September 18, 2012

Fell asleep, September 18, 1874

The gravestone of a woman named Mary Pond in Dresden, Germany, reads "Fell asleep, September 18, 1874." This simple sentiment inspired a poem by Samuel Francis Smith, who remains best remembered for his poem "My Country 'Tis of Thee." It was about a year after her death that Smith, a Baptist minister, read those words and wrote, "Mary Pond":

Yes, "fell asleep," — but sleep implies two wakings
One in the weary past, one, yet to be;
One in this life of labor and heart-breakings,
One in the bliss of immortality.

Yes, "fell asleep," — tired watch no longer keeping,
With ever restless hands and busy brain;
All sorrow past, — no grief, no sigh, no weeping,
Like a sweet summer evening, after rain.

Yes, "fell asleep," — no more with dim surmising,
Questioning what may be the life to come;
She feels, in the freed spirit's glad uprising,
Joy, peace, rest, grandeur, glory, heaven, home.

Yes, "fell asleep," — we watch for her low breathing,
Like fragrant night-winds floating gently by;
Like noiseless clouds of incense, upward wreathing,
Her spirit, silent, points us to the sky.

Yes, "fell asleep," — the touch of those dear fingers
Created life and beauty where it fell;
Around her cherished works her spirit lingers,
Like strains of music o'er the quivering shell.

Yes, "fell asleep," — so early quenched life's fever,
So brilliant promise clouded o'er so soon;
Faith, be thou strong; God's purpose faileth never;
Earth had the radiant morning; heaven, the noon.

Man gathers heaps of ore, a grasping miner,
Toiling and burdened through the scorching day,
But sleeps at last; and God, the great Refiner,
Saves all the gold, and melts the dross away.

Yes, " fell asleep," —just as the curious kernel
Of flower-life hides within the rigid grain;
But, with the. warm breath of the season vernal,
It waves luxuriant o'er the fields again.

Yes, "fell asleep," — resting in God's safe keeping.
So hides the worm within his narrow cell,
But bursts his chrysalis, and, heavenward leaping,
Shining, proclaims that God does all things well.

Yes, "fell asleep," — O rest divine, immortal!
Knowing nor pain, nor grief, nor death, nor sin;
Rest that conveys the soul to heaven's high portal,
And bids the weary wanderer enter in.

Yes, "fell asleep," — O mystery past our knowing!
Beyond thick clouds we cannot see the sun;
But patient, trustingly, we wait Heaven's showing,
'Tis God's own hand, — thy will, O Lord, be done.

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