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An Episode of Euthanasia

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 28, 2012

An Episode of Euthanasia

By Joseph Longking Townsend

When Death caressed me with her lingering arms,
And with cool palms stroked oft my beaded brow,
And flashed dark eyes into my nervous sight,
I smiled and welcomed her. Was she not very kind?
Did she not ease the pain that wracked my limbs,
And bid me swoon away in misty dreams
Where all things beautiful entranced my eyes,
And tunes of unborn melodies bid me hear
What joy held in reserve for mortal ears?
Because I had no fear, her arms unclasped;
And, as a queenly-robed, immortal form,
Beautiful beyond all earthly comeliness.
She tarried but a moment to impress
My lingering vision with her loveliness,
And bade me wait till she should come again!




  1. This is fantastic. The image of death as a beautiful and welcoming enchantress hovering over and comforting the pain wracked mortal reminds me of the opening hymn to Venus in Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura (first 150 lines or so of Book 1). There Venus enchantingly, and seductively hovers over and caresses Mars inducing him to cease from the labors of destructive war and yield to peace and procreative love. Lucretius penned this as Rome was descending into another round of civil war. He was holding out the Epicurean gospel of peace and universal friendship to heal the wounds of the state.

    Great stuff, Ardis.

    Comment by oudenos — June 29, 2012 @ 8:49 am

  2. Wonderful, and unexpected, perhaps, from a poet who has ten hymns in our current hymnbook. His range was incredible.

    I hope you have an opportunity, sometime, to mention this Mormon one in connection with your classical poets.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 29, 2012 @ 9:07 am

  3. Lucretius De Rerum Natura 1.31-40

    nam tu sola potes tranquilla pace iuvare
    mortalis, quoniam belli fera moenera Mavors
    armipotens regit, in gremium qui saepe tuum se
    reiicit aeterno devictus vulnere amoris,
    atque ita suspiciens tereti cervice reposta
    pascit amore avidos inhians in te, dea, visus
    eque tuo pendet resupini spiritus ore.
    hunc tu, diva, tuo recubantem corpore sancto
    circum fusa super, suavis ex ore loquellas
    funde petens placidam Romanis, incluta, pacem

    For you alone with tranquil peace are able to give aid to mortals since almighty Mars reigns over the cruel offices of war; he who often casts himself upon your lap, conquered by the eternal wound of love. And so with his smooth neck reclined he feeds on lusty views desiring you, Goddess, and he, of resting soul, hangs from your lips. Goddess, with your divine body poured down round him as his lies, let loose pleasant words from your lips, seeking gentle peace for the Romans, O Glorious One.

    Comment by oudenos — June 29, 2012 @ 9:23 am

  4. Wow, I had no idea this poet was an LDS hymnographer! I am totally ignorant about hymns in general and Townsend specifically. I will need to look at his other hymns to see whether other hints of Lucretius appear. One (probably just I) can only hope!

    Comment by oudenos — June 29, 2012 @ 9:35 am

  5. The Day Dawn is Breaking (#52)
    Nearer, Dear Savior, to Thee (#99)
    Reverently and Meekly Now (#185)
    Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words to Each Other (#232)
    Choose the Right (#239)
    O Thou Rock of Our Salvation (#258)
    Hope of Israel (#259)
    Oh, Holy Words of Truth and Love (#271)
    The Iron Rod (#274)
    Oh What Songs of the Heart (#286)

    Townsend (1849-1942) was educated at the University of Missouri, and came to Utah as a non-member because of the healthy climate and later joined the Church. I don’t know what he studied at UM, but in his day and with his poetic bent, it probably did include classics, wouldn’t you think?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 29, 2012 @ 10:02 am

  6. Yes, I would guess that his education included the classics given, as you point out, the era. It is very likely that he was disciplined in Latin and possibly Greek as well. This would make for a fine little research project!

    Comment by oudenos — June 29, 2012 @ 10:14 am

  7. If the address you leave with your comments is a valid one, you’ve got an email with the citation for this poem. And if you undertake this as a research project and want some help picking up things I might be able to find about Townsend at CHL, let me sign on.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 29, 2012 @ 10:27 am

  8. Tis valid. But I have to confess that a certain writing project that determines my worth in this world hangs over my head currently. So, I probably won’t be able to pursue this line of questioning for a while yet. But, yes, it would be grand to team up for it when opportunity arises!

    Comment by oudenos — June 29, 2012 @ 10:32 am

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