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.
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 !