The Old Psalm Tune by Harriet Beecher Stowe

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Puritan Board Doctor
This poem expresses just how I feel about old psalm tunes sung by plain people in the worship of God. All the more fitting is the fact that it is in common meter. :)

The Old Psalm Tune by Harriet Beecher Stowe

You asked, dear friend, the other day,
Why still my charmed ear
Rejoiceth in uncultured tone
That old psalm tune to hear?

I've heard full oft, in foreign lands,
The grand orchestral strain,
Where music's ancient master's live,
Revealed on earth again,--

Where breathing, solemn instruments,
In swaying clouds of sound,
Bore up the yearning, tranced soul,
Like silver wings around;--

I've heard in old St. Peter's dome,
Where clouds of incense rise
Most ravishing the choral swell
Mount upwards to the skies.

And well I feel the magic power,
When skilled and cultured art
Its cunning webs of sweetness weaves
Around the captured heart.

But yet, dear friend, though rudely sung,
That old psalm tune hath still
A pulse of power beyond them all
My inmost soul to thrill

Those halting tones that sound to you,
Are not the tones I hear;
But voices of the loved and lost
There meet my longing ear.

I hear my angel mother's voice,--
Those were the words she sung;
I hear my brother's ringing tones,
As once on earth they rung;

And friends that walk in white above
Come round me like a cloud,
And far above those earthly notes
Their singing sounds aloud.

There may be discord as you say;
Those voice poorly ring;
But there's no discord in the strain
Those upper spirits sing.

For they who sing are of the blest,
The calm and glorified,
Whose hours are one eternal rest
On heaven's sweet floating tide.

Their life is music and accord;
Their souls and hearts keep time
In one sweet concert with the Lord,--
One concert vast, sublime.

And through the hymns they sang on earth
Sometimes a sweetness falls
On those they loved and left below,
And softly homeward calls,--

Bells from our own dear fatherland
Borne trembling o'er the sea,--
The narrow sea that they have crossed,
The shores where we shall be.

O sing, sing on, beloved souls!
Sing cares and griefs to rest;
Sing, till entranced we arise
To join you 'mong the blest.

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Puritanboard Librarian
Thomas Hardy, Apostrophe to an Old Psalm Tune:

I met you first--ah, when did I first meet you?
When I was full of wonder, and innocent,
Standing meek-eyed with those of choric bent,
While dimming day grew dimmer
In the pulpit-glimmer.

Much riper in years I met you--in a temple
Where summer sunset streamed upon our shapes,
And you spread over me like a gauze that drapes,
And flapped from floor to rafters,
Sweet as angels' laughters.

But you had been stripped of some of your old vesture
By Monk, or another. Now you wore no frill,
And at first you startled me. But I knew you still,
Though I missed the minim's waiver,
And the dotted quaver.

I grew accustomed to you thus. And you hailed me
Through one who evoked you often. Then at last
Your raiser was borne off, and I mourned you had passed
From my life with your late outsetter;
Till I said, "'Tis better!"

But you waylaid me. I rose and went as a ghost goes,
And said, eyes-full "I'll never hear it again!
It is overmuch for scathed and memoried men
When sitting among strange people
Under their steeple."

Now, a new stirrer of tones calls you up before me
And wakes your speech, as she of Endor did
(When sought by Saul who, in disguises hid,
Fell down on the earth to hear it)
Samuel's spirit.

So, your quired oracles beat till they make me tremble
As I discern your mien in the old attire,
Here in these turmoiled years of belligerent fire
Living still on--and onward, maybe,
Till Doom's great day be!

Sunday, August 13, 1916.
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