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Angel Whisperings to the Dying Child

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 18, 2013

Angel Whisperings to the Dying Child

By Eliza R. Snow

Darling, we are waiting for thee,
Hasten, now:
Go with us, where wreaths are twining
For thy brow.

In the innocence of childhood,
Thou wilt be
Hail’d with gentle shouts of welcome,
And of glee.

Joyous cherubs wait thy coming
Up above;
Ready now to crown and bless thee
With their love.

Loved one, haste – delay no longer –
With us go
From a clime that intermingles
Joy and woe.

Go with us to heav’nly arbors,
Deck’d with flow’rs;
Where ambrosial fragrance, streaming,
Fills the bow’rs.

Thou art pure – by earth’s corruptions
Undefiled;
From the ills of life we’ll take thee,
Sinless child.

Friends will mourn, but this bereavement
They’ll endure,
Knowing that their cherished darling
Is secure.

Like a rosebud yet unopen’d,
Thou shalt bloom;
Where no blight shall mar thy freshness,
And perfume.

Child, we’re waiting now to bear thee
To our home,
Full of life – of love and beauty,
Darling, come.

(1869)



11 Comments »

  1. I don’t know how to react to this poem. On the one hand, I view it as a beautiful expression of love and compassion by the author — an attempt to describe the beauty of the afterlife. On the other, it strikes me as the rhetorical equivalent of the unhelpful saying, “I’m sure they’re in a better place now.” Hmm.

    Eh, I’ll give Sister Eliza the benefit of the doubt and choose to view the piece less as a didactic attempt, and more in the way I might view a painting with winged angels — maybe the wings aren’t literal, but the angels sure are beautiful to behold!

    Or maybe I’m running on too few hours of sleep and am a bit on the cranky side today.

    Comment by David Y. — June 18, 2013 @ 2:55 pm

  2. I come down on the eerie side — angels luring a child (“want some celestial candy, little girl?”) — but I’ll be happy to give her the benefit of the doubt, too.

    You realize, I hope, that I don’t endorse all the poetry here as being great — I’m just offering a sample of what we have produced.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 18, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

  3. Oh good, I’m glad I’m not the only one who looked mildly askance at this one.

    Comment by David Y. — June 18, 2013 @ 4:34 pm

  4. To me, awesomely beautiful and I would think comforting to the parents

    Comment by Kris — June 18, 2013 @ 10:18 pm

  5. I once saw an old photograph of a Spring City cemetery filled with closely-spaced small wooden markers, to my eye unmistakable evidence of an infant mortality rate difficult to imagine today. That photograph provided a new context for me to think about parenthood and family relations in Utah during the mid-1900’s.

    On another note, I wonder if Sister Snow was thinking of La Vita Nuova. This poem certainly echoes some of the thoughts there. And the use of an angel’s voice seems original and powerful. Can anyone think of another similar example of verse on this theme?

    Comment by Stephen Taylor — June 18, 2013 @ 11:32 pm

  6. I realize that the mid-1900s seem like ancient history to many, but there are some readers of this blog whose births occurred during those decades–when infant mortality rates were very low. I think, Stephen, that you meant the 1800s.

    Comment by Mark B. — June 19, 2013 @ 5:56 am

  7. If I remember correctly, Sister Snow wrote poems for specific events, often a new one for the funeral of a friend. Maybe this is for someone she knew well enough to know what would comfort them. Maybe their child is slowly dying but in a lot of pain. It is like a pretty angel with wings.

    Comment by Carol — June 19, 2013 @ 9:19 am

  8. This one doesn’t appeal to me particularly, but I have little doubt it spoke to Victorian-era readers. And I’m glad that some of you (Kris first) dared speak up and say you liked it — I don’t ever want to squelch anybody’s honest expression of like or dislike of the old Mormon lit posted here just because I’ve already expressed my own opinion.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 19, 2013 @ 9:51 am

  9. Mark B., you are so correct.

    Comment by Stephen Taylor — June 19, 2013 @ 10:17 am

  10. In Eliza: The Life and Faith of Eliza R. Snow it says that this poem was written “after a severe winter in Utah Territory that resulted in much childhood disease and death.”

    I liked the poem. Several of my friends have had a young child die and for them it brought comfort to think of angels or loved ones waiting to greet and accompany their child.

    Comment by Chocolate on my Cranium — June 19, 2013 @ 12:01 pm

  11. Yes, the poem was almost certainly intended to bring comfort to parents of a dying child. As a father of three, I can’t imagine anything worse than having to endure the death of one of my kids. My comments were not aimed at that sentiment, at all.

    Rather, I was responding to the notion in the poem that heavenly beings might be speeding up death (“hasten,” “delay no longer,” and “go with us”). It might be my completely idiosyncratic view, but I just don’t know that it’s a great thing to propound the theory that heavenly beings are in the business of death. (And what of the poor children who struggle on and on in pain, dying, but having to endure endless suffering?)

    Still, I recognize that this is an extremely sensitive subject, and I repeat that I would never want to be in the place of a parent watching their tender child dying. [sigh]

    Comment by David Y. — June 19, 2013 @ 1:08 pm

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