Thursday, October 18, 2007

How They So Softly Rest

Seventy-two years ago this month, my grandparents married. Their anniversary was October 8. I always thank God for what their marriage meant to me.

My sister, Lisa, and I went to Brownsville recently and visited the graveyard. It was a beautiful day to remember beautiful people. And it really is a beautiful place. I’ll share more photos later.

I love that their last name was Christmas. To have Christ in one’s name is a lovely thing. And even from a more secular perspective, they were both such giving, gifting people! It is a trait that everyone associates with them, I think.

Being there that day brought a song to mind from years ago, a song we sang in my high school chorus. I can’t find the lyrics to it anywhere, though I did find a choral performance of it on YouTube, which helped me fill in some blanks in my memory. I still don’t know how to put things like that on my blog, but if you put the first line of the song in the search box on YouTube, you will find the performance. Listen to it. It’s beautiful. I didn’t know in high school that I would come to love the composer, Healey Willan.

And oddly enough, a Google search of one of the phrases brought up a wonderful 1879 edition of Longfellow’s Poems, scanned and made available to the public since the copyright had expired. I never found the poem, though I suppose it may be in there somewhere. (If anyone knows for sure where this text comes from, please let me know.)

The old edition, however, connected me to my grandparents in another way: the print is so tiny that I had to go and get the magnifying glass I keep in my office, in a drawer in the housewife’s desk that for all my life sat on the front wall of my grandparents’ living room. I have been sitting here looking through the same magnifying glass my grandmother used, trying to find a poem that her death reminded me of.

So, with that background, here is the song, which you simply must listen to if you want to find the beauty in it:

How they so softly rest,
All, all the holy dead,
Unto whose dwelling-place
Now doth my soul draw near!
How they so softly rest
All in their silent graves,
Deep to corruption
Slowly down--

And they no longer weep
Here, where complaint is stilled!
And they no longer feel,
Here, where all gladness flies!
And, by the cypresses
Softly o’ershadowed,
Until the Angel
Calls them, they slumber.


Sheila said...

I did find that Longfellow is indeed the author, and amended my punctuation according to what I found. If I were his editor, I might take out some of those exclamation points!

Carisse said...

"How they so softly rest" is a Longfellow translation titled "The Dead" from a poem by Ernst Stockmann. It appears with attribution to Stockmann on page 262 of the 1911 volume titled The Poetical Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, published by Houghton Mifflin. This copy of the book belonged to Harvard and was digitized by Google Books. It is in the public domain because it was printed before 1923. Go to Google, choose "more" and select Books. Put in the first line of the poem. The page with the poem is the first hit on the list.

Lucy said...

Christmas is a lovely name to have.
I'll check out the song/poem.

Sheila said...

Thank you, Carisse! Leave it to you to know where to find something in a book!

I have had so much fun looking at the scanned book I found. They just don't make books like that anymore. I'll have to check out the one you mention, too.

Lucy--let me know what you think of it.

Gioietta said...

How beautiful! Thanks for sharing your own beautiful thoughts about your cherished grandmother. I very much look forward to meeting her.

Sheila said...

I'm having second thoughts. Maybe we sang this in college.

Anybody out there have a way of knowing?