Beyond The Starry Sky

twilight is stealing

The old hymn, Twilight Is Stealing, was written by Aldine Kieffer in the latter part of the 19th Century. According to the Mudcat Cafe:

The earliest printed reference is ‘The Singing School Tribune’ (Dayton Va: Ruebush, Kieffer & Co 1880). It was recorded by Dykes Magic City Trio as ‘Twilight is stealing’ in 1927 and by the Stoneman Family as ‘Twighlight is stealing o’er the sea’ in 1928, but neither of these was issued. The earliest issued recording was by The Carolina Quartet (vcl qt unacc) in September 1927 as ‘Twilight is stealing’ in Winston-Salem, NC, and issued as OK 45189 in April 1928. Also recorded as ‘Sweet Happy Home’ by Christian Harmony Singers in NYC in October 1929 and issued as Paramount 3241. [Meade et alia ‘Country Music Sources’ p 653]. has an entry about Aldine Kieffer. The page tells about his life and shares several letters written by Kieffer between the years of 1860 and 1901. The page also tells the story of Kieffer’s first love, Sally Clay.

Sally and Kieffer fell in love and knew they should spend the rest of their lives together. The wedding date was set and they both anxiously awaited the day they could become man and wife.

At the last minute the road to holy matrimony was blocked by the Civil War. Kieffer signed up against his true love’s wishes and was called to serve the very day before their wedding.

The two love birds kept up their romance through letters for a while, until one day Sally just quit writing Kieffer. He never heard from her again. As most people would be, Kieffer was heartbroken. Unfortunately he turned to drink to ease his troubled heart. Thankfully Kieffer met up with Josephine Hammon who would be his wife and friend for life.

You can read more about the newly married couple’s life on the page, but you must skip ahead through the years till almost the end of Kieffer’s life to find out what happened to his first love, Sally.

One day while traveling, Kieffer stopped at Sally’s house by chance for a drink of water. The broken engagement from years before came up in the conversation. Seems Sally’s parents were not very fond of Kieffer and hoped their daughter would marry better. Once Kieffer headed off to war, her parents took the opportunity to nip the relationship in the bud. They placed an obituary in the local paper telling of Kieffer’s death in the war and trashed all the letters he mailed to Sally.

Just as Kieffer had, Sally went on to marry and have children. After the deceit of the broken engagement was brought to light, the two promised if one should die first they would let the other know they had left this world.

Sometime later Kieffer was awakened one night by the voice of Sally telling him goodbye. A few days later he found out she died on the very night he heard her voice.

Sally was gone and Kieffer had lived his life and was ready to go as well.

Twilight a-stealing, over the sea,
Shadows are falling, dark on the lea,
Borne on the night wind, voices of yore,
Come from the far-off shore.

Far away, beyond the starry sky,
Where the love-light never, never dies
Gleameth a mansion filled with delight,
Sweet happy home so bright.

Voices of loved ones, songs of the past,
Still linger round me, while life shall last,
Cheering my pathway while here I roam
Seeking my far-off home. 

Far away, beyond the starry sky,
Where the love-light never, never dies
Gleameth a mansion filled with delight,
Sweet happy home so bright.

Come in the twilight, come, come to me,
Bringing sweet message over the sea.
Lonely I wander, sadly I roam,
Seeking my far-off home.

Far away, beyond the starry sky,
Where the love-light never, never dies
Gleameth a mansion filled with delight,
Sweet happy home so bright.


I hope you enjoyed the story and our version of the old song!


This post was originally published here on the Blind Pig and The Acorn in August of 2012


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  • Reply
    August 21, 2017 at 8:31 am

    I never heard of this song or the story behind it. Something else to look up and research. I really enjoyed Pap’s and Paul’s rendition.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 20, 2017 at 11:57 pm

    My father didn’t talk much but when he did it was something profound. He sang more than he talked. Twilight is Stealing was one of his favorites and now its mine. I learned it from him. I still sing it and play it on the guitar (separately, I can’t do both at the same time.)
    The song is best played, sung and heard just as the sun touches the water or just as it starts to sag below the mountaintop.
    Pap, Paul and the Mandolin Man are great in this video. The bass is just as good but I cannot see from wince it cometh.
    What has become of Mark the Mandolin Man anyway?
    Sorry I showed up late today. I was sick last night and didn’t get up til 5:00 pm.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    August 20, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    That was one of my great-grandfather’s favorite songs and whenever a family sing-along came along we always sang it. At the graveside when my mom died, her sister and cousins started singing “Twilight”. It was a perfect good-bye.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    August 20, 2017 at 11:34 am

    Great job by Paul & Pop, this song would jerk a tear off a glass eye. Sure hope you’re feeling better.

  • Reply
    August 20, 2017 at 11:21 am

    B.-thank you for the comment! Yes I took the photo a few years back on the coast of NC : )

  • Reply
    August 20, 2017 at 10:32 am

    That story about the Civil War and it’s many stories made me sad. But my oldest daughter will be here in a few minutes with her bunch and that will make way for some happiness. And my other one will be here tomorrow morning for the Eclipse and that’ll be more fun. …Ken

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    August 20, 2017 at 10:18 am

    Thank you for this, Tipper. I’ve never read Kieffer’s poetry, but have ordered “Hours of Fancy.”

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 20, 2017 at 7:51 am

    The only thing I don’t like about our old songs is some of them are so sad. This song is beautiful and Pap does it proud but the sadness and loss break my heart.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    August 20, 2017 at 6:52 am

    A sad story however, such a beautiful rendition of the hymn by the Blind Pig Gang.
    There are a lot of thoughts to process in this sad story of love lost due to no fault of their own!
    Makes one ponder how the situation will be handled when and if they should meet on the far banks of Jordan?…
    Guess I’m just overthinking the story…but I’m just human after all….wait a minute that’s a song title isn’t it? ha
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…beautiful photo…did you take it?

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