"The Wintry Day, Descending to Its Close" by Orson F. Whitney

Last Sunday, two sons and their father sang “The Wintry Day, Descending to Its Close” during our sacrament meeting. They were accompanied by their mother on the piano and a cousin who played an obligato on the flute.

The lyrics were written by Orson F. Whitney with music by Edward P. Kimball. Elder Whitney was an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1906 until his death 1931 at the age of 75. Brother Kimball was an organist for the Tabernacle Choir for many years

The song has sunk deep into my heart. I keep thinking of the words again and again, and the tune runs through my mind like an unforgettable voice from the past.

Here are the words, if you would like to read them:

The wintry day, descending to its close,
Invites all wearied nature to repose,
And shades of night are falling dense and fast
Like sable curtains closing o’er the past.
Pale through the gloom the newly fallen snow
Wraps in a shroud the silent earth below
As though ’twere mercy’s hand had spread the pall,
A symbol of forgiveness unto all.

I cannot go to rest but linger still
In meditation at my window sill,
While, like the twinkling stars in heaven’s dome,
Come one by one sweet memories of home.
And wouldst thou ask me where my fancy roves
To reproduce the happy scenes it loves?
Where hope and memory together dwell
And paint the pictured beauties that I tell?

Away beyond the prairies of the West
Where exiled Saints in solitude were blest;
Where industry the seal of wealth has set
Amid the peaceful vales of Deseret,
Unheeding still the fiercest blasts that blow,
With tops encrusted by eternal snow,
The towering peaks that shield the tender sod,
Stand, types of freedom reared by nature’s God.

The wilderness, that naught before would yield,
Is now become a fertile, fruitful field.
Where roamed at will the savage Indian band,
The templed cities of the Saints now stand.
And sweet religion in its purity
Invites all men to its security.
This is my home, the spot I love so well,
Whose worth and beauty pen nor tongue can tell.

—Orson F. Whitney

5 thoughts on “"The Wintry Day, Descending to Its Close" by Orson F. Whitney

  1. Patty Ann December 29, 2010 / 5:16 am

    What a very beautiful hymn. Thank you for sharing.


  2. Jill January 8, 2013 / 1:53 am

    Is it possible to find out where they got the flute part? I've been hunting for one for this hymn.


  3. Mike Fitzgerald January 8, 2013 / 7:47 pm

    Jill, I asked the pianist and she said they just adapted the hymn in the hymnbook! If I find out anything more, I will let you know. -Mike


  4. Kimberly Osborne July 16, 2020 / 12:37 am

    I am in my 70’s and when I was a young child I would often hear my grandfather say “A winter day descending to it’s close” as he would watch the sun going down on the West mountains in the small Danish town of Elsinore, Utah. He taught me to love the beauty in nature. Many years later my Mother, his oldest daughter, would often repeat those beautiful words at the end of a winter day. I cherish these memories of my strong and gentle ancestors and how they often quoted words from the hymn book


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