Phoebe Brown’s life (1783-1861) was one of poverty and sadness. Orphaned at the age of two, she was brought up by a relative who kept the county gaol, and she had to endure years of intense and cruel suffering. Escaping at the age of eighteen, she was helped by kind friends and about this time was brought to a knowledge of the truth as in Jesus.
At the age of twenty-two she was married, and lived first at East Windsor and then at Ellington (in Connecticut, U.S.A.). It was a small, unfinished house where the Brown family lived. The husband was a painter, but they were very poor. There were four little children whilst an invalid sister was looked after in the only finished room. Perhaps Mrs. Brown’s chief trial was that there was nowhere she could retire in secret to pour out her heart to God.
Not far away stood the most beautiful house in the neighbourhood with a large, lovely garden. Towards this magnificent place the poor woman used to bend her steps each day at dusk. Here in the solitude of the evening it was her delight to smell the fragrance of the fruit and flowers and to hold communion with the Lord.
But she was watched – and completely misrepresented and misunderstood. One day the lady of the mansion met her and spoke to her most unkindly and harshly. She enquired why evening after evening she came up towards the house and loitered.
“If you want anything, why don’t you come in and ask for it?” she rudely added.
This was more than Phoebe could bear. She went home, put all the children except the baby to bed, and burst into a flood of tears. Then, holding her baby with one arm, she took pen and paper and wrote: “An apology for my twilight rambles, addressed to a lady, August 1818.”
The following are five of the nine verses she wrote:
I love to steal awhile away
From every cumbering care;
And spend the hours of setting day
In humble, grateful prayer.
I love in solitude to shed
The penitential tear;
And all His promises to plead,
When none but God can hear.
I love to think on mercies past,
And future good implore;
And all my cares and sorrows cast
On Him whom I adore.
I love by faith to take a view
Of brighter scenes in heaven;
The prospect doth my strength renew,
While here by tempests driven.
Thus, when life’s toilsome day is o’er,
May its departing ray
Be calm as this impressive hour,
And lead to endless day.