Happy Birthday Julia Ward Howe

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Julia Ward Howe was born May 27th 1819.  Abolitionist, advocate for social justice in general and womens’ suffrage in particular.  Best remembered as the author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” which are lyrics she penned to the already popular song  “John Brown’s Body”.

The John Brown song was a collection of often bawdy verses cobbled together by Union soldiers.  John Brown is the famous abolitionist who was captured at Harpers Ferry in his attempt to raise the slaves of Virginia to rebellion.  He was hanged for treason.  On the day of his hanging he wrote prophetically:

I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away; but with Blood. I had, as I now think, vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed it might be done.”

Folk history holds that there was also a Union sergeant by the name of John Brown, and you can guess what kind of verses are assigned to a sergeant by troopers.  So the market was rife for a cleaned up version of an already popular song.

John Browns Body actually began life as a hymn.  In the Christian meeting of the 19th and 19th century “Call and Response” hymns were popular games, and the faithful could add their own verses to a framework.  “Glory, Glory Hallelujah” remained the heart of this song.  It began life as “Oh Brothers will you meet me, on Canaan’s happy shore.”

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;

He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;

He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:

His truth is marching on.

 

(Chorus)

Glory, Glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

His truth is marching on.

 

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,

they have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;

I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:

His day is marching on.

 

(Chorus)

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

His day is marching on.

 

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:

“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal”;

Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,

Since God is marching on.

 

(Chorus)

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Since God is marching on.

 

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;

He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat;

Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! Be jubilant, my feet!

Our God is marching on.

 

(Chorus)

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Our God is marching on.

 

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,

with a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.

As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,

While God is marching on.

 

(Chorus)

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

While God is marching on.

Happy Birthday Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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Elizabeth Barrett was a slave to misfortune.  A prolific poet as a child she developed head and spinal pain that she carried with her most of her life.  She took laudanum for the pain and effectively became an opium addict.  Later in life she also developed lung problems which were possibly TB.

When she fell in love and married Robert Browning, six years her junior, she was disinherited by her father.  But the father disinherited all his children who married.

The family fortune came from West Indian Sugar Plantations, which relied on slavery.  EBB was fiercely anti-slavery and wrote anti-slavery poetry.

Her output of work is enormous and she was highly popular in her own lifetime.  He popularity was transatlantic as she was also a hit in the USA.  She was one of the rockstar poets of the Victorian era.   When Robert Browning met her she was the famous poet, not he.  At one point she was mooted as Poet Laureate, a post that fell to Tennyson.

Born this day in 1806.

Sonnet 38: by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

First time he kissed me, he but only kissed
the fingers of this hand wherewith I write;
And ever since, it grew more clean and white,
slow to world-greetings, quick with its ‘Oh, list,’
when the angels speak. A ring of amethyst
I could not wear here, plainer to my sight,
than that first kiss. The second passed in height
the first, and sought the forehead, and half missed,
half falling on the hair. O beyond meed!
That was the chrism of love, which love’s own crown,
with sanctifying sweetness, did precede.
The third upon my lips was folded down
in perfect, purple state; since when, indeed,
I have been proud and said, ‘My love, my own.’