August 10, 2013

Berryhill: Beyond the blue ether above

Courtesy: Findagrave
Lucina L. Portman died on August 10, 1856. Her nephew was the Alabama-born and wheelchair-bound Mississippi poet S. Newton Berryhill. Berryhill's verses often fall into one of two categories: romantic, nature-inspired poems and wrathful anti-Northern poems. His response to his aunt's death, however, provides a peaceful, spiritual alternative. Moved by Portman's death, he wrote a poem titled "Lines (in memory of my Aunt Lucinda L. Portman, who died August 10, 1856)":

Hushed fore'er is the voice that in infancy soothed
My sorrow, and sickness, and pain;
And the hands that so often my pillow have smoothed,
In mine shall be clasped ne'er again.

The dear, cherished hours of the long winter night,
No more in sweet converse we'll spend;
Nor read by the light of the fire blazing bright
What our favorite authors have penned.

Thy dear-loved form lieth cold in the ground—
No more will it gladden our eyes,
Till the archangel's trumpet from heaven shall sound,
And bid the pale sleepers arise.

Though we sorrow for thee, hallelujah to God!
For the blessed assurance He's given,
That though thy cold body lies under the sod,
Thy spirit is living in Heaven.

For we know thou art gone to the land of delight,
Beyond the blue ether above,
Where the seraphim robed in their garments of white
Are chanting their anthems of love.

No fierce tempest raves in that bright summer clime;
The skies are forever serene;
The amaranth trees are in bloom through all time,
And the valleys eternally green.

Pain, sorrow, and death are unknown to the band
Who dwell in that bright world above;
For Jesus, the Savior, is the king of the land,
And the law of His kingdom is love.

Like most of his poems, "Lines" was published in Berryhill's only book, the 1878 collection Backwoods Poems. The moderate success of that book earned him the nickname, "The Backwoods Poet."

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