Ziphen Central – Seeking Wisdom and Sublimity
A while back I interlibrary loaned a reprint of the 1816 hymnal Kentucky Harmony. As I paged through the old fasola hymns, one caught my eye, set to the tune “Savannah.” The poetry was strikingly morbid, and I was intrigued. Later on I researched the poem, and found it in its entirety in a book of poems by John and Charles Wesley. I am still not sure which of them wrote this particular one, but it does present some very interesting thoughts. As you read it, listen to this MIDI file of the tune “Savannah” to set the mood.
On the Sight of a Corpse.
Ah lovely appearance of death!
No sight upon earth is so fair!
Not all the gay pageants that breathe,
Can with a dead body compare:
With solemn delight I survey
The corpse when the spirit is fled,
In love with the beautiful clay,
And longing to lie in its stead.
How bless’d is our brother, bereft
Of all that could burden his mind,
How easy the soul that hath left
This wearisome body behind!
Of evil incapable thou,
Whose relics with envy I see,
No longer in misery now,
No longer a sinner like me.
This earth is affected no more
With sickness, or shaken with pain;
The war in the members is o’er,
And never shall vex him again:
No anger henceforward, or shame,
Shall redden this innocent clay,
Extinct is the animal flame,
And passion is vanish’d away.
The languishing head is at rest,
Its thinking and aching are o’er;
The quiet immovable breast
Is heaved by affliction no more:
The heart is no longer the seat
Of trouble and torturing pain,
It ceases to flutter and beat,
It never shall flutter again.
The lids he so seldom could close,
By sorrow forbidden to sleep,
Seal’d up in eternal repose,
Have strangely forgotten to weep:
The fountains can yield no supplies,
These hollows from water are free;
The tears are all wiped from these eyes,
And evil they never shall see.
To mourn, and to suffer, is mine,
While bound in a prison I breathe,
And still for deliverance pine,
And press to the issues of death:
What now with my tears I bedew,
O might I this moment become,
My spirit created anew,
My flesh be consign’d to the tomb.