Behind the Song: The Lily of the Valley

lilyIn 1881, Charles Fry was inspired by the imagery in the Song of Solomon.

“‘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.”        lily of the valley

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.

Salvation Army band           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.





Behind the Song: The Lily of the Valley

The Lily of the Valley was influenced by the Song of Solomon

How The Lily of the Valley and The Salvation Army are connected 


  • Thank you for this lovely description of Mr. Fry and the origins of not only this hymn, but the origin of the Salvation Army brass tradition. I play cornet, focusing almost exclusively on hymns. Throughout the pandemic I toured to three, sometimes four or five, seniors care facility location in my community near Vancouver BC. Every Sunday for three years I played hymns from the street since our churches go not go inside to conduct worship services. Not only did the residents hear and recognize the lovely old hymns, but neighbours and passers-by did as well, sometimes stopping to thank me with tears. At Christmas time for decades now, I have played the traditional carols next to a Salvation Army kettle. Here I would do the same thing – of an evening go from one kettle to the two of three more (the travel rest is helpful!). I started doing this with a fully-uniformed Salvation Army member who was quite aged and wanted company and help getting around. Tom and I (also Tom) did this for ten years, he on Euphonium, I on trumpet, later cornet. Eventually he could no longer keep going, and died last year. I persist on my own, but maybe when I get older, I’ll look for the same help! I love the photo of the original Salvation Army brass band – would you send it to me? The version on this site is a bit grainy. The cover of my Facebook page is a photo of the 1919 Vancouver Salvation Army band Cornet Corps. Your photo would be a lovely alternate!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.