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“Golden Years are Passing By”

‘It is a wonderful night,’ Almanzo said. – ‘It is a beautiful world,’ Laura answered, and in memory she heard the voice of Pa’s fiddle and the echo of a song… – These Happy Golden Years, Chapter 33, “Little Gray Home in the West”

     
Words and music to “Golden Years Are Passing By” are by Will L. Thompson, published by him in 1879. Will Lamartine Thompson (1847-1909) was born in East Liverpool, Ohio, the son of a pottery manufacturer. He was educated in Ohio and at the New England Conservatory of Music, then he went to Germany to continue his music education. He wrote his first published songs at age 16 and, after being rebuffed by a music publisher, started his own publishing company and opened a store where he sold and repaired musical instruments. During the 1880s, his W.L. Thompson Music Company stores in East Liverpool and Chicago were the most prominent in the United States. Thompson said that his aim was “…to write good, elevating music with words and melodies pure and clean, but not so difficult as to be beyond the ability of the masses.”

Will Thompson is perhaps best remembered for his hymns: “Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling” and “Jesus is All the World to Me.” Laura Ingalls Wilder used lyrics from “Golden Years Are Passing By” for the title of the last book she published in her Little House series (The First Four Years, On the Way Home, and West From Home were published posthumously). In the existing manuscript for These Happy Golden Years, Wilder wrote that Pa played the song during the time she was teaching in the Perry School, and it is the song she remembers at the end of the series on her wedding night. In the manuscript, Wilder used “Love’s Old Sweet Song” as the last song Pa played the night before Laura’s wedding, including three verses of lyrics and adding a note to daughter Rose Wilder Lane saying: “I don’t know if all this song should be used. I love it, but perhaps it is too much. It just seems to fit right here, the last song Laura hears Pa sing…”

GOLDEN YEARS ARE PASSING BY

1. Golden years are passing by,
Happy, happy golden years.
Passing on the wings of time,
These happy, golden years;
Call them back as they go by,
Sweet their mem’ries are,
Oh, improve them as they fly,
These happy, golden years.

[chorus] Golden years, golden years,
Happy golden years,
Oh improve them as they fly,
These happy, golden years.

2. Golden years are passing by,
Precious, precious golden years.
Let no idle hour be spent,
With sorrow, grief and tears;
Ah! the good we all may do,
As the moments pass,
To your nobler self be true,
Reward will come at last.

3. Golden years are passing by,
Fleeting, fleeting swiftly on.
Life is but a passing hour,
Before we know ’tis gone;
Soon the parting time will come,
Day by day is soars.
Have you done your duty well?
These happy, golden years.

GOLDEN YEARS ARE PASSING BY
(from These Happy Golden Years)

Golden years are passing by,
Happy, happy golden years,
Passing on the wings of time,
These happy golden years.
Call them back as they go by,
Sweet their memories are,
Oh, improve them as they fly,
These happy golden years.

CLICK HERE to listen to “Golden Years Are Passing By,” performed on the piano by Little House fan Laura Sullivan from New York. As the file is quite large, it may take a while to load.

   

               

Click on the above images to view a copy of 1879 sheet music of “Golden Years Are Passing By.”    

     

“Golden Years Are Passing By” (THGY title, 18, 33)
     “Golden years are passing by, happy golden years”