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Matthew Abraham Ryan (he changed his name to Abram because the name Abraham became distasteful to him when Lincoln declared war on his nation, the CSA), was born in Norfolk Virginia of an Irish Catholic family from County Limerick and is known not only as a mystic poet of the Catholic religion but also as the Poet Laureate of the Confederacy. He was the most popular and most quoted and recited poet of his generation in the South and in the North. This is an exact reprinting of the 12th edition of his complete collected works that was issued at Baltimore in 1888.
Father Ryan worked as a chaplain to the troops of his nation during the long and brutal war that killed all of the hopes for freedom and nationhood among his people who rose so manfully to battle to defend their homeland in 1861. In the hour of defeat Fr. Ryan won the heart of the entire South by his poem Conquered Banner, whose exquisite measure was taken, as he told a friend, from one of the Gregorian hymns.
Beyond and above and permeating his deep and abiding love for the South was his love for our Lord and our Blessed Lady that is so powerfully expressed in his poetry and verse. His was the heart of a lover and a mystic, one who knows life and reality so well that anyone could say that he truly understood what Saint Augustine meant when he said that our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee O Lord! Take up this precious work of his and prepare to be truly moved in your heart and soul with the beauty and depth of these emanations of his beautiful Catholic soul.
From Fr. Ryan’s Sursum Corda:
Lonely hearts! lonely hearts! this is but a land of grief;
Ye are pining for repose—ye are longing for relief:
What the world hath never given, kneel and ask of God above,
And your grief shall turn to gladness, if you lean upon His love.
Lonely hearts! God is Love.
Publishers’ Preface to the Second Edition.
For years the name of Father Ryan has been a household word. It is known wherever the English language is spoken, and everywhere it is reverenced as the appellation of a true child of song. It is especially dear to the people of the South, among whom he who bears it has lived and worked and touched his tuneful harp. These, his poems, have moved multitudes. They have thrilled the soldier on the eve of battle, and quickened the martial impulses of a chivalric race; they have soothed the soul-wounds of the suffering; and they have raised the hearts of men in adoration and benediction to the great Father of all.
When the announcement was first made that they were to be gathered together into a volume, the news was heard as glad tidings by the friends of the poet-priest, and the book had hardly appeared when the edition was exhausted. The ablest critics were generous in their praise of it, and predicted that it would be for its author a monument more enduring than brass.
Publishers’ Preface to the Twelfth Edition.
The publication of the poems of Father Ryan has reached the twelfth edition. To the Memoir, which found place in the eleventh edition, are now added many beautiful songs, some of which have not heretofore been published; and also many new illustrations.So popular have the writings of the poet-priest become, that many songs and ballads have been printed as emanations of his pen for which he was not responsible.
This edition is printed from new electrotype plates, and is greatly improved in style over all former editions. It includes all the poems written by Father Ryan which, if living, he would offer to the public. His death in 1880 stilled the sweetest voice that ever was raised in behalf of the faith and clime he loved so well.
Memoir of Father Ryan By John Moran
It is regretted that the materials at hand at this writing are not sufficient to warrant as extended a notice as the publishers of the present enlarged volume of Father Ryan’s poems would wish, and as the many friends and admirers of the dead priest and poet desire. So distinguished a character and so brilliant a man cannot be passed over lightly, or dealt with sparingly, if the demand of his friends and the public generally would be satisfied even in a moderate degree; for Father Ryan’s fame is the inheritance of a great and enlightened nation, and his writings have passed into history to emblazon its pages and enrich the literature of the present and succeeding ages, since it is confidently believed that, with the lapse of time, his fame and his merits will grow brighter and more enduring. With this appreciation of his merits, and a realizing sense of what is due to his memory, and with an equal consciousness of his own want of ability to do justice to the subject, the writer bespeaks the indulgent criticism of those who may read the following remarks—admittedly far short of what are due to the illustrious dead.
The exact date and place of Father Ryan’s birth are not yet definitely settled. Some assert that he was born at Norfolk, Virginia; others claim Hagerstown, Md., as the place of his birth; whilst there is some ground to believe that in Limerick, Ireland, he first saw the light. The same uncertainty exists as to time. Some claim to know that he was born in 1831, whilst others fix, with equal certainty, the year 1836 as the time. In the midst of these conflicting statements, the writer prefers to leave the questions at issue for future determination, when it is hoped final and conclusive proof will he obtained to place them outside the realms of dispute. Meanwhile, he will present what may be regarded as of primary importance in forming a correct estimate of the character of the deceased, and the value of his life work, which, after all, are the chief ends sought to be accomplished.
From the most reliable information that can be obtained, it is learned that Father Ryan went to St. Louis with his parents when a lad of some seven or eight years. There he received his early training under the Brothers of the Christian Schools. Even at that early date, young Ryan showed signs of mental activity which gave promise of one day producing substantial and lasting results. He evinced rare aptitude for knowledge, and made rapid progress in its attainment. His thoughtful mien and modest look soon won for him the respect and friendship of his teachers, and the esteem and affection of his companions. It was noticed that he had an instinctive reverence for sacred things and places, and a rich and ardent nature which bespoke deep spirituality. Discerning eyes soon recognized in the mild youth the germs of a future vocation to the priesthood. It was, therefore, prudently resolved to throw around him every possible safeguard in order to protect and cherish so rare and precious a gift. The youth himself corresponded to this design, and bent all his energies towards acquiring the necessary education to fit him for entering upon the still higher and more extended studies required for the exalted vocation to which he aspired. In due time he had made the necessary preparatory studies, and was deemed fitted to enter the ecclesiastical seminary at Niagara, N.Y., whither he went, having bid an affectionate farewell to his relatives and numerous friends, who fervently invoked heaven’s blessing upon the pious youth who, they hoped, would return one day to their midst to offer up the “Clean Oblation” which is offered up “from the rising of the sun until the going down thereof.”
The heart of the youth, as he started for his future home, was all aglow with the fervor that animated him in the pursuit of his high and holy purpose. He entered the seminary, leaving no regrets or attachments behind him. One thing only did he appear to regret; separation from home and the loved ones to whom he had bid so affectionate an adieu. Home and parents are ever dear to the pure of heart; for around them cluster memories too precious and associations too endearing for utterance. Father—mother—home, “trinity of joys,” whose completion and perfection are to be found only in the Trinity in heaven—these must ever remain bright recollections in the lives of all who cherish ennobling sentiments which do reverence to God and honor to humanity. But if such be the effect of these sentiments upon the hearts of men in general, they have a still deeper and more tender effect upon those who, in response to the call of the Master, “Follow thou Me,” have abandoned all things for his sweet sake, that they may find a home hereafter in heaven, after having spent themselves in dispensing his riches and benefits to men.
Like nearly all great men, Father Ryan owed much to the early training and example of his truly Christian mother. Hence the deep affection he ever manifested towards her. After the lapse of long years, we find his heart still fresh and loving, pouring out upon the grave of his mother all the wealth of his rich mind and the affection of his chaste heart. He tells us that he had placed his poems upon her grave as a garland of affection. Oh what a beautiful offering on the part of a gifted son to a devoted mother! Nature’s richest and best gifts consecrated to nature’s purest and holiest sentiments! May we not suppose that the endearing affection which he cherished for his mother was the source of the inspiration which drew forth the “splendid brightness of his songs?” This filial reverence and tender affection, could nothing more be said in his favor would speak volumes in his praise. But how much more can be said, and said truly, were there pen and lips eloquent enough to proclaim his praises in. Mine are unworthy of the task; yet mine be the duty of recalling some, at least, of the virtues and qualities that marked him during life; for virtues and estimable qualities he had, and they were many and conspicuous. Heaven doth know, earth doth witness, angels have recorded, that he is worthy of praise. Therefore, in no cold and measured terms shall the writer speak of the dear and venerated dead, Abram J. Ryan, priest and poet—once magic name, still revered and possessed of talismanic power. If we cannot crown thee, Oh child of genius, with a wreath of justice, let us, at least, endeavor to crown thee with a garland of love, composed of thy own glorious deeds and achievements.
Having passed through the usual course of studies in an ecclesiastical seminary with distinction, Father Ryan was duly ordained priest, and soon afterwards entered upon the active duties of missionary life. But little was heard of him until the breaking out of the late civil war, when he entered the Confederate army as a chaplain, and served in that capacity up to the close of the civil war. He was then stationed at Nashville, afterwards at Clarksville, Tenn., and still later at Augusta, Georgia, where he founded the Banner of the South, which exercised great influence over the people of that section, and continued about five years, when Father Ryan was obliged to suspend its publication. He then removed to Mobile, Alabama, where he was appointed pastor of St. Mary’s Church in 1870, and continued in that position until 1883, when he obtained leave of absence from Bishop Quinlan to make an extended lecture tour of the country to further a praiseworthy and charitable undertaking of great interest to the South. Bishop Quinlan having died soon afterwards, Father Ryan’s leave was extended by his successor, Bishop Manucy. It was whilst engaged in this mission that Father Ryan received his death summons.
During all these changes and journeyings, the busy brain of Father Ryan was incessantly employed, expending itself in composing those immortal poems which have won their way to all hearts and elicited widespread and unmeasured praise from critics of the highest repute. Like all true poets, Father Ryan touched the tenderest chords of the human heart, and made them respond to his own lofty feelings and sublime inspirations.
Of his priestly character but little need be said. His superiors and those whom he served know best how well and faithfully he discharged the sometimes severe and always onerous and responsible duties of his sacred calling. The merit of his life-work is now the measure of his reward. As he had in view only God’s honor and glory, and the good of his fellow-men, and directed his labors and employed his talents to promote these ends, may we not hope that a merciful Judge has given him a recompense in excess of his deserts, since, in the bountifulness of His liberality, He is wont to bestow a reward exceeding our merits?
But it is not claimed that Father Ryan was without fault. This would be attributing to him angelic nature or equivalent perfection, against which, were he living, he would be the first to protest. He needs no such fulsome or exaggerated praise. He was a man, though not cast in the common mould, and as such let us view him. Doubtless he had his faults, and perhaps not a few; for “the best of men are only the least sinful.” But as far as is known, he had no serious defects or blemishes that would mar the beauty or disturb the harmonious grandeur of his character in its entirety. Had his heart been cold and selfish, or his thoughts defiled with the sordid cares of earth, he never could have sung so sweetly or soared so sublimely into those serene and heavenly regions whither his chaste fancy led him. He delighted to roam in those far off regions beyond the skies, whose spheres are ruled and whose realms are governed by those mysterious laws which have their fountain source in God, and whose operations are controlled by the exercise of His infinite power and love. His defects, then, did not seriously impair the integrity of his virtues, which were many and solid. Chief amongst his virtues may be named his zeal for the honor and glory of God, and devotion to the Mother of God—the latter the necessary outgrowth of the former. The deep and earnest piety of Father Ryan towards his “Queen and Patroness,” as he loved to call her, bespeaks much in his praise; for, like all truly great men of the Catholic Church, he saw that it was not only eminently proper, but also a sublime act of Christian duty, to pay filial reverence and honor to the Mother of God. Hence Father Ryan crowned Mary with many gems of rare beauty. Amongst them may be named his beautiful poem, Last of May, dedicated to the Children of Mary, of the Cathedral of Mobile, Alabama. Few Catholics will read these lines without experiencing feelings of deep and tender devotion towards their Queen and Mother.
Father Ryan’s was an open, manly character, in which there was no dissimulation. His generous nature and warm heart were ever moved by kind impulses and influenced by charitable feelings, as became his priestly calling. We may readily believe him when he tells us that he never wrote a line for hate’s sake. He shrank instinctively from all that was mean and sordid. Generosity was a marked trait of his character, an ennobling principle of his nature, the motive power of his actions, and the main-spring of his life. Friendship was likewise congenial to his taste, if not a necessity of his nature; and with him it meant more than a name. It was a sacred union formed between kindred spirits—a chain of affection whose binding link was fidelity. Never was he false to its claims, nor known to have violated its obligations. Hence he was highly esteemed during life by numerous persons of all classes and denominations; for his sympathies were as broad as humanity, and as far-reaching as its wants and its miseries. Yet he was a man of deep conviction and a strict adherent to principle, or what he conceived to be principle; for we find him long after the war still clinging to its memories, and slow to accept its results, which he believed were fraught with disaster to the people of his section. A Southerner of the most pronounced kind, he was unwilling to make any concession to his victorious opponents of the North which could be withheld from them. Perhaps, upon reflection, it may not appear wholly strange or inexplicable that he should have so acted. There was, at least, some foundation for his fears with regard to the ill-fate of those of his section. Though peace had been proclaimed, the rainbow of hope did not encircle the heavens or cast its peaceful shadow over the South. Dark clouds loomed up over that fair and sunny land, portentous of evil; for they were surcharged with the lightning of passion. The chariot wheel of the conqueror had laid waste and desolate the land. No one knew precisely what would follow; for passion’s dark spirit was abroad and ruling in high places. To make matters worse and intensify the sufferings of the people still more, they were debarred from participating in the political affairs of their own States. Non-residents, and aliens in sympathy and common interest, were appointed to rule over them, if not to oppress them. Is it to be wondered at if some refused to bow and kiss the hands that were uplifted against them? Among such was Father Ryan. All honor to the man and those who stood by him! Instead of attempting to cast obloquy upon their memory, we should do them honor for having maintained in its integrity the dignity of the manhood with which heaven had blessed them, when earth had deprived them of all else that was dear and sacred to brave and honorable men. But how differently Father Ryan acted when the oppressed people of the South were restored to their rights, and when the great heart of the North went out in sympathy towards them in their dire affliction during the awful visitation of the yellow fever, when death reaped a rich harvest in Memphis and elsewhere, and a sorrow-stricken land was once more buried in ruin and desolation. It was then, indeed, that Father Ryan and all good men beheld the grand spectacle of the whole North coming to the rescue of the afflicted South with intense and sublime admiration. He then saw for certain the rainbow of peace span the heavens; and though his section was wailing under the hand of affliction, he yet took down his harp, which for years had hung on the weeping willows of his much-loved South, and, with renewed vigor and strength of heart, again touched its chords and drew forth in rich tones and glorious melodies his grand poem “Reunited.” Then it was that the star of peace shone out in the heavens, resplendent with the brightness and purity of love, and dispelled the dark and foul spirit of hate which had poisoned the air and polluted the soil of free Columbia. Then, too, the angel of affliction and the angel of charity joined hands together and pronounced the benediction over a restored Union and a reunited people.
Before proceeding to speak of Father Ryan’s poems, a few observations upon poets and poetry in general may not be deemed inappropriate. To speak of poets and their merits is by no means an easy matter, even where one is in every respect fitted to pronounce critical judgment. It requires rare qualifications for such a task; a wide range of information; extensive knowledge of the various authors; a keen sense of justice; a fine sense of appreciation of the merits and demerits of each, and a rare power of discrimination. These are qualifications seldom combined in a single person. Hence, so few competent critics are to be found. The writer does not claim to possess all or any one of these powers in as eminent a degree as would fit him for the work of passing judicious criticism upon the various authors and their works—or, indeed, any single one of them. What he will venture to say, therefore, is by way of preface to the remarks which he is called upon to offer upon the merits of the particular poet whose productions he is specially called upon to consider.
Of poets it may be said, that they are not like other men, though invested with similar qualities and characteristics. They differ in this: That they are not cold and calculating in their speech; they do not analyze and weigh their words with the same precision; nor are they always master of their feelings. Possessed of the subtle power of genius, which no mortal can describe, though all may experience its potent influence, they cannot be confined within the narrow limits assigned to others less gifted, nor subjected to fixed methods or unvarying processes of mental action. No; poets must roam in broader fields, amidst brighter prospects and more elevated surroundings. They must be left to themselves, to go where they choose, and evolve their thoughts according to their own ways and fancies; for ways and fancies they have which are peculiar to themselves and must be indulged. Genius is ever wont to be odd, in the sense that it does not and cannot be made to move in common ruts and channels. This is especially true of poetic genius, whose very life may be said to depend upon the purity of its inspirations and the breadth and character of its surroundings.
Much has been said, and deservedly, in favor of the great poets of antiquity. Unmeasured praise has been bestowed upon the epic grandeur of Homer and the classical purity of Virgil. They have ever been considered as foremost amongst the best models of poetic excellence. Yet there was wanting to them the true sources of poetic inspiration, whence flow the loftiest conceptions and sublimest emanations of genius. Homer never rose above the summit of Olympus, nor Virgil above the level of pagan subjects and surroundings. Therefore they cannot be properly regarded as the highest and best models, certainly not the safest, for Christians, who can feast their eyes and fill their minds and hearts with more perfect models and more sublime subjects. The sight of Sinai, where Jehovah, the God of Israel, is veiled in the awful splendor of His majesty, whilst his voice is heard in the loud war and fierce thunderings amongst the clouds, as the lightnings crown its summit, is far more grand and imposing, more sublime and inspiring, than are those subjects presented to us by pagan authors, however refined and elegant may be the language employed to convey their thoughts and depict their scenes. Wherefore, the Biblical narratives furnish the highest and best models and the richest sources of poetic inspiration; and “all great poets have had recourse to those ever-living fountains to learn the secret of elevating our hearts, ennobling our affections, and finding subjects worthy of their genius.”
The writer would not care to assert that Father Ryan’s poems possess the majestic grandeur and elaborate finish of the great masters, whose productions have withstood the severe criticism of ages, and still stand as the highest models of poetic excellence. His style is not that of Milton, who soared aloft into the eternal mansions and opened their portals to our astonished and admiring gaze, picturing to us “God in His first frown and man in his first prevarication.” Nor is it that of Shakespeare, whose deep and subtle mind fathomed “the dark abysses of the human heart,” and laid bare and naked the varied doings of mankind! Nor is it, least of all, that of Dante, who, with even greater boldness than Milton, plunged into the impenetrable depths of the infernal regions, whose appalling misery and never-ending woe he has described in words of fearful and awe-inspiring grandeur. Neither is his style like unto that of any one of the several leading American poets, so far as their works are known to the writer, though some have said that his style resembles that of the highly-gifted and lamented Poe.
The writer will not undertake to say what place Father Ryan will occupy in the Temple of Fame, though he believes that an enlightened public sentiment will accord to him a high position. The chief merits of his poems would seem to be the simple sublimity of his verses; the rare and chaste beauty of his conceptions; the richness and grandeur of his thoughts, and their easy, natural flow; the refined elegance and captivating force of the terms he employs as the medium through which he communicates those thoughts, and the weird fancy which throws around them charms peculiarly their own. These, and perhaps other merits, will win for their author enduring fame.
For the future of Father Ryan’s poems we need have no fears. They will pass down through the ages bearing tho stamp of genius, impressed with the majesty of truth, replete with the power and grandeur of love; these are the purest sources of poetic inspiration; for both are attributes of the Divinity. Strip poetry of these, and nothing remains but its mutilated relics and soulless body; it becomes robbed of its highest glory and its most enduring qualities.
Though the South may claim Father Ryan as her son of genius, whose heart beat in sympathy with her hopes and her aspirations, and of whose productions she may well feel proud; yet no section owns him, since he belongs to our common country, and in a certain sense to mankind; for the fame of genius is not controlled by sections or circumscribed within limits; it extends beyond the confines of earth—yea, unto eternity itself! It is proper to regard him in this light as the heritage of the nation; for in the nation’s keeping his fame will be secure and appropriately perpetuated. All sections will unite in doing honor to his memory, which is associated with grand intellectual triumphs, won by the union of the highest gifts of the Creator—the union of religion and poetic genius; the former the source and inspiration of the latter.
Father Ryan also wrote several works of prose, chief amongst which is that entitled “A Crown for Our Queen.” Like his poem, “Last of May,” this book was intended as a loving tribute to Mary, the Mother of God, whom he wished to honor as the highest type and grandest embodiment of womanhood. If Father Ryan failed to make this work worthy of the exalted subject—an opinion by no means expressed—it was not from any lack of good will and earnest purpose on his part. With him tender affection for the Queen of Heaven was a pure and holy sentiment, a sublime and ennobling act of piety, he saw in her lofty and immaculate beauty the true ideal of woman; and this explains the deep reverence and delicate sentiment of respect and sympathy which he exhibited towards all women. Poetical sentiment and religious feeling he thus happily blended, as they should ever be, in directing and influencing man’s action in his relations and intercourse with woman.
Three essentially poetical sentiments exist in man, says a distinguished writer: The love of God, the love of woman, and the love of country—the religious, the human, and the political sentiment. For this reason, continues the same writer, wherever the knowledge of God is darkened, wherever the face of woman is veiled, wherever the people are captive or enslaved, there poetry is like a flame which, for want of fuel, exhausts itself and dies out. On the contrary, wherever God reigns upon his throne in all the majesty of His glory, wherever woman rules by the irresistible power of her enchantments, wherever the people are free, there poetry has modest roses for the woman, glorious palms for the people, and splendid wings with which to mount up to the loftiest regions of heaven.
Father Ryan also won distinction as an orator, a lecturer, and an essayist, having contributed to several of the leading journals and magazines of the country, his oratory was not of the cold and unimpassioned kind which falls upon the ears, but fails to make an impression on the heart, he did not lose sight of the fact that the chief end and aim of oratory are to arouse men to a sense of their duty, deter them from the commission of evil, and inspire them with high and holy purposes, and noble, generous resolves, the accomplishment of which demands that the living, breathing spirit or soul should be infused into the words. Though the unction of divine charity can alone give efficacy to man’s words, yet man must not appear to be devoid of those qualities and attributes which contribute towards making a lasting impression upon the minds and hearts of those whose interests are presumed to be dear to him. This was the spirit that animated Father Ryan, all his efforts were directed towards the accomplishment of the objects stated. It is not claimed that all his discourses were up to the highest standard of literary excellence, or above the test of exact criticism. Some of his efforts did not bear evidence of deep thought or careful and exhaustive preparation, but all exhibited warmth of soul and earnestness of purpose. It may be well to remark in connection with this, that Father Ryan’s health for many years was such that it would not permit of his engaging in laborious mental work. And yet he labored much and spoke often; for his zeal and mental activity were greatly in excess of his strength. Had his physical powers corresponded to his rare mental endowments, the value of his productions—great as it now is—would have been enhanced. The marvel is that he was able to sustain those powers of mind which marked him up to the time of his death.
Though he had been ailing for years, as has been stated, yet his wonderful energy of mind made it appear to many that there was no immediate danger of his life. When the end came it was a surprise to all, even himself. To him let us hope that it was not unprovided for. We have the gratifying assurance that it was not so; for we are told that he had retired into a Franciscan monastery in Louisville, Kentucky, to make a retreat, intending, at its close, to finish a “Life of Christ,” on which he was engaged, or purposed to undertake. Little did he think, apparently at least, that the Angel of Death pursued him and would soon deliver the final message to him. He did not fear the end. Why should he? Death has no terrors for the truly Christian soul. It is not the end, but the beginning of life; not the destroyer, but the restorer of our rights—that which puts us in possession of our eternal home in heaven. Therefore he was not gloomy nor despondent at the sight of the grave. He saw beyond it the glorious sunshine of God’s presence and the cheering prospect of His love. The final moment at last came and found him prepared. On the 23d of April, 1886, the soul of Abram J. Ryan, priest and poet, beloved of all who knew him, passed quietly away, let us hope, from earth to heaven, there to sing the glorious songs whoso melodies are attuned to the harps of angels, and whose mysterious harmonies ravish with delight the pure souls of the just. As the setting sun on a calm eve sinks beneath the horizon, gilding the heavens with its mild yet gorgeous splendor, so did the grand soul of Father Ryan pass into eternity, leaving behind the bright light of his genius and virtues—the one to illumine the firmament of literature, and the other to serve as a shining example to men.
Here the writer would end this imperfect tribute to a truly great character, did he not wish to remind the reader that he must not regard it as an entire portrait of the illustrious dead, though he has tried to present him clothed with some, at least, of the attributes and qualities which marked him during life. The failure, if such it be, must be ascribed to his own want of skill and ability rather than to any lack of merit in the subject. If he has not invested him with the panoply of his greatness, he has endeavored to strew some flowers over his grave; and these are love’s purest and best offering, which, were he living, would be most acceptable to the heart of the poet; for love it was that inspired its tenderest promptings and holiest feelings, and consecrated them to its ennobling influence.
Another thought, and the writer will bring his remarks to a close. This thought will be borrowed from the dead priest’s poem, “Reunited,” to suggest a sentiment in response to his prayer for a union of all sections—a sentiment which cannot fail to meet a ready and generous acceptance on the part of all true lovers of liberty. The thought is embodied in the following words, which take the form of an appeal.
Let all hearts join in the wish that the valor displayed and the sacrifices endured on both sides during the late civil war may henceforth unite all sections of our common country more closely in the bonds of fraternal affection, and cement more firmly the foundations of our political superstructure, now so vast and imposing, thus serving as a guaranty for the stability, permanence, and enduring greatness of the republic! Thus will we respond to the prayer of the dead priest, whose poem, the “Lost Cause,” and song of “The Conquered Banner,” will mingle harmoniously with the soft, earnest words and sweet, placid tones of his peaceful “Reunited.” So the songs of the dead poet will be music to the living until time shall be no more.
Washington, D. C.
SONG OF THE MYSTIC
I walk down the Valley of Silence—
Down the dim, voiceless valley—alone!
And I hear not the fall of a footstep
Around me, save God’s and my own;
And the hush of my heart is as holy
As hovers where angels have flown!
Long ago was I weary of voices
Whose music my heart could not win;
Long ago was I weary of noises
That fretted my soul with their din;
Long ago was I weary of places
Where I met but the human—and sin.
I walked in the world with the worldly;
I craved what the world never gave;
And I said: “In the world each Ideal,
That shines—like a star on life’s wave,
Is wrecked on the shores of the Real,
And sleeps like a dream in a grave.”
And still did I pine for the Perfect,
And still found the False with the True;
I sought ’mid the Human for Heaven,
But caught a mere glimpse of its Blue:
And I wept when the clouds of the Mortal
Veiled even that glimpse from my view.
And I toiled on, heart-tired of the Human,
And I moaned ’mid the mazes of men,
Till I knelt, long ago, at an altar
And I heard a voice call me. Since then
I walk down the Valley of Silence
That lies far beyond mortal ken.
Do you ask what I found in the Valley?
’Tis my Trysting Place with the Divine.
And I fell at the feet of the Holy,
And above me a voice said: “Be mine.”
And there arose from the depths of my spirit
An echo—“My heart shall be thine.”
Do you ask how I live in the Valley?
I weep—and I dream—and I pray.
But my tears are as sweet as the dew-drops
That fall on the roses in May;
And my prayer, like a perfume from Censers,
Ascendeth to God night and day.
In the hush of the Valley of Silence
I dream all the songs that I sing;
And the music floats down the dim Valley,
Till each finds a word for a wing,
That to hearts, like the Dove of the Deluge,
A message of Peace they may bring.
But far on the deep there are billows
That never shall break on the beach;
And I have heard songs in the Silence
That never shall float into speech;
And I have had dreams in the Valley
Too lofty for language to reach.
And I have seen Thoughts in the Valley—
Ah! me, how my spirit was stirred!
And they wear holy veils on their faces,
Their footsteps can scarcely be heard:
They pass through the Valley like Virgins,
Too pure for the touch of a word!
Do you ask me the place of the Valley,
Ye hearts that are harrowed by Care?
It lieth afar between mountains,
And God and his angels are there:
And one is the dark mount of Sorrow,
And one the bright mountain of Prayer.