Home » Mourning Literature & Custom » EARTH’S ANGELS.


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. 


WHY come not spirits from the realms of glory
To visit earth, as in the days of old,
The times of sacred writ and ancient story ?
Is heaven more distant ? or has earth grown cold ?

Oft have I gazed, when sunset clouds, receding,
Waved like rich banners of a host gone by ,
To catch the gleam of some white pinion speeding
Along the confines of the glowing sky ; –

And oft, when midnight stars, in distant chillness,
Were calmly burning, listened late and long ;
But Nature’s pulse beat on in solemn stillness ;
Bearing no echo of the seraph’s song.

To Bethlehem’s air was their last anthem given,
When other stars before The One grew dim ?
Was their last presence known in Peter’s prison ?
Or where exulting martyrs raised their hymn ?

And are they all within the veil departed ?
There gleams no wing along the empyrean now ;
And many a tear from human eyes has started,
Since angel touch has calmed a mortal brow.

No ; earth has angels, though their forms are moulded,
But of such clay as fashions all below ;
Though harps are wanting, and bright pinions folded,
we know them by the love-light on their brow.

I have seen angels by the sick one’s pillow;
Theirs was the soft tone and the soundless tread ;
where smitten hearts were drooping like the willow,
They stood “between the living and the dead.”

And if my sight, by earthly dimness hindered,
Beheld no hovering cherubim in air,
I doubted not, – for spirits know their kindred, –
They smiled upon the wingless watchers there.

There have been angels in the gloomy prison, –
In crowded halls, – by the lone widow’s hearth ;
And where they passed, the fallen have uprisen, –
The giddy paused, – the mourner’s hope had birth.

I have seen one whose eloquence commanding
Roused the rich echoes of the human breast,
The blandishments of wealth and ease withstanding,
That Hope might reach the suffering and oppressed.

And by his side there moved a form of beauty,
Strewing sweet flowers along his path of life,
And looking up with meek and love-lent duty ; –
I call her angel, but he called her wife.

O, many a spirit walks the world unheeded,
That, when its veil of sadness is laid down,
Shall soar aloft with pinions unimpeded,
And wear its glory like a starry crown.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 'A Soul Brought To Heaven', 1878.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, ‘A Soul Brought To Heaven’, 1878.

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