Monday, November 11, 2013

"A Small Spark of Deity": An 1846 Poem from John Taylor

I recently found a poem that I think is a particularly beautiful one.  It was written by John Taylor (later the third President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) for and to a New York City woman named Abby Jane Hart.  The poem ("Lines, Written in the Album of Miss Abby Jane Hart, of New York City") is dated 5 September 1846, and it was printed in The Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star 8/11 (19 December 1846): 178-179.  The poem is as follows, and I think it illustrates some interesting tendencies in Latter-day Saint thought:

Abby: Knowest thou whence thou camest? Thine
Origin? Who thou art? What? and whither
Thou art bound? A crysolis of yesterday:
To-day a gaudy fluttering butterfly –
A moth; to-morrow crushed, and then an end
Of thee. Is this so? And must thou perish
Thus, and die ingloriously without a
          Ah, no; thou'rt no such thing. Thou in the
Bosom of thy Father bask'd, and liv'd, and
Mov'd thousands of years ago. Yes, e'er this
Mundane sphere from chaos sprung, or sun, or
Moon, or stars, or world was fram'd: before the
Sons of God for joy did shout, or e'er the
Morning stars together sung – thou liv'dst.
          Thou liv'dst to live again. Ah, no! thou liv'd
But to continue life eternal – to
Live, and move, and act eternally. Yes;
Long as a spirit, God, or world exists;
From everlasting, eternal, without end.
And whilst thou dwelt in thy paternal home,
And with thy brethren shar'd extatic bliss,
All that a spirit could not cloth'd in flesh,
Thou through the vista of unnumbered years
Saw'st through the glimmering veil that thou would'st
Dwell in flesh – just as the Gods.
                                              Tread in the
Footsteps of thine elder brother, Jesus –
The “Prince of Peace,” for whom a body was
             Thou heard; thou look'd; thou long'd; thou pray'd;
Thou hop'd for this. At length it came; and thou
Appear'd on this terraqueous ball,
Body and spirit; a living soul, forth
From the hands of Eloheim – eternal
As himself – part of thy God. A small spark
Of Deity struck from the fire of his
Eternal blaze.
                 Thou came! thou came to live! Of life thou art
A living monument; to it thou still
Dost cling eternal life. To thee all else
Are straw, and chaff, and bubbles light as air;
And will be all, until thou gain once more
Thy Father's breast; rais'd, quicken'd, immortal;
Body, spirit, all: a God among the
Gods forever blest.
                          Abby: and hast thou dared to launch thy
Fragile barque on truth's tempestuous sea;
To meet the pelting storm, and proudly brave
The dangers of the raging main; and through
The rocks, and shoals, and yawning gulphs, pursue
The nearest way to life, in hopes that thou
Would'st speedy gain a seat among the Gods?
          Seest thou the multitudes who sail in
Gilded barques, and gently float along the
Silvery stream? Downward they go with sweet
Luxurious ease, and scarce a zephyr moves
The tranquil bosom of the placid stream.
Unconscious of the greatness of the prize
They might obtain, they glide along in peace;
And as they never soar aloft, nor mount
On eagle's wings, nor draw aside the veil
Of other worlds, they know none else than this –
No other joys. They dream away their life,
And die forgot. Just as the butterfly
They gaily flutter on: to-day they live –
To-morrow are no more.
                                  And though, like thee,
In them is the eternal spark; thousands
Of weary years must roll along e'er they
Regain the prize they might with thee have shar'd.
Regain it? Never! No! They may come where
Thou wert, but never can they with thee share
Extatic bliss.
                  For whilst in heaven's progressive
Science skill'd, thou soard'st from world to world, clad
In the robes of bright seraphic light; and
With thy God, eternal – onward goest, a
Priestess and a queen – reigning and ruling in
The realms of light. Unlike the imbeciles
Who dared not brook the scorn of men, and knew not
How to prize eternal life.
                         Abby: the cup's within thy reach; drink thou
The vital balm and live.

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