Sarah Flower Adams died at the age of 43 having given up a life on the stage because of illness. This hymn reflects that experience in the first verse, without sentimentalizing the reference to her cross, and then in the remaining verses meditates on the story in Genesis of Jacob sleeping with a stone for a pillow. He dreams of the ladder up to heaven and the writer prays for such a way to heaven, and this will bring her to the imagery of the final verse where the stone, which is also her suffering, becomes that which is set up for the praise of God. Dykes wrote this tune for these words in 1859, probably at the time he preached at Horbury near Wakefield. The pattern of the words with a long and a short line is interupted with the additional long line five: Dykes reflects this harmonically, and compels a break in the flow of the tune before returning to the opening line of music and words, ‘Nearer, my God, to thee’.
from notes by Alan Luff © 2001