Sunday, October 21, 2018

Vital spark of heavenly flame

In the end of Edmund Shackleford’s obituary the writer made a brief reference to a poem by Alexander Pope. That poem, set to music by Samuel Temple and David Merrill in 1799, is known as Vital Spark or Claremont in The Sacred Harp, 2012 Cooper Edition (P. 245).

Here are the lyrics:
Vital spark of heav’nly flame,
Quit, O! quit this mortal frame;
Trembling, hoping, ling’ring, flying.
O the pain, the bliss of dying!

Cease, fond nature, cease thy strife,
And let me languish into life,
Hark! they whisper; angels say,
Sister spirit, come away.

What is this absorbs me quite—
Steals my senses, shuts my sight?
Drowns my spirit, draws my breath?
Tell me, my soul, can this be death?

The world recedes, it disappears,
Heav’n opens on my eyes,
My ears with sounds seraphic ring,
Lend, lend your wings! I mount! I fly!
O grave, where is thy victory?
O death, where is thy sting?

Here is the tune:

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