Saturday, February 22, 2014

Parable of Immortality by Henry Van Dyke

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
 Then, someone at my side says, "There, she is gone"
 Gone where?
 Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.
 Her diminished size is in me -- not in her.
And, just at the moment when someone says, "There, she is gone,"
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!"

I keep collecting bits of really beautiful and moving poetry and scripture at funerals.  The above poem was read at the funeral of a friend's grandfather this morning.  I liked the imagery and hope, and thought it was a comforting way to describe the pain and loss of death.

Henry Van Dyke was also the author of the English words to the hymn version of Beethoven's Ode to Joy, Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee.

Interestingly, when I looked for the poem on line, I couldn't find any information on when it was written or where it was published.  I saw it as prose as well, not in poem form.  It was also simply titled "I was standing on the seashore."  And it had two additional endings:

And that is dying...

and then this tacked on as well:

Death comes in its own time, in its own way.
Death is as unique as the individual experiencing it.

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