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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Thursday Poetry Blogging

Like anyone has time to read this!

Into the woods my Master went,
clean forspent, forspent,
into the woods my Master came,
forspent with love and shame.
But the olives they were not blind to him.
the little grey leaves were kind to him,
the thorn tree had a mind to him,
when into the woods he came.

Out of the woods my Master came
and he was well content;
out of the woods my Master came,
content with death and shame.
When death and shame would woo him last,
from under the trees they drew him last,
'twas on a tree they slew him last
when out of the woods he came.

-- Sidney Lanier, 1880*

*Lanier, the “poet laurete of Georgia,” earned his degree from Oglethorpe College. In 1879, he was appointed lecturer on English literature at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. This hymn first appeared in the Methodist Hymnal of 1905. He was raised a Methodist with a strong Presbyterian mother -- growing up around Macon, Georgia. When Lanier moved to Baltimore, he lived a somewhat more liberal life -- both as to creed and conduct -- he wrote: "If the constituentsand guardians of my childhood-- those good Presbyterians who believed me a model for the Sunday-school children of all times -- could have witnessedmy acts and doings this day, I know not what groans of sorrowful regret
would arise in my behalf." His family mostly lived south of Macon and into North Flordia. He was also an accomplished concert flutist. He became first flutist in the Peabody Orchestra in Baltimore, Maryland in 1873, and in 1876 he wrote a cantata for the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. At least one of his descendents is a concert trumpet player. He was only 39 years old when he died.

Music and God were intertwined for Lanier. Lanier believed in the religious value of music; it was a "gospel whereof the people are in great need, -- a later revelation of all gospels in one." "Music," he says, "is to be the Church of the future, wherein all creeds will unite like the tones in a chord." He was one of "those fervent souls who fare easily by this road to the Lord." Music tended "help the emotions of man across the immensity of the known into the boundaries of the Unknown." He would have composers to be ministers of religion. He could not understand the indifference of some leaders of orchestras, who could be satisfied with appealing to the aesthetic emotions of an audience, while they might "set the hearts of fifteen hundred people afire." The final meaning of music to him was that it created within man "a great, pure, unanalyzable yearning after God."


  1. Well, RevMommy, I took some time. And I read it! And this was a very nice lesson.

    (An aside: I sometimes think my better-behaved relatives make "groans of sorrowful regret" for me, too!)

    Anyway, thanks for posting, this week of all weeks! It was a delightful coffee break to read about Sidney Lanier. I sure like the man's heart!

  2. Over at my place, Andew Motion, the UK's poet laurete is also on display.

  3. Oh, this is beautiful. Thank you. I have a new favorite poet to read and read about.

  4. As one who lives in Georgia, I knew that Sidney Lanier was from this state, but knew little about him. Thank you so much for sharing with us about this man.

  5. This was my favorite hymn that we sung in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) church. We not only sang it during Lent, but also for Communion.

    Sidney Lanier has a bridge named after him in the Brunswick, GA area.

    Thanks again for mentioning his wonderful hymn!


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