Monday, March 9, 2009

Shaker Pacifist Hymns and the War

"Dark is the cloud that rests over the nation,
Wild is the war cry that pierces the air.
God's heavy judgments spread wide desolation,
Strong hearts are bound in the depths of despair."

Would you believe this Civil War hymn came to a young girl in a dream? It is true. That girl was Shaker society member Cecilia Devere of New Lebanon, New York who lived from 1836 to 1912. One of the Shaker sisters that roomed with her scribbled this song down after being awoken by Devere singing the song aloud three different times.

This took place in 1862. There would be three more years of war.

Since the Shakers were pacifists they did not participate in battle, but their concern for all parties was apparent and enduring. They hoped to bring peace to the horrific turmoil through prayer and song. Devere's hymn is called "A Prayer for the Captive." I have posted only the first stanza of the song because I cannot, as of yet, find the full hymn. But it's chilling to consider this young pacifist creating a song of such clarity in her sleep, and with a poetic grace and poignancy.

Legend has it that on the day President Lincoln was buried, "A Prayer for the Captive" was sung in every Shaker community with no previous arrangement or understanding. Oooooooo...spooky.

**The painting shown at the top of this post is by 18th century artist Frederic Edwin Church, called "Our Banner in the Sky". Circa 1863. Do you see the banner?

I admire Church's style too much to even explain. Take a look at more of his paintings here. Just type his name into the search bar...and view the wonders he created! Even select some for purchase!

Also, check out my brother-in-law's painting that reminds me of Church's work. Amazing Daniel!


Eva Sutter said...

I learn interesting historical bits here on K.Grace Bears and I really enjoy it. The sincerity of those Shakers is admirable. I'm going to take a look at more of this Church fellow's art. The image you selected couldn't fit better with your theme. A+.

Citizen X said...

This is pretty cool, if you find the full hymn, definitely post it.