James Montgomery’s poems were remarkable for their vivid imagery and spiritual core. Beyond beauty, he also used his words to expose the exploitation of child chimney sweeps and called for the abolition of slavery. However, he primarily used his words to express his faith.
James Montgomery was raised and trained in the Moravian church and wrote many hymns that are still remembered today.
“If he who pens these sentiments knows his own heart, he would rather be the anonymous author of a few hymns which should become an imperishable inheritance to the people of God, than bequeath another epic poem to the world, which should rank his name with Homer, Virgil, and 'our greater Milton.” - James Montgomery, a Lecture
“Hymns should have unity, graduation and mutual dependence in the thoughts, a conscious progress, a sense of completeness … and be easily understood.” - Christian Psalmist, or Hymns Selected & Original
“Return unto thy rest, my soul,/ From all the wanderings of thy thought,/ From sickness unto death made whole,/ Safe through a thousand perils brought.” - “Rest for the Soul”
“If God hath made this world so fair,/ Where sin and death abound,/ How beautiful beyond compare/ Will paradise be found!” - “The Earth’s full of God’s Goodness”
“When to the cross I turn my eyes,/ And rest on Calvary,/ O Lamb of God, my sacrifice,/ I must remember Thee.” - Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers
“Baptize the nations! far and nigh,/ The triumphs of the cross record/ The name of Jesus glorify,/ Till every people call Him Lord.” - Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers
“Prayer is the soul's sincere desire,/ Uttered or unexpressed,—/ The motion of a hidden fire/ That trembles in the breast.” - “What is Prayer?”
“Prayer is the burden of a sigh,/ The falling of a tear,/ The upward glancing of an eye/ When none but God is near.” - “What is Prayer?"
“Angels from the realms of glory,/ wing your flight o'er all the earth;/ ye who sang creation's story/ now proclaim Messiah's birth.” - “Angels From the Realms of Glory”
Like most great poets, Montgomery basked in the beauty of nature. His poems often conveyed a spiritual connection to nature.
“The moon is watching in the sky; the stars/ Are swiftly wheeling on their golden cars;/ Ocean, outstretcht with infinite expanse,/ Serenely slumbers in a glorious trance.” - “Greenland - Canto First”
“There is a flower, a little flower/ With silver crest and golden eye,/ That welcomes every changing hour,/ And weathers every sky.” - “The Daisy”
“Nature's prime favourites were the Pelicans;/ High-fed, long-lived, and sociable and free.” - “The Pelican’s Island”
“The nursery of brooding Pelicans,/ The dormitory of their dead, had vanish'd,/ And all the minor spots of rock and verdure,/ The abodes of happy millions, were no more.” - “The Pelican’s Island”
“Distinct as the billows, yet one as the sea.” -”The Ocean”
“Who that hath ever been/ Could bear to be no more?/ Yet who would tread again the scene/ He trod through life before?” - “The Falling Leaf”
James Montgomery also wrote many poems about historical events and the little things that make life worth living.
“Gashed with honourable scars,/ Low in Glory's lap they lie;/ Though they fell, they fell like stars,/ Streaming splendour through the sky.” - The Battle of Alexandria
“When the good man yields his breath/ (For the good man never dies).” - The Wanderer of Switzerland
“Hope against hope, and ask till ye receive.” - “The World Before the Flood”
“Joys too exquisite to last,/ And yet more exquisite when past.” - “The Little Cloud”
“Bliss in possession will not last;/ Remembered joys are never past;/ At once the fountain, stream, and sea,/ They were, they are, they yet shall be.” - “The Little Cloud”
“Friend after friend departs;/ Who hath not lost a friend?/ There is no union here of hearts/ That finds not here an end.” - “Friends”
“Nor sink those stars in empty night:/ They hide themselves in heaven's own light.” - “Friends”
“Beyond this vale of tears/ There is a life above,/ Unmeasured by the flight of years;/ And all that life is love.” - ”The Issues of Life and Death” in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations
“'Tis not the whole of life to live,/ Nor all of death to die.” - ”The Issues of Life and Death” in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations
“Night is the time to weep,/ To wet with unseen tears/ Those graves of memory where sleep/ The joys of other years.” - “The Issues of Life and Death” in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations
Many poets from James Montgomery’s time celebrated nature lyrically as well as spiritually.