As everyone knows, students are broke. Taking full-time classes costs money and devours most of the time that one would use working another job. Luckily, the School of Theology offers graduate assistantships which help ease some of the financial burden. While blogging is one of my responsibilities as a graduate assistant, it would be rather boring to read a blog entry about writing a blog, so let me tell you about another aspect of my job. Though research is one responsibility among many duties I have in the Dean’s office, I particularly enjoyed hunting down a citation for Earl Marlatt’s hymn, “Are Ye Able?” Dean Strong wanted to use the hymn in a paper since it represented Boston Personalist Theology, the foundational belief system of Boston University professor, Borden Parker Bowne.
With this in mind, I walked to the library and talked to Steve Perisho, our diligent Theology Librarian, asking where we could find the earliest copy of this hymn. A quick search on the WorldCat System gave us contradictory results.
One the one hand, we found two hymnal companions, one of which references a broadsheet in the Bridwell Library special collections titled “Challenge” with the same lyrics as “Are Ye Able?” dated to 1926. On the other hand, a 1928 Methodist hymnal edited by Earl Marlatt specifies 1924 as the date of composition for “Challenge,” the first occurrence of the hymn in any source.
Using my detective’s intuition, I contacted Bridwell about the inconsistency. After some digging, Bridwell found the broadsheet in question signed by Earl Marlatt in 1926. They scanned the notated music, attached it to an email, and it landed in my inbox. Conclusive proof! Earl Marlatt originally wrote “Are Ye Able?” in 1926 and the mistaken date of 1924 in his later hymnal references the composition of the melodic tune written by Harry S. Mason. Dr. Strong’s paper on Boston Personalist Theology now contained proper references! Despite the fact that this story is a fun anecdote and not indicative of everyday work, it was an enjoyable part of my first-year graduate assistantship.
– Donovan Richards