THE GRAVE OF GENIUS. By Longfellow. (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

The Mourner's FriendI 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 including some surprisingly 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 is one of a number of pieces by Longfellow in this compilation. “He comes as the poet of melancholy, courtesy, deference—poet of all sympathetic gentleness—and universal poet of women and young people. I should have to think long if I were ask’d to name the man who has done more and in more valuable directions, for America.”

Aptly, this is dedicated to the creative genius, the artist Mr Prince Rogers Nelson (7 June 1958 – 21 April 2016); Champion of art, Champion of women artists, Gift.

THE GRAVE OF GENIUS. By Longfellow.

IT has become a common saying, that men of genius are always in advance of their age ; which is true. There is something equally true, yet not so common ; namely, that, of these men of genius, the best and bravest are in advance not only of their own age, but of every age. As the German prose-poet says, every possible future is behind them. We cannot suppose, that a period of time will ever come, when the world, or any considerable portion of it, shall have come up abreast with these great minds, so as fully to comprehend them.

And oh ! how majestically they walk in history ; some like the sun, with all his travelling glories round him ; other wrapped in gloom, yet glorious as a night with stars. Through the else silent darkness of the past, the spirit hears their slow and solemn footsteps. Onward they pass, like those hoary elders seen in the sublime vision of an earthly paradise, attendant angels bearing golden lights before them, and, above and behind ,the whole air painted with seven-listed colors, as from the trails of pencils !

And yet, on earth, these men were not happy, – not all happy, in the outward circumstance of their lives. They were in want, and in pain, and familiar with prison-bars, and the damp, weeping walls of dungeons ! Oh, I have looked with wonder upon those, who, in sorrow and privation, and bodily discomfort, and sickness, which is the shadow of death, have worked right on to the accomplishment of their great purposes ; toiling much, enduring much, fulfilling much ; – and then, with shattered nerves, and sinews all unstrung, have laid themselves down in the grave, and slept the sleep of death, – and the world talks of them, while they sleep !

It would seem, indeed, as if all their sufferings had but sanctified them ! As if the death-angel, in passing, had touched them with the hem of his garment, and made them holy ! As if the hand of disease had been stretched out over them only to make the sign of the cross upon their souls ! And as in the sun’s eclipse we can behold the great stars shining in the heavens, so in this life-eclipse have these men beheld the lights of the great eternity, burning solemnly and forever !

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A MOTHER’S TEARS.

The Mourner's FriendI 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 including some surprisingly 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 poetic piece of prose in honour of a mother’s love has no acknowledged author, which is not unusual, but leads me to believe it was a woman. The tone makes me suspect she had a very direct experience of loss herself, or observed that in someone very close to her. There are a few interesting observations to make about this piece, firstly that it appeared to have been published in abbreviated format in the New England Farmer and Horticultural Journal of June 3 1835 – a good 17 years before it was published here. The version terminated at the line: ‘goes to the grave to weep there’, which is quite a beautiful line to stop at. Interestingly, and not unusually, it has some discrepancies in quotation marks and an odd word here and there. Why create quotations? Usually to reference biblical verse or popular literary knowledge – in this piece we have 3 likely biblical references, not all quoted below, but in the linked version above. “seeks it in the morning” could reference Isaiah 26:9 – yearning for God, for meaning, for salvation during the night, through the night and seeking it in the morning – will this search ever end? Will morning bring relief? “I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning” references Genesis 37:35 and pertinently speaks of Jacob’s lament for the (perceived) loss of his son Joseph. In this version the telling line is not in quotations, but it is in the 1835 version “she goes to the grave to weep there”, and it is also the final line of the earlier published article. A line which ponders the very ethics of mourning as it references John 11:31 when Mary prostrates herself to Jesus begging for reprieve at the death of her brother Lazarus. It worked. Would you do it?

A MOTHER’S TEARS.

THERE is a sweetness in a mother’s tears when they fall on the face of a dying babe, which no eye can behold with heart untouched. It is holy ground, upon which the unhallowed foot of profanity dares not encroach. Infidelity itself is silent and forbears her mocking ; and here woman shows not her weakness, but her strength ; it is strength of attachment which man never did nor ever can feel. It is perennial ; dependent on no climate, no changes, nor soil, but, alike in storms as in sunshine, it knows no shadow of turning. A father, when he sees his child going down the valley, may weep when the shadow of death has full come over him, and as the last departing knell falls on his ears, may say : “I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning,” but he turns away ; in the hurry of business the tear is wiped, and though, when he returns to his fireside, the sportive laugh comes up to his remembrance, the succeeding day blunts the poignancy of his grief, and it finds no permanent seal. Not so with her who has borne and nourished the tender blossom. It lives in the heart where it was first entwined in the dreamy hours of night. She sees its playful mirth, or plaintive cries ; she “seeks it in the morning,” and she goes to the grave to weep there. Its little toys are carefully laid aside as mementos to keep continually alive that thrilling anguish which the dying struggle and sad look produces ; and though grief, like a canker-worm, may be gnawing at her vitals, yet she finds a luxury in her tears, a sweetness in her sorrow, which none but a mother ever tasted.

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THE DEATH-BED. By Thomas Hood.

The Mourner's FriendI 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 including some surprisingly 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. 

A poem and a hymn written by Thomas Hood (1799-1845) shows poignancy in its antithetical ideal Victorian death – a missing, a loss, the moment not being shared – the unideal Victorian death.

THE DEATH-BED. By Thomas Hood.

WE watched her breathing through the night,
Her breathing soft and low,
As on her breast the wave of life
Kept heaving to and fro.

So silently we seemed to speak,
So slowly moved about,
As we had lent her half our powers
To eke her being out.

Our very hopes belied our fears,
Our fears our hopes belied;
We thought her dying when she slept,
And sleeping when she died.

For when the morn came dim and sad,
And chill with early showers,
her quiet eyelids closed; – she had
Another morn than ours.

INFANCY IN DEATH. By Rev. William Rogers.

The Mourner's FriendI 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 including some surprisingly 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. 

We create alternate states, try to make sense of unimaginable emotions, and evoke extraordinary creatures and worlds to make sense of what it means to be here, and to feel what we feel. The words of Reverend William Rogers are committed to help those who have lost the most precious thing they can lose.

In all likelihood Reverend William Rogers is the one and same as the English champion for free public education, rational espouser of prostitution licences to protect women from Jack the Ripper and the man of God encouraging secular education programs (as well as a keen dancer). Interesting fellow. Infant mortality in the 19th Century was high. At times I read it was so high, that people had more pragmatic attitudes toward death and loss. Then you read texts like this, and you realise that loss and grief are universal across cultures and time. The loss of a child, most piercing of all.

This particular piece of prose was earlier published in The Christian Souvenir: An offering for Christmas and the New Year, Isaac Fitzgerald Shepard (editor), London, 1843. The couplet quoted in this piece is from A New-born Child and Its Parent, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834).

INFANCY IN DEATH. By Rev. William Rogers.

THE gladness of spring has ever a cast of sadness with it to me. The air is perfumed, indeed, by bud and blossom, as if an angle had shaken his wings around us ; but look you, there are more germs blighted and dead beneath the tree, than clinging yet to the branches. Life is ever in the minority, and that sweet emblem admonishes me how largely young life enters the harvest of death. It seems but natural, when the duties of life have formed and perfected, and when the soul is shut in from the world without, but its decaying senses, and limited to the circle of its own reflections, that the spent energies of age should rest in the grave. But here in infancy, you have death with no faculty developed, and the life which might have been an oak to shelter nations, dying a seedling. Life itself is but a fragment, interposed between eternities ; but here the very fragment is broken, and the living clay, which but an hour ago was stamped with his own image by the hand of God, under the selfsame hand crumbles into dust. That life seems an intention interrupted ; a purpose formed, and, in the very moment of its taking shape, strangely changed. It seems a life with no end but death ; and death, too, where last we should look for it in the varied condition of man. When hallowed love has blended its own nature in the life of the newborn, and,

“For the mother’s sake, the child is dear,
And dearer yet the mother, for the child;”

wherever else the curse on the earth might fall and blight, here last and lightest should we look for it ; but even here Death claims his own.

But let us regard this matter as they to whom God has spoken in words articulate by man, and interpret his providence by a higher than earthly wisdom. That life of a day shall endure with the longest. It was but the title-page we read ; the volume of its being is above. Its absolute existence is the same, whether straitened to an hour, or protracted to threescore years and ten on earth, for it claims immortality as its birthright. we robe the little one in the vestments of death, and bear it out with many tears to the dust that lived before it ; we chisel the record of its life of hours, and of our love, upon the chill marble ; and thus we cheat the heart from truth and fact, while we think and speak of it as dead. It is not dead. It cannot die. It lives, and shall live, with the lifetime of God. It breathed an hour in clay, that we might know that God had created another immortal, and that they whom the child bereft, were honored with its parentage, and then it passed from earth to claim its own.

Follow it, if you will, where it mingles with those of whom the Saviour said, “Their angels do always behold my Father which is in heaven,” the formation of character here is under a probation of many sorrows, but there you have the earthborn trained in heaven. it is among the ministries of angels, and gladness such as the blessed know, and truth from the lips of prophets sanctified, among the records of an eternity past, and the developments of an eternity to come, that it wakens to conscious life. There it mingles with the elder spirits of eternity, and beholds the face of Deity, bright in his brightness, yet itself seen as but a shadow intercepting the intenser glory of the throne. Would you disrobe it of its immortality ? Would you have its faculties, sprung in an hour to giant stature, dwindled to the feebleness of infancy, to enter again the narrow chambers of its mortality ? would you hush the song-perfecting praise from infant lips, and give it back to earth, to die again, and win its weary and doubtful way above ? there was a reason for the mastery of faith in the Shunamite, when her boy was dead, and she answered the inquiry of the prophet, “Is it well with the child ? ” “It is well.” No, let it rest, -remembering, when you look upon an infant dead, that heaven is enlarged.

Brief as the term of a child’s life on earth may be, it has answered the end of its existence. It did not live only to die. It lived to be loved, to stir up within the human breast the strong, quick pulsations of a mother’s and a father’s heart, to which the solitary must ever be strangers. Had it never lived, the place that it filled would have been a blank, and the hearts it warmed, unmoved ; but now, instead of nothingness, there is a memory, which the soul melts with emotions that God has treasured up in parentage. And sad though that memory be, it softens with time, until it seems as if they had but dreamed of an angel.

But its life and death had yet a higher use. In this pilgrimage of ours, we forget that we are banished Paradise, and we attempt to frame another from the grosser elements about us. It seems the end of divine providences to expel us from the Eden we have planted, and with whose power we expected unbroken peace. Banished, we repeat the folly, till the poor weary heart hardly dares to love, and says it will not ; yet it does, though death and the grave are quick to sunder the loved and loving, and then, perchance guided by mercy, it finds in God and truth, and object which it may dare to love, for death only brings us nearer to God, and there is no grave in heaven.

God has many voices in this world, in his varied providence, and though they speak in no dialect of man, they are clear and well understood. It is the anticipation of spirit-communion hereafter. But among them all, whether loud or low, whether wrathful or tender, there is none, which does so move the heart to think of God, as the still lips of INFANCY IN DEATH.

Courtesy Bostonwriters.wordpress.com

Courtesy Bostonwriters.wordpress.com

LAMENT OF THE WIDOWED INEBRIATE. By Augustine Duganne.

The Mourner's FriendI 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 including some surprisingly 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 is quite an extraordinary piece. Written in the first person from the perspective of an abusive alcoholic husband. It appears out of place within the context of this anthology of predominantly spiritual verse aimed to bring solace. This is almost social realist like in its narrative and imagery. The protagonist displays remorse and despair, but there is no redemption here; only lost love and lost hope within the abyss of addiction. Augustine Duganne (1823 Boston – 1884) is quite the interesting character himself. Like many of the other authors appearing here he was a social activist and spokesperson for human rights, particularly proclaiming the Arts should be accessible to the working class and impoverished – essentially a democratic and egalitarian discipline. One of my favourite quotes from him is from his short treatise Art’s true mission in America published in 1853: “And beautiful will be the spectacle, when, casting national and sectional prejudices aside, and holding all as brothers who enclasp the same shrine and raise the same anthem, we shall behold the spirit of redeemed Art moving onward through the land, exalting and purifying the souls of men, and teaching by sights and sounds of loveliness the great and eternal harmony of Nature.” (pp. 30-31).

LAMENT OF THE WIDOWED INEBRIATE. By Augustine Duganne.

I’M thinking on thy smile, Mary, –
Thy bright and trusting smile,-
In the morning of our youth and love,
Ere sorrow came, or guile :
When thine arms were twined about my neck,
And mine eyes looked into thine,
And the heart that throbbed for me alone,
Was nestling close to mine
.

I see full many a smile, Mary,
On young lips beaming bright;
And many an eye of light and love
Is flashing in my sight;-
But the smile is not for my poor heart,
And the eye is strange to me,
And loneliness comes o’er my soul
When its memory turns to thee!

I’m thinking on the night, Mary,
the night of grief and shame,
When with drunken ravings on my lips,
To thee I homeward came;-
O, the tear was in thine earnest eye,
And thy bosom wildly heaved,
Yet a smile of love was on thy cheek,
Though the heart was sorely grieved!

But the smile soon left thy lips, Mary,
And thine eye grew dim and sad;
For the tempter lured my steps from thee,
And the wine-cup drove me mad;
From thy cheek the roses quickly fled,
And thy ringing laugh was gone,
yet thine heart still fondly clung to me,
And still kept trusting on.

O, my words were harsh to thee, Mary,
For the wine-cup made me wild;
And I chid thee when thine eyes were sad,
And I cursed thee, when they smiled,
God knows I loved thee, even then,
But the fire was in my brain,
And the curse of drink was in my heart,
To make my love a bane.

‘T was a pleasant home of ours, Mary,
In the spring-time of our life,
When I looked upon thy sunny face,
And proudly called thee wife,-
And ‘t was pleasant when our children played
Before our cottage door;-
But the children sleep with thee, Mary,-
I shall never see them more!

Thou’rt resting in the churchyard, now,
And no stone is at thine head!
But the sexton knows a drunkard’s wife
Sleeps in that lowly bed;-
And he says the hand of God, Mary,
Will fall with crushing weight
On the wretch who brought thy gentle life
To its untimely fate!

But he knows not of the broken heart
I bear within my breast,
Or the heavy load of vain remorse,
That will not let me rest;
He knows not of the sleepless nights,
When, dreaming of thy love,
I seem to see thine angel eyes
Look coldly from above.

I have raised the wine-cup in my hand,
And the wildest strains I’ve sung,
Till with the laugh of drunken mirth
The echoing air has rung;
But a pale and sorrowing face looked out
From the glittering cup on me,
And a trembling whisper I have heard,
That I fancied breathed by thee!

Thou art slumbering in the peaceful grave,
And thy sleep is dreamless now,
But the seal of an undying grief
Is on thy mourner’s brow;
And my heart is chill as thine, Mary,
For the joys of life have fled,
And I long to lay my aching breast
With the cold and silent dead!

RESIGNATION.

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 including some surprisingly 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. 

RESIGNATION.

RESIGNATION is a virtue, the need of which is felt alike by all ; there is some period in the history of each individual, when the crushed and fainting spirit requires its sustaining strength. No condition of life is exempt from this necessity ; the monarch in his gilded palace, and the peasant in his lonely hut, alike experience the hour, when resignation alone can soothe the anguish of a wounded heart. There is none whose stream of life flows so smoothly, that its placid surface is not sometimes troubled by the storms of sorrow ; there is none, whose sky is always so bright that it is not sometimes overcast by clouds of adversity, from whose dark bosom are shot the thunderbolts that crush the fondest hopes, and the lightnings that blast the fairest idols of the heart. Man’s inheritance of earthly joys, is like an enchanted island in the midst of a rushing stream ; at firs, it expands before the eye, in beauty, – wide in extent, and all blooming with flowers and verdure ; but, continually washed away by the impetuous tide, he beholds it diminishing year after year ; ever is he called to mourn some favorite flower, some cherished plant, borne away upon the bosom of the stream, never to return ; until he stands alone on but a fragment of that once fair domain ; and at last yields himself to the fatal torrent, which bears him on to the ocean of eternity. The pathway of life is strown with the wrecks of time, – with blighted hopes, with shattered fortunes, and disappointed and crushed affections, – with the ruins of all that the heart has prized on earth !
It is not the philosophy of the stoic, that can impart to the soul that calm submission under the ills of life which it requires. It can only teach to conceal, not alleviate the anguish that preys within ; like the Indian hero, when lashed to the martyr-stake, the victim of unheard-of tortures ; to preserve a countenance of inflexible repose, while every nerve is wrung with agony. Not the affected indifference of the stoic, is the resignation which Christianity inspires ; nor, like that, is it the result of human pride, and a sullen and indomitable will, – it is the offspring of trust in God. It is the result of a calm conviction, that there is a God of mercy and goodness who reigns above ; and in his infinite benevolence controls all the events of earth and time ; that the rod that smites is that of a parent, and not of a ruthless tyrant ; that the “Destiny which shapes our ends,” shapes them wisely and benevolently.
Inspired by this lofty faith, the humblest child of God bears meekly, and with a cheerful and hopeful spirit, all the dispensations, however afflictive, of an all-wise and gracious Providence. Amid the darkest night of sorrow, he descries, on the horizon’s verge, the gilded dawn of a happier day ; to his view, through the blackest cloud of adversity, glances the sunlight of divine favor ; and on their portentous gloom ever smiles the rainbow of hope.

Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, 1818, Kunsthalle Hamburg, Germany.

Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, 1818, Kunsthalle Hamburg, Germany.

DEATH AND SLEEP. By Krummacher.

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 including some surprisingly 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. 

 Friedrich Adolf Krummacher (1767 – 1845) was a German theologian and writer. His son Friedrich Wilhelm Krummacher and Emil Wilhelm Krummacher were also clergymen. This particular piece is fascinating in its philosophical pairing of the personifications of Sleep and Death; going so far as creating empathy for the Angel of Death. One way of finding solace in the permanent sleep.

DEATH AND SLEEP. By Krumacher.

IN brotherly embrace walked the Angel of Sleep and the Angel of Death upon the earth. It was evening. They laid themselves down upon a hill not far from the duelling of men. A melancholy silence prevailed around, and the chimes of the evening bell, in the distant hamlet, ceased. Still and silent, as was their custom, sat these two beneficent genii of the human race, their arms entwined with cordial familiarity, and soon the shades of night gathered around them. Then arose the Angel of Sleep from his moss-grown couch, and strewed with a gentle hand the invisible grains of slumber. The evening breeze wafted them to the quiet dwelling of the tired husbandman, enfolding in sweet sleep the inmates of the rural cottage, from the old man upon the staff, down to the infant in the cradle. The sick forgot their pain ; the mourners their grief ; the poor their care. All eyes closed. his task accomplished, the benevolent Angel of sleep laid himself again by the side of his grave brother. “When Aurora awakes,’ exclaimed he, with innocent joy, ” men praise me as their friend and benefactor. Oh, what happiness, unseen and secretly, to confer such benefits ! How blessed are we to be the invisible messengers of the Good Spirit ! How beautiful is our silent calling ! ” So spake the friendly Angel of Slumber. The Angel of Death sat with still deeper melancholy on his brow, and a tear, such as mortals shed, appeared in his large dark eyes. ” Alas ! ” said he, “I may not, like thee, rejoice in the cheerful thanks of mankind ‘ they call me, upon the earth, their enemy and joy-killer.” “Oh, my brother,” replied the gentle Angel of Slumber, “and will not the good man, at his awakening, recognise in thee his friend an benefactor, and gratefully bless thee in his joy ? Are we not brothers, and ministers of one Father ? ” As he spake, the eyes of the Death Angel beamed with pleasure, and again did the two friendly genii cordially embrace each other.

FriedrichAdolfKrummacher