I am lucky enough to have in my personal library a book entitled ‘The Mourner’s Friend or Sighs of Sympathy For Those Who Sorrow’. It is a collection of prose and verse compiled to give comfort to the grieving. Edited by J.B. Syme, published in 1852 by S.A. Howland in Worcester, Mass, USA; its contents are by American and European authors and some surprising famous names. My copy of the book has some water damage, ageing paper, and precarious binding, so before it deteriorates my project to preserve the words of the authors will find its way here on the MOLAM blog.
This poem was first published in Copenhagen in 1843 in a collection of poetry by the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen, it proved to be a great success for the author who is now of course known the world over. I do not know why he is referred to solely as Hans Andersen in this American publication but it is not surprising to find it here, it was an immediately popular story and fits very well into the theme of this book.
The Angel And The Flowers. by Hans Anderson.
“EACH time that a good child dies, an angel of God comes down to earth, takes the dead child in his arms, spreads abroad his large, snow-white wings, flies forth over all those places which the child had loved, and plucks a whole handful of flowers, which he bears upward with him to throne of God, that they may bloom there in yet greater loveliness than they had ever bloomed on earth. The good God folds all these flowers to his bosom, but upon the flower which he loveth best he breathes a kiss, and then a voice is given to it, and it can join in the song of universal blessedness.”
Lo, all this did an angel of God relate whilst he ore a little child to heaven ; and the child heard as if in a dream, and the angel winged his flight over those spots in the child’s home where the little one had been wont to play, and they passed through gardens which were filled with glorious flowers.
“Which of all these shall we take with us, and plant in heaven ?” asked the angel.
Now there stood in the garden a slender and beautiful rose-tree ; but a wicked hand had broken the stem, so that its boughs hung around it withered, though laden with large, half-unfolded buds.
“The poor rose-tree,” said the child ; “let us take it with us, that it may bloom above in the presence of God.”
And the angel took the rose-tree, and kissed the child, because of the words it had spoken ; and the little one half opened its eyes. They then plucked some of the gorgeous flowers that grew in the garden, but they also gathered the despised butter-cup, and the wild heartsease.
“Now, then, we have flowers!” exclaimed the child ; and the angel bowed his head ; but winged not yet his flight towards the throne of God. It was night, all was still, they remained in the great city, they hovered over one of the narrow streets, in which lay heaps of straw, ashes, and rubbish, for it was flitting-day.
Fragments of plate, broken mortar, rags, and old hats, lay scattered around, all which bore a very uninviting aspect.
The angel pointed out, in the midst of all this confused rubbish, some broken fragments of a flower-pot, and a clump of earth which had fallen out of it, and was only held together by the withered roots of a wild flower, that had been thrown into the street because it was considered utterly worthless.
“We will take this with us,” said the angel ; “and I will tell thee why, as we soar upwards together to the throne of God.”
So they resumed their flight, and the angel thus related his story : –
“Down in that narrow street, in the lowest cellar, there once dwelt a poor, sick boy ; from his very infancy, he was almost bed-ridden. On his best days, he could take two or three turns on crutches across the little chamber, and that was all he could do. On a few days in summer, the beams of the sun used to penetrate for half an hour to the floor of the cellar ; and when the poor boy sat there, and let the warm sun shine upon him, and looked at the bright red blood flowing through his delicate fingers, as he held them before his face, then it was said of him, ‘He has been out to-day.’ A neighbor’s son used always to bring him one of the young boughs of the beech-tree, when it was first budding into life, and this was all he knew of the woods in their beauteous clothing of spring verdure. Then would he place this bough above his head, and dream that he was under the beech-trees, where the sun was shining, and the birds were singing. On one spring day, the neighbor’s son brought him some wild flowers, and amongst these there happened to be one that had retained its root, and for this reason it was placed in a flower-pot and placed upon the window-sill, quite close to the bed. And the flower was planted by a fortunate hand, and it grew and sent forth new shoots, and bore flowers every year ; it was the sick boy’s most precious flower-garden, – his little treasure on earth, – he watered it, and cherished it, and took care that the very last sunbeam which glided through the lowly window, should shine upon its blossoms. And these flowers were interwoven in his dreams, – for him they bloomed, for him they shed around their fragrance and rejoiced the eye with their beauty ; and when the Lord called him hence, he turned, even in death, towards his cherished plant. He has now been a year with God, a year has the flower stood forgotten in the window, and not it is withered, therefore has it been thrown out with the rubbish into the street. And this is the flower, the poor withered flower, which we have added to our nosegay, for this flower has imparted more joy than the rarest and brightest blossoms which ever bloomed in the garden of a queen.”
“But how comest thou to know all this ?” asked the child whom the angel was bearing with him to heaven.
“I know it,” replied the angel, “for I was myself the little sick boy who went upon crutches. I know my flower well.”
And now the child altogether unclosed his eyes, and gazed into the bright glorious countenance of the angel, and at the same moment they found themselves in the Paradise of God, where joy and blessedness forever dwell.
And God folded the dead child to his heart, and he received wings like the other angel, and flew hand in hand with him. And all the flowers also God folded to his heart, but upon the poor withered wild-flower he breathed a kiss, and a voice was given to it, and it sang together with all the angels which encircled the throne of God ; some very night unto his presence, other encompassing these in their widening circles, until they reached into infinity itself, but all alike were happy. And they all sang with one voice, little and great ; the good, blessed child, and the poor wild flower, which had lain withered and cast out among the sweepings, and under the rubbish of the flitting-day, in the midst of the dark, narrow street.