Anne Shepherd’s “Around the throne of God in heaven” was first published in her Hymns adapted to the Comprehension of Young Minds (c. 1830) and became “in extensive use in America and other English-speaking countries” (Julian 83); it was found in a ¼ of the children’s hymn books of my study. Shepherd invokes a heaven where singing and brightness exist, and which is especially peopled by children: “Around the throne of God in heaven/ Thousands of children stand” (v. 1). Shepherd writes with children always in mind. Her questions are the child’s questions: “What brought them to that world above?/ That heaven so bright and fair” (v. 2). The child then appears to answer: “Because the Saviour shed His blood […] Behold them [children] white and clean!” (v. 3). Assonance (“fair-Where;” “stand-Lamb,” stanza 3), alliteration (“Because-Bathed-Behold,” stanza 2), and simple repetition (“Singing glory, glory, glory,” stanza 1) make this poetically interesting for the child. Found to a number of tunes, three in The Methodist Sunday-School Hymn- and Tune-Book alone (one by H. J. Gauntlett, famous for setting C. F. Alexander’s Hymns for Little Children (1848) to music), we chose the second one, with a very spritely refrain, noted as “arranged by A. Rhodes, R. A. M.” (536).
For more about this hymn, see Clapp-Itnyre, Alisa. “Writing for, yet Apart: Nineteenth-Century Women’s Contentious Status as Hymn Writers and Editors of Hymnbooks for Children.” Victorian Literature and Culture. Vol. 40. Issue 1.