The Star and the Child. OR as it became Behind the Clouds.

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. 

Who wrote this poem? In this publication (1852) it is listed as The Star and the Child without an author. Then I find online the poem in the Morning Chronicle of Canada published on September 30 1847 is is titled as The Star and the Child and includes the “dying child”. So perhaps someone saw this poem and remembered it to include in this anthology?

Then, something happens. I find it in later version as a musical piece and re-titled as Behind the Clouds and the score attributed to JM Coward. Here is an online copy of the sheet music of Behind the Clouds by JM Coward published by Benjamin W Hitchcock, Chicago and National Music Co. New York. Importantly, note that the line in this version reads “Watching a child at dawn” as opposed to the earlier published version “Watching a child dying at dawn”. Here is another version of the same song from a collection of sheet music entitled Fireside Favourites – A choice collection of vocal gems, by NA Evans & Bro publishers, Boston. This copy is at the Indiana University and they have the date as 187?. Again they have edited out the “dying” child. There is no mention that the lyrics were written by someone else.

Song sheet cover Fireside Favourites

Song sheet cover Fireside Favourites

Who is J.M. Coward? There might have been two of them according to this website. A John M. Coward 1824 – 1880 and a JM Coward who composed for the 1898 Prom Season.

A JM Coward was listed as the organist performing at the 1900 Golden Jubilee at St Saviour’s Catholic Church, Broadway, England. It looks like this JM Coward was the organist at Crystal Palace and earlier at St Albans – and was Noel Coward’s uncle. So did Noel’s uncle write the score, having found the poem and inspired to create music around it? Or did JM Coward write the poem as a young man, and later the music? Possibly neither Coward wrote the poem. Perhaps an unknown American or Canadian? Hmmm. Interesting scenarios. Read the poem and understand why it has touched those over continents and time.

The Star And The Child.

A MAIDEN walked at eventide
Beside a clear and placid stream,
And smiled, as in its depths she saw
A trembling star’s reflected beam.

She smiled until the beam was lost,
As ‘cross the sky a cloud was driven ;
And then she sighed, and then forgot
The star was shining still in heaven.

A mother sat beside life’s stream,
Watching a dying child at dawn,
And smiled, as in its eye she saw
A hope that it might still live on.

She smiled until the eyelids closed,
But watched for breath until the even ;
And then she wept, and then forgot
The child was living still in heaven.

The Angel And The Flowers. By Hans Andersen. (Yes, that one)

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.

The Soul’s Passing.

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 predominantly by American 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 below is unattributed in the publication, however, thanks to modern research wunderkind the internet I have discovered it is by Charles H. Hitchings. The poem was published in London in 1851 in a collection of poetry by the author, and surprisingly is not reproduced in full in my publication of The Mourner’s Friend published only a year later. I have included the missing verses at the end, and note where the poem ceases in the 1852 publication. Why was it edited and unattributed? Were the later verses too gritty, was the social realism and references to her lover deemed inappropriate for the American audience? Or, merely a necessity of space! How interesting!

The Soul’s Passing. by Charles H Hitchings but unattributed in publication.

IT is ended! – all is over!
Lo, the weeping mourners come,-
Mother, father, friend and lover,
To the death-incumbered room;
Lips are pressed to the blessed,
Lips that evermore are dumb.

Take her faded hand in thine, –
Hand that no more answereth kindly;
See the eyes were wont to shine,
Uttering love, now staring blindly;
Tender-hearted speech departed,-
Speech that echoed so divinely.

Runs no more the circling river,
Warming, brightening every part;
There it slumbereth cold forever,-
No more merry leap and start;
No more flushing cheeks to blushing,-
In its silent home the heart!

Hope not answer to your praying!
Cold, responseless, lies she there.
Death, that ever will be slaying
Something gentle, something fair,
Came with numbers soft as slumbers,-
She is with him otherwhere!

Mother! yes, you scarce would chide her,
Had you seen the form he bore,
Heard the words he spoke beside her,
Tender as the look he wore,
While he proved her how he loved her
More than mother, – ten times more!

Earthly father! weep not o’er her!
To another Father’s breast,
On the wings of love he bore her,-
To the kingdom of the blest;
Where no weeping eyelids keeping,
Dwells she now in perfect rest.

The poem ceases here in The Mourner’s Friend. In Hitchings’ original publication it continues with the following verses:

Friend! He was a friend that found her
Amid blessings poor and scant,
With a wicked world around her,
And within a heavenly want;
And supplied her, home to guide her,
Wings, for which the weary pant.

Lover ! Yes, she loved thee dearly!
When she left thee, loved thee best!
Love, she knew, alone burns clearly
In the bosoms of the blest :
Love she bore thee watches o’er thee-
Is the angle in thy breast!

Mourners all! Have done with weeping!
I will tell you what he said,
When he came and found her sleeping;
On her heart his hand he laid-
“Sleep is, maiden, sorrow-laden;
Peace dwells only with the dead.

Wend with me across the river-
Seems so bitter, is so sweet!
On whose other shore for ever
Happy, Holy spirits greet ;
Grief all over friend and lover
In a sweet communion meet !

“Is it bitter father, mother,
lover, friend, to leave behind
All their blessed loves, and other?
Come with me, and thou shalt find,
Where thy spirit shall inherit
Perfect love and perfect mind.

“Love that is to mortals given
Struggles with imperfect will,
Love alone that homes in heaven
Can its perfect self fulfil;
Where, posessing every blessing,
Still it grows and greatens still!

“See, I bring thee wings to bear thee
To the blessed angel home,
Dear ones dead, for ever near thee
From thy side no more to roam;
Love increased, wait thou blessed
Till the living loved ones come!

“O’er the river!” – Lo, she faltered
While he took her by the hand ;
And her blessed face grew altered
As she heard the sweet command.
Father! lover! All was over !
So she passed to the Spirit Land !

Spiritual Support. by Rev. R. L. Carpenter.

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 predominantly by American authors. 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. 

Spiritual Support.

LOOK at Jesus in his hour of darkness, with great drops of sweat, as of blood, rolling from his brow ; with his face on the ground, in the earnestness of his entreaties. Look at him again, as his devotions are just ended, when those who come to apprehend him draw near. Mark the calm self-possession with which he says, Behold I am he, let these go their way. Imagine what a heavenly dignity must have succeeded to the tears that bedewed his face, causing it to glow with a noonday lustre ; that, when the rude officers beheld him, they went backward and fell on their faces. Hear his words of solemn assurance, Thinkest then that I cannot now beseech my Father, and he will give me more than twelve legions of angels ; — and then say, whether his prayers were not indeed heard, and whether the strength that God had given him was not indeed equal to his day, enabling him to finish his allotted works, and empowering him to obtain a far higher point of excellence, than ever could have been his had the cup passed from him. How truly, therefored, did Jesus exclaim, “Father, I know that thou hearest me always!” Like him, then, let us be anxiously careful for nothing; but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let our requests be made known unto God; and the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus : that peace arises from the conviction that all things work together for good to them that love God.

Death. by Albert Barnes.

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 predominantly by American authors. 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. 

Death.

WHAT woes are caused by death in this world! They are seen everywhere. The earth is “arched with graves.” In almost every dwelling, death has been doing his work of misery. The palace cannot exclude him; and he comes unbidden into the cottage. He finds his way to the dwelling of ice in which the Greenlander and the Esquimaux live ; to the tent of the Bedouin Arab, and the wandering Tartar ; to the wigwam of the Indian, and to the harem of the Turk ; to the splendid mansion of the rich, as well as to the abode of the poor. That reign of death has now extended near six thousand years, and will travel on to future years, –meeting each generation, and consigning the young, the vigorous, the lovely and the pure, to dust. Shall that gloomy reign continue forever? Is there no place where death can be excluded ? Yes: Heaven, –and the object of the Redeemer is to bring us there.

Our Little Brother.

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 predominantly by American authors. 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. 

Our Little Brother

WE loved the silky, golden hair,
That played upon his forehead fair;
The angels loved him, – for so rare
Were such sweet pretty locks of hair.

We loved his brilliant, glistening eye,
So keen, so loving, yet so sly ;
The angels loved him too, – for why
Should they resist his sparkling eye?

We loved his laugh, so gayly ringing,
Joy to our loving bosoms bringing;
The angels joined him in their singing,-
So seraph-like his laugh was ringing.

We loved him. Picture of the mother
Was our sweet bud, our darling brother.
Bright seraphs bore him hence, – another
Gem in thy coronet, dear mother.

We love him now. The sweetest flower
That ever saw a sunlight hour,
Has from our bright domestic bower
Been plucked,- to be in heaven a flower.

The fragrance of that bud in heaven,
Forth reaching to our hearth-stone even,
Shall, if thy grace, O God, be given,
Win us from earthly flowers to heaven.

Resignation. by H. W. Longfellow.

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 predominantly by American authors. 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

THERE is no flock, however watched and tended,
But one dead lamb is there!
There is no fireside, howsoe’er defended,
But has one vacant chair!

The air is full of farewells to the dying,
And mournings for the dead;
The heart of Rachel, for her children crying,
Will not be comforted!

Let us be patient! these severe afflictions
Not from the ground arise,
but oftentimes celestial benedictions
Assume this dark disguise.

We see but dimly through the mists and vapors;
Amid these earthly damps
What seem to us but sad, funereal tapers,
May be heaven’s distant lamps.

There is not death! hat seems so is transition;
This life of mortal breath
Is but a suburb of the life Elysian,
Whose portal we call death.

She is not dead,- the child of our affection,-
But gone unto that school
Where she no longer needs our poor protection,
And Christ himself doth rule.

In that great cloister’s stillness and seclusion
By guardian angels led,
Safe from temptation safe from sin’s pollution,
She lives, whom we call dead.

Day after day we think what she is doing
In those bright realms of air;
Year after year, her tender steps pursuing,
Behold her grown more fair.

Thus do we walk wit her, and keep unbroken
The bond which nature gives,
Thinking that our remembrance, though unspoken,
May reach her where she lives.

Not as a child shall we again behold her;
For when with raptures wild
In our embraces we again enfold her,
She will not be a child;

But a fair maiden in her Father’s mansion,
Clothed with celestial grace;
And beautiful with all the soul’s expansion
Shall we behold her face.

And though at times, impetuous with emotion
And anguish long suppressed,
The swelling heart heaves moaning like the ocean,
That cannot be at rest;

We will be patient! and assuage the feeling
We may not wholly stay;
By silence sanctifying, not concealing,
The grief that mus have way.

Mortality.

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 predominantly by American authors. 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. 

“Mortality.”

THEY wither all, the hopes of youth,
The visions of delight,
As fades away the light of day,
Lost in the gloom of night;
And sorrow takes the pace of joy,
And partings come : oh, why
Are those we lean the most upon,
And love the most, the soonest gone?
The dearest, first to die?
The summer sun awakens flowers
Of every shade and hue;
The fox-glove and the wild rose bloom,
Just where they ever grew;
The violet on the sunny bank,
The heath on moor and plain;
But the flowers we cherished most of all
Never return again!

The daisy and the waving grass
Clothe many a hallowed mound,
Where those we strove in vain to keep,
Wrapt in Death’s still and dreamless sleep,
Their early graves have found;
And hearts that once were light and gay,
‘Neath sorrow’s weight are bowed;
And oftentimes a missing face,
A vanished smile, or vacant place,
Makes saddened memories crowd;

And days long gone return,
As in a strange, wild dream;
And voices that we love to hear,
And ringing laughter sweet and clear,
Once more around us seem,-
Forgetful that Death’s hand has traced
A record ne’er be effaced.

But soon the vision fades,
nor voice nor smile remain,-
‘Twas but a picture of the heart,
A fancy of the brain:
The momentary joy is flown,-
We wake to find ourselves alone.

O Life! thy path were dark and drear,
If all our being centred here;
But other paths our feet shall tread,
In brighter worlds and purer spheres,
Unmeasured by the lapse of years,
When Time’s fleet course is fled:
Then let our earthly hopes decay,
And Love’s sweet chords be riven;
In sorrow tried and purified,
Our spirits, blest and sanctified,
will find repose in heaven.

Comforting The Afflicted by Jeremy Taylor.

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 predominantly by American authors. 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. 

“Comforting the Afflicted.”

Certain it is, that as nothing can better do it, so there is nothing greater for which God made our tongues, next to reciting his praises, than to minister comfort to a weary soul. And what greater measure can we have, than that we should bring joy to our brother, who with his dreary eyes looks to heaven and round about, and cannot find so much rest as to lay his eyelids close together, – than that thy tongue should be tuned with heavenly accents, and make the weary soul to listen for light and ease ; and when he perceives that there is such a thing in the world, and in the order of things, as comfort and joy to begin to break out from the prison of his sorrows a the door of sighs and tears, and by little and little melt into showers an refreshment ? This is glory to thy voice, and employment fit for the brightest angel. But so have I seen the sun kiss the frozen earth, which was bound up with the images of death, and the colder breath of the north ; and then the waters break from their enclosures, and melt with joy, and run in useful channels ; and the flies do rise again from their little graves in walls, and dance a while in the air, to tell that there is joy within, and that the great mother of creatures will open the stock of her new refreshment, become useful to mankind, and sing praises to her Redeemer. So is the heart of a sorrowful man under the discourses of a wise comforter ; he breaks from the despairs of the grave, and the fetters and chains of sorrow; he blesses God, and he blesses thee, and he feels his life returning ; for to be miserable is death, but nothing is life but to be comforted; and God is please with no music from below so much as in the thanksgiving songs of relieved widows, of supported orphans, of rejoicing, and comforted, and thankful persons.

Thoughts Upon Death. by Blaise Pascal.

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 predominantly by American authors. 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. 

Thoughts Upon Death

When we are in affliction on account of the death of some friend whom we loved, or some other misfortune that has happened to us, we ought not to seek for consolation in ourselves, nor in our fellow-creatures, nor in any created thing ; we should seek it in God alone. And the reason is, that creatures are not the primary cause of those occurrences which we call evils ; but that the providence of God, being the true and sole cause of them, the arbiter and the sovereign, we ought, undoubtedly, to have recourse directly to their source, and ascent even to their origin, to obtain satisfactory alleviation. For, if we follow this precept, and consider this afflicting bereavement, not as the result of chance, nor as a fatal necessity of our nature, nor as the sport of those elements and atoms of which man is formed, – for God has not abandoned his elect to the risk of caprice or chance, – but as the indispensable, inevitable, just, and holy result of a decree of the providence of God, to be executed in the fulness of time ; and, in short, that all which happens has been eternally present and preordained in God ; if, I say, by the teachings of grace we consider this casualty, not in itself, and independent of God, but independent of itself, and according to the will of God, in the justice of his decree, and the order of his providence, which is the true cause, without which it could not have happened, by which alone it has happened, and in the precise manner in which it has, – we should adore in humble silence the inaccessible height of his secrets ; we should venerate the holiness of his decrees, we should bless the course of his providence ; and, uniting our will to the will of God himself, we should desire with him, in him, and for him, those very things which he has wished in us, and for us, from all eternity.