Beyond the Sunset

I admire (and am sometimes jealous of) the work of writers who evoke powerful imagery. The prose of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper telling of a slave mother’s child being sold at auction or the writings of Gordon Rhea (link is to his books list only as I didn’t see a writing sample) describing the Civil War carnage at the “Bloody Angle” left me with vivid and telling impressions of those events.

Songs can have a similar effect. In my reading area, I have a worn paperback written by Kenneth Osbeck entitled “Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions." Osbeck, adept at creating images with words, developed an excellent writing niche by combining two topics of interest—church hymns and history. In the book, Osbeck retells the creation of Virgil Brock’s hymn “Beyond the Sunset.” Brock recounts how he and a group of friends, that included his blind cousin Horace, watched an unusual yet spectacular sunset at Winona Lake, Indiana in 1936:

“…A large area of water appeared ablaze with the glory of God, yet there were threatening storm clouds gathered overhead. Our blind guest excitedly remarked that he had never seen a more beautiful sunset.

“People are always amazed when you talk about seeing,” I told him. “I can see,” Horace replied. “I see through other people’s eyes, and I think I see more; I see beyond the sunset."

The phrase “beyond the sunset” and the striking inflection of his voice struck me so forcibly that I began singing the first few measures. “That’s beautiful,” his wife replied. “Please go to the piano and sing it.”

"...Before the evening meal was finished, all four stanzas had been written and we sang the entire song together.”

This is fourth verse from Brock’s hymn:
"Beyond the sunset, O glad reunion with our dear loved ones who’ve gone before. In that fair homeland we’ll know no parting—beyond the sunset forevermore."

The full lyrics are posted here.

Horace the blind man evidently had the talent as well; he painted pictures with words, albeit spoken. Seeing “beyond the sunset”—now that is an inspiring image…