Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Harp of Zion

Book Review: **The Harp of Zion

This is the first book of poetry published by the Church.  It was published in England, by the European Mission in 1853.  The poems were written by John Lyon.  It was published to support the Perpetual Emigration Fund. The book of poetry can be accessed on Google Books.
Thomas Edgar Lyon Jr. wrote an interesting article about the book in BYU Studies 27:1987 "Publishing a Book of Mormon Poetry: The Harp of Zion".
The book was to assist the PEF by selling for more than the cost of printing.  Eventually all the volumes were sold, but only after many were sent to Utah.  It took some time for the Church to recoup its investment.

A couple deserve mention here.  One of these is a poem with regards to the Perpetual Emigration Fund, carrying that name.  I encourages people to donate:

The Perpetual Emigrating Fund.

Come on, ye rich, with all your gifted store;
Give to the poor, and God will give you more!
Your feeling hearts, responsive to His call,
Will find His love and blessing best of all:
Yea, tenfold int’rest on the things you have,
And more than all your charities e’er gave!                 
Why should the rich not help the lab’ring poor?
Both are compell’d to know at mercy’s door!
As well the river scorn the stream and brook
From which it all its swelling greatness took;
Or the great sea retain her liquid store,
Nor give one drop to quench the parched shore;
As wealth withheld accumulated toil,
And say to Poverty,--Starve on the while!
Let richer Saints pour in their glitt’ring gold,
‘Twill pave your way to Zion’s mountain fold!
Ten thousand hearts, with prayerful ardour, seek
The means to live, yet mourn from week to week,
Who could be blest through your beneficence,
To go where labour gains a recompense,
Oh, then! Let love your names in sums record
What you will do for Zion, and the Lord!
Ye poor who labour, learn with pure delight,
How much in value was the widow’s mite!
How farthings multiplied to pence make pounds,
And pounds, to hundreds, thousands—have no bounds!
Till ever Saint reliev’d, and sinner stunned,
Will shout,--LOOK HERE! At this Perpetual Fund!

The author does not have a lot of gathering poems as you would expect, but there are some.   These are a couple examples:

Strike the Lyre

Poor outcasts we, still forced to flee,
By mad sectarians driven,
Condemned, despised, robbed, and reviled,
Without an insult given.
For many years we’ve sown in tears,
Yet, dauntless we’ll remain!
With Ephraim blest, we soon shall rest
So strike the Lyre again, again,
So strike the lyre again.

Song of Zion  (chorus)

Far away from vain strife
There’s a land in the West,
Where our friends live the best,
‘Tis the Valley of Life!

I want to quote a couple more poems I found enjoyable.  One dwells upon helping the poor, but also hits the theme that one needs to develop the means in order to accomplish this:

Practical Religion

With diligence we’ll still pursue
Those acts of grace and mercy due
To toil worn, lab’ring man!
We’ll help the helpless, and secure
The means of life to bless the poor,
And help them all we can.

Cholera was a big killer of the time, not only in England but around the globe.  Poor sanitation conditions were part of the cause.  Cholera was also a culprit along the Pioneer Trail:


What wailing’s this I hear, at home abroad?
A strange foreboding of calamity,
Which all men dread, and few can understand:
At which the vulgar stare, and more profane
Would love to jest it out of countenance.
Yet, still it comes with stealthy, murd’rous step;
The grave and gay, alike before it fall;
The learned seem baffled at its dark approach,
And, as an antidote, propose what might
Have been a sure preventative to some,
If timely given!  But common charity
Must see its haggard victim breed disease;
And when its influence spreads, retire afraid
At what their sins have made! And say ‘tis DEATH!

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