The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing
2013, Volume 34
"Will not these days be by thy poets sung": Poems of the Anglo-African and National Anti-Slavery Standard, 1863–1864Edited by Elizabeth Lorang and R. J. Weir
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THE LOVED AND LOST.
"The loved and lost!" why do we call them lost? Because we miss them from our onward road? God's unseen angel o'er our pathway crost, Looked on us all, and loving them the most, Straightway relieved them from life's weary load.
They are not lost; they are within the door That shu's out loss, and every hurtful thing— With angels bright, and loved ones gone before, In their Redeemer's presence evermore, And God himself their Lord, and Judge, and King.
And this we call a "loss"; Oh, selfish sorrow Of selfish hearts! Oh, we of little faith! Let us look round, some argument to borrow Why we in patience should await the morrow That surely must succeed this night of death.
Ay, look upon this dreary desert path, The thorns and thistles wheresoe'er we turn; What trials and what tears, what wrongs and wrath, What struggles and what strife the journey hath! They have escaped from these; and lo! we mourn.
Ask the poor sailor, when the wreck is done, Who with his treasures strove the shore to reach, While with the raging waves he battled on, Was it not joy, where every joy seemed gone, To see his loved ones landed on the beech?
A poor wayfarer, leading by the hand A little child, had halted by the well To wash from off her feet the clinging sand, And tell the tired boy of that bright land Where, this long journey passed, they longed to dwell;
When lo! the lord who many mansions had, Drew near and looked upon the suffering twain, Then pitying spake, "Give me the little lad; In strength renewed, and glorious beauty clad, I'll bring him with me when I come again."
Did she make answer selfishly and wrong— "Nay, but the woes I feel he too must share!" Oh, rather, bursting into grateful song, She went her way rejoicing, and made strong To struggle on, since he was freed from care.
We will do likewise; death hath made no breach In love and sympathy, in hope and trust; No outward sign or sound our ears can reach, But there's an inward, spiritual speech, That greets us still, though mortal tongues be dust:
It bids us do the work that they laid down— Take up the song where they broke off the strain; So journeying till we reach the heavenly town, Where are laid up our treasures and our crown, And our lost loved ones will be found again.
- The speaker addresses and identifies with a community of Christian mourners who believe in a glorious afterlife without pain or suffering. There is no place within his or her ideological framework for doubt about heaven's existence (or entry requirements). This heaven-fixed perspective leads the speaker to reinterpret human grief as evidence of a "selfish sorrow" that begrudges the absent dead their bliss. Civil War reprints of "The Loved and Lost" suggest that, at a time when many Americans were struggling to come to terms with the reported death or terrifying disappearance of distant loved ones, editors recognized the poem's value as a consolatory devotional literature.
- The position of the line break creates momentary uncertainty: are the "loved and lost" close at hand, in the same room as the reader? Although the following line identifies the door as a threshold between earthly life and eternal bliss (a homely version of the gates of heaven), the brief suggestion of spiritual presence looks forward to the consolations of the penultimate stanza: "death hath made no breach."
- See John 14:2, "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you."
- Although the line of attribution following the poem in the National Anti-Slavery Standard identifies "The Loved and Lost" with Anglican doctrine, continued "spiritual speech" might be interpreted within less orthodox frameworks of belief; this flexibility may have been one of the reasons for the poem's popularity. The concept of communication between the living and the dead was most obviously compatible with spiritualist beliefs made "increasingly attractive" by the war (Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War [New York: Knopf, 2008], 181).
- For many Victorian and Edwardian Christians, the "primary consolation" of heaven "was the reunion of earthly families divided by death" (Pat Jalland, Death in the Victorian Family [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996], 271). This view of heaven gained credence on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1860s; indeed, it underpins Elizabeth Stuart Phelps's bestselling The Gates Ajar (1868). Phelps started to write her novel of wartime loss and consolation in 1864; in it, she offers a vision of heaven "as a more perfect Earth: Victorian family and domesticity are immortalized, and death all but disappears" (Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War [New York: Knopf, 2008], 187).
- A London-based weekly, established in 1836 "under the superintendence of clergymen" to "advocate the doctrines and discipline" of the Church of England ("Introductory Address," Church of England Magazine [28 May 1836], 1). Its contents included sermons and religious essays, articles on aspects of church history, biographies of prominent churchmen, reading for different parts of the church calendar, material from missionary journals, poetry, and book reviews. "The Loved and Lost" was published in the September 1858 issue of the magazine and was attributed to "Dorcas." The National Anti-Slavery Standard printed "The Loved and Lost" twice in October 1863 (issues of October 10 and October 31).