainbow. I like the idea of the victory in climbing, but I also like the idea of steadfastly tracing that often hard to see rainbow while in the midst of a storm. In others words, holding on to God's character and promises in spite of horizontal, temporal circumstances.

Ryan Danek

Bellevue, Washington, United States

Thank You Lord for not letting me go.

Steve Miller

Detroit, MI, United States

The original 3rd line of the 3rd stanza said "I climb the rainbow through the rain". It was a prosy hymnal committee of the Church of Scotland that insisted it be changed to "I trace the rainbow through the rain." The members of the committee could not imagine anything so fanciful and farcical as climbing a rainbow! ... Finally, Matheson consented to the change with regret, permitting a line he would never have written.

How sad! A close friend of Matheson, J. Morrison of Colinton, Scotland, expressed in an article for "The Scotsman" years later: "When "climb" was altered to "trace", the figure of a victorious ascent of the spirit toward its divine source (a purely inner experience) was changed to passive contemplation of an external phenomenon mentally envisaged - pious and beautiful in its way, but quite different from what was originally implied." ...

For Matheson, the rainbow was like Jacob's ladder let down from heaven for the poet's ascent into the glory of God.

James Black, in a book published 54 years after Matheson's death, wrote: "It is merely silly to think of Matheson 'tracing' that rainbow through the rain; his eyes were shut forever! But in his own fine imagination, he could picture himself stumbling forward blindly till he actually touched the rainbow with his groping fingers! And when he touched it, he could grasp it and climb it." - Climbing the Rainbow by Loyd J. Ogilvie

Joanna Smathers

Baton Rouge, LA, United States

We enjoyed Christ in this song and the history of it and the writer this morning at Sisters' prayer. Seems to me this is the history of shepherds. Exodus 3:1 Now Moses was shepherding the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the back of the wilderness and came to the mountain of God, to Horeb.

Steve Miller

Detroit, MI, United States

George Matheson was born in Glasgow, Scotland. By the time he was 18 years of age he was totally blind; still he achieved high honors in university. He became one of Scotland's outstanding preachers and pastors. Although he never married, he had a devoted sister who studied Greek, Latin, and Hebrew in order to aid him in his studies. Due to his great ability to memorize sermons and large portions of Scripture, many people did not know he was blind. One Sunday as he was preaching his mind went blank. He read out a Psalm from memory and then sat down. After a song was sung he again stood up, told the audience what had happened, and then, although blind, spoke another portion of Scripture and gave a powerful message on that portion. From that time he no longer wrote out sermons but spoke from a prepared outline.

There is much speculation concerning the background of the writing of this hymn. It is best to take Matheson's own account:

"My hymn was composed 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 5 minutes, and equally sure it never received at my hands any retouching or correction. I have no natural gift of rhythm. 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." - Songs of the Spirit by Martin


Matheson's poem was published in a Christian magazine in 1883, and in 1884 it was considered for inclusion in "The Scottish Hymnal". The musical editor of that work, Albert L. Peace, couldn't find a suitable tune in the poem's unique meter, so he wrote a new one. Like the poet, the composer worked quickly, saying, "The ink of the first note was hardly dry when I had finished the tune." Written in a few moments, this enduring song celebrates a love that lasts forever. - Be Still My Soul: The Inspiring Stories Behind 175 of the Most-loved Hymns by Petersen


Hertfordshire, United Kingdom

Brought up in a Methodist manse, I grew up singing hymns like this. Feels much more meaningful now that I'm older. Oddly, it was reading Colin Dexter's "Death is Now my Neighbour" that prompted me to look this up. Thank you, Mr Dexter!

Brinley Morgan

The Village Of Raglan, Monmouthshire, Wales, NP15 2EN

This beloved hymn is our Morgan Family hymn, sung at many weddings and funerals. It will be sung next at the funeral of our beloved Mam, Dorothy May, nee Brinning, (1913-2014) in Caerphilly, near Cardiff, where she will join Ernest Leslie Morgan (1912-1963). She earnestly wanted this hymn to be sung at this final goodbye, along with "The Day Thou Gave'st Now Is Ended". Farewell Dear Soul, Dear Mam. XXXX

Nelson Liu

Irvine, CA, United States

O Love! O Light! O Joy! O Cross!