“The Ninety and Nine”
Reverend Brown rose from his chair behind the pulpit and gave out a hymn, Number 154. Mrs. Brown played the organ, and everyone stood up and sang. — Little Town on the Prairie, Chapter 23, “Schooltime Begins Again”
The Ninety and Nine was published as a poem for children in “The Children’s Hour” in 1868; it was written by Elizabeth Clephane. Elizabeth Cecelia Douglas Clephane (1830-1869) was born in Edinburgh Scotland. She lived most of her life about thirty miles southeast of Edinburgh, in Melrose. Most of her life was spent doing charitable work; she was known as “The Sunbeam.”
While traveling in Scotland, Ira D. Sankey read Clephane’s poem and kept a copy. Following an 1876 sermon on the Good Shepherd, he was asked to sing something appropriate. He removed the poem from his pocket, played an A-flat chord, and composed music to Clephane’s poem as he went along. Ira David Sankey (1840-1898) was born in Pennsylvania and served as a Private in the 12th Pennsylvania Infantry during the Civil War. He often helped his unit chaplain lead soldiers in hymn singing. Following the war, he went to work for the Internal Revenue Service and worked with the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). He became known as a gospel singer and, after attending a revival, left government work. Sankey composed over a thousand songs. For thirteen years he was president of Biglow and Main Publishing Company.
1. There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold.
But one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold.
Away on the mountains wild and bare.
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.
(Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.)
2. Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine;
Are they not enough for Thee>”
But the Shepherd made answer: “This of Mine
Has wandered away from Me;
And although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep.
(I go to the desert to find My sheep.)
3. But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night the Lord passed through
Ere He found His sheep that was lost.
Out in the desert He heard its cry,
Sick and helpless and ready to die.
(Sick and helpless and ready to die.)
4. “Lord, whence are those blood drops all the way
That mark out the mountain’s track?”
“They were shed for one who had gone astray
Ere the Shepherd could bring him back.”
“Lord, whence are Thy hands so rent and torn?”
“They are pierced tonight by many a thorn.”
(“They are pierced tonight by many a thorn.”)
5. And all through the mountains, thunder riven
And up from the rocky steep,
There arose a glad cry to the gate of heaven,
“Rejoice! I have found My sheep!”
And the angels echoed around the throne,
“Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!”
(“Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!”)
THE NINETY AND NINE
(from Little Town on the Prairie)
There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold,
But one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold,
Away on the mountains wild and bare,
Away from the tender shepherd’s care.
…Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!
CLICK HERE to listen.
Click on the above images to view a copy of 1876 sheet music of “The Ninety and Nine.”
This music is archived in the Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music, part of Special Collections at the Milton S. Eisenhower Library of The Johns Hopkins University. The collection contains over 29,000 pieces of music and focuses on popular American music from 1780-1960.
“The Ninety and Nine” (LTP 23)
“Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own”
“There were ninety and nine that safely lay in the shelter of the fold”