Sunday, October 19, 2008

Civil War Sabbath

Samuel Longfellow

As a "Friend" of my local public library, I occasionally help organize and shelve books that people donate for our book sales. This can be a dirty, musty, dusty and often moldy business, but it is a necessary service and, now and again, I find a treasure. Some months ago, the treasure came in the form of a small volume in very poor condition. It had clearly belonged to an individual and then had had an incarnation on the shelves of a library long ago. I opened it with that flash of anticipation rarely rewarded, yet always hoped for. And what a reward. It was an 1865 edition of the "Hymns of the Spirit" compiled by Samuel Longfellow and Samuel Johnson. This Unitarian Hymnbook contained many hymns written by Longfellow (younger brother of Henry Wadsworth) and Johnson who were classmates and longtime friends. Both "second generation transcendentalists," Longfellow and Johnson are at the very end of the "Boston Unitarian" era.

A few selections for a Sabbath evening...


Thou Power and Peace! in whom we find

All holiest strength, all purest love,

The rushing of the mighty wind,

The brooding of the gentle dove,-

Forever lend Thy sovereign aid,

And urge us on, and keep us Thine;

Nor leave the hearts which Thou hast made

Fit temples of Thy grace divine.

Nor let us quench Thy saving light;

But still with softest breathings stir

Our wayward souls, and lead us right;

O Holy Spirit, Comforter!

Thanks For Daily Mercies

Tender mercies, on my way

Falling softly like the dew,

Sent me freshly every day,

I will bless the Lord for you.

Though I have not all I would

Though to greater bliss I go

Every present gift of good

To eternal Love I owe.

Source of all that comforts me

Well of joy for which I long,

Let the song I sing to Thee

Be an everlasting song.

(Anna Waring)

Published towards the end of the Civil War, it is not difficult to imagine families gathered together in the evening, sharing these hymns and praying for loved ones and for their world. Amen


Joe Abdo said...

Samuel Longfellow did much more than write hymns. I wrote "The Quiet Radical: Biography of Samuel Longfellow" and the more I read about him, the more amazed I became at how unknown he is. Joe Abdo

slt said...

Thank you very much for writing-it is good to hear from you. I plan to post more Samuel Longfellow (sermons) at a later date and also have ordered your book and look forward to it. Blessings, BU