Behind the Song: The Lily of the Valley
“‘I am the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valleys.’ Like a lily among the thorns, so is my darling among the maidens. Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. In his shade I took great delight and sat down…He has brought me to his banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.” Song of Solomon 2:1-4 [NASB]
After reading these words of scripture, Mr. Fry sat down and wrote about a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus. Those words became the hymn, The Lily of the Valley. The song was first published in the Dec. 29th, 1881 edition of The War Cry, the Salvation Army national magazine.
Mr. Fry declared he had found a friend in Jesus. He compared the “Beloved” in Song of Solomon to Jesus as the lily of the valley. One commentary explains “Undoubtedly, this lily of the valley symbolizes the sweetness, purity, fruitfulness, humility, and healing qualities of Jesus Christ. Fry could see only in Jesus all he needed to be cleansed and be made fully whole. He declared that Jesus was his comfort in sorrow and in trouble because Jesus has told him to roll every care on Him for He cares. Jesus is indeed “the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star, He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul.”
So who was Charles Fry?
He was born May 30, 1838 in Aldersbury, Wiltshire, England as William Charles Fry. He followed in his father’s footsteps and became a bricklayer by trade. However he was a versatile musician, playing the violin, cello, piano, cornet, and harmonium, and leading an orchestra and band at the Wesleyan chapel in Alderbury.
Mr. Fry did not like the abuse he saw heralded at the Salvation Army when they established a ministry in 1878 Salisbury, where the Fry family lived and worked. Mr. Fry and his three sons offered to serve as bodyguards for the Salvation Army workers.
The next day the four men arrived with their weapons. These weapons consisted of two cornets, a trombone and a small tuba. In between fighting off the troublemakers, the Fry men played. Their music attracted crowds for the preachers. This was the first Salvation Army Brass Band.
Mr. Fry and his sons continued to work for the Salvation Army and it was during this time that he wrote the Lily of the Valley.
Ira Sankey stated in his autobiography, “Mr. Fry is one of the leaders of the Salvation Army in London. In addition to writing the words, he also set the hymn to music, and later arranged it to slower time and published it in Gospel Hymns.”
The tune was adapted from the song Little Old Log Cabin.
Charles Fry died the year after writing his popular hymn on August 24, 1882 in Park Hall, Polmont, Stirlingshire, Scotland.