three-holy-children-in-the-furnace

Today is All Saint’s Day and I am posting these songs from Shaped Note resources to mark the day.  Yesterday I posted a writing of
Mary Earle who expresses so well the experience of the Celts in their understanding of the near presence of our ancestors and the heavenly dominion.

Many of the early settlers in America drew from this same wellspring and thus their music entoned their beliefs that we are on earth but for a moment in preparation for the time be spent in eternity in bliss.

THE HEBREW CHILDREN

B. F. White 

Where are the Hebrew children?
Safe in the promised land.
Tho’ the furnace flamed around them,
God, while in their troubles, found them,
He with love and mercy bound them,
Safe in the promised land.

Where are the twelve apostles?
Safe in the promised land.
They went up through pain and sighing,
Scoffing, scourging, crucifying,
Nobly for their Master dying,
Safe in the promised land.

Where are the holy martyrs?
Safe in the promised land.
They went up through flaming fire,
Trusting in their great Messiah,
Who by grace will raise them higher,
Safe in the promised land.

Where are the holy Christians?
Safe in the promised land.
Those who’ve wash’d their robes, and made them
White and spotless pure, and laid them
Where no earthly stain can fade them,
Safe in the promised land.

PARADISE

C. M

There is a land of pure delight,
Where saints immortal reign;
Infinite day excludes the night,
And pleasures banish pain,
And pleasures banish pain. 

There everlasting spring abides,
And never-withering flowers;
Death, like a narrow sea, divides
This heavenly land from ours.

Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood
Stand dress’d in living green;
So to the Jews old Canaan stood,
While Jordan roll’d between.

But timorous mortals start and shrink,
To cross this narrow sea;
And linger, shivering, on the brink,
And fear to launch away.

Oh! could we make our doubts remove,
Those gloomy doubts that rise,
And see the Canaan that we love
With unbeclouded eyes!

Could we but climb where Moses stood,
And view the landscape o’er,
Not Jordan’s stream nor death’s cold flood
Should fright us from the shore.

SOLITUDE IN THE GROVE

C. M.

Oh, were I like a feather’d dove,
And innocence had wings,
I’d fly and make a long remove
From all these restless things.
Let me to some wild desert go,
And find a peaceful home,
Where storms of malice never blow,
And sorrows never come.

EVENING SHADE

S. M. Baptist Harmony, p. 373.

The day is past and gone,
The evening shades appear;
O may we all remember well,
O may we all remember well,

The night of death is near.
We lay our garments by,
Upon our beds to rest;
So death will soon disrobe us all
Of what we here possess.

Lord, keep us safe this night,
Secure from all our fears:
May angels guard us while we sleep,
Till morning light appears.

And when we early rise,
And view th’ unwearied sun,
May we set out to win the prize,
And after glory run.

And when our days are past,
And we from time remove,
O may we in thy bosom rest,
The bosom of thy love.

And here from another tradition comes the story of how we mortals are given heavenly inspiration of music:

Hymn to St. Cecilia 

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)
Text: W.H. Auden (1907-1973) 

I.

In a garden shady this holy lady
With reverent cadence and subtle psalm,
Like a black swan as death came on
Poured forth her song in perfect calm:
And by ocean’s margin this innocent virgin
Constructed an organ to enlarge her prayer,
And notes tremendous from her great engine
Thundered out on the Roman air.
 

Blonde Aphrodite rose up excited,
Moved to delight by the melody,
White as an orchid she rode quite naked
In an oyster shell on top of the sea;
At sounds so entrancing the angels dancing
Came out of their trance into time again,
And around the wicked in Hell’s abysses
The huge flame flickered and eased their pain.

Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions
To all musicians, appear and inspire:
Translated Daughter, come down and startle
Composing mortals with immortal fire.

II.

I cannot grow;
I have no shadow
To run away from,
I only play.
I cannot err;
There is no creature
Whom I belong to,
Whom I could wrong.
I am defeat
When it knows it
Can now do nothing
By suffering.
All you lived through,
Dancing because you
No longer need it
For any deed.
I shall never be Different. Love me.
Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions
To all musicians, appear and inspire:
Translated Daughter, come down and startle
Composing mortals with immortal fire.
 

III.

O ear whose creatures cannot wish to fall,
O calm of spaces unafraid of weight,
Where Sorrow is herself, forgetting all
The gaucheness of her adolescent state,
Where Hope within the altogether strange
From every outworn image is released,
And Dread born whole and normal like a beast
Into a world of truths that never change:
Restore our fallen day; O re-arrange.
O dear white children casual as birds,
Playing among the ruined languages,
So small beside their large confusing words,
So gay against the greater silences
Of dreadful things you did: O hang the head,
Impetuous child with the tremendous brain,
O weep, child, weep, O weep away the stain,
Lost innocence who wished your lover dead,
Weep for the lives your wishes never led.
O cry created as the bow of sin Is drawn across our trembling violin.
O weep, child, weep, O weep away the stain.
O law drummed out by hearts against the still
Long winter of our intellectual will.
That what has been may never be again.
O flute that throbs with the thanksgiving breath
Of convalescents on the shores of death.
O bless the freedom that you never chose.
O trumpets that unguarded children blow
About the fortress of their inner foe.
O wear your tribulation like a rose.
Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions
To all musicians, appear and inspire:
Translated Daughter, come down and startle
Composing mortals with immortal fire.

And from that same tradition comes an ode describing music’s sacred place in the heavenly sphere:

Ode to St. Cecilia

W. H. Auden

From harmony, from heavenly harmony,
This universal frame began:
When nature underneath a heap
Of jarring atoms lay,
And could not heave her head,
The tuneful voice was heard from high,
‘Arise, ye more than dead!’

Then cold, and hot, and moist, and dry,
In order to their stations leap,
And Music’s power obey.
From harmony, from heavenly harmony,
This universal frame began:

From harmony to harmony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in Man.
What passion cannot Music raise and quell?

When Jubal struck the chorded shell,
His listening brethren stood around,
And, wondering, on their faces fell
To worship that celestial sound:

Less than a God they thought there could not dwell
Within the hollow of that shell,
That spoke so sweetly, and so well.
What passion cannot Music raise and quell?….

But O, what art can teach,
What human voice can reach,
The sacred organ’s praise?
Notes inspiring holy love,

Notes that wing their heavenly ways
To mend the choirs above.
Orpheus could lead the savage race;
And trees unrooted left their place,

Sequacious of the lyre;
But bright Cecilia rais’d the wonder higher:
When to her organ vocal breath was given,
An angel heard, and straight appear’d

Mistaking Earth for Heaven.
Grand Chorus.
As from the power of sacred lays
The spheres began to move,

And sung the great Creator’s praise
To all the Blest above;
So when the last and dreadful hour
This crumbling pageant shall devour,

The trumpet shall be heard on high,
The dead shall live, the living die,
And Music shall untune the sky!

stceciliaraphael45

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