There is no death ; the common end
Vision of the Author of "Home, Sweet Home", and Origin of the Song
John Howard Payne, the author of the beautiful and most popular of all our English ballads, was a most unfortunate man ; he was not only poor, but a homeless wanderer. In conversation with a friend, he once gave the following sad recital:—
“ How often have I been in the heart of Paris, Berlin, and London, or some other city, and heard persons playing ‘Sweet Home,’ without a shilling to buy the next meal, or a place to lay my head. The world has literally sung my song until every heart is familiar with its melody. Yet I have been a wanderer from my boyhood. My country -has turned me ruthlessly from office, and in my old age I have to submit to humiliation for bread."
He had given the most exact and beautiful expression of the heart’s emotion regarding home, and yet personally he was a stranger to all its tender and loving influences. A wanderer and sometimes a vagabond, he had moved the human heart to its very depths by his exquisite lines.
Disgusted with his treatment in his own country, and still impelled by his disposition to roam, his only wish was to die in a foreign land, to be buried by strangers, and sleep in obscurity. He obtained an appointment as United States Consul at Tunis, where he died.
We now return to a period antecedent to the composition of his song. A t times he was greatly depressed, and seemed to feel most acutely his utter loneliness. One day a friend called to see him, and, on entering, said,—
“ How are you to-day, Payne ?”
“ Downhearted enough,” was the reply; “ but last night I had one of the most glorious visions in a dream that ever met mortal eye.”
“ Ah, indeed, what was it ?”
“ Well, I will tell you. I suppose you think it was a scene of vast wealth, of a palace, or something else of that kind that man’s desires are most set upon. It was nothing of the sort. I don't often have dreams, but when I do they impress me greatly. In this dream I saw a scene of roost transcendent rural peacefulness and beauty. It was all that poet and painter could imagine. The landscape was composed of gently rolling hills, and sweet still valleys, and meandering streams. There were flowers and birds, crops, flocks, and herds. In the midst of all this stood various habitations of man, where I saw happy men, women, and children, and heard pleasant voices, laughter, music, and song.”
“ Truly a beautiful picture of human domestic contentment,” said the friead.
“ The life-long imagery of my brain,” cried the poet, “of ‘ Home, Sweet Home.’ Ah, how my soul revelled in the picture 1 But gradually it faded from my sight I was transfixed. I strained my vision to catch its outlines as they, (row fainter and fainter; but at last it had faded entirely away. I then looked up, and saw a great cloud gathering, which grew dark and terrible. ‘Ah !’ said I, ‘that cloud is significant of my own lot.’ A s I said these words, I saw traced upon it, in burning letters, those words of the Almighty to another miserable man :—
‘A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth !'
In terror I recognized my doom, and awoke to find it both a dream and a reality.”
The unhappy man buried his face in his hands, and seemed in the deepest misery.
“ A very wonderful dream,” said his companion.
“ Well, do you know w hat I intend to do ?” said Payne, looking up. “ I ’ll tell you. I’ve been thinking a great deal over this matter, and I intend to write a song called and about ‘Home, Sweet Home.’ The picture of my dream shall be my aspiration for the task, and my lonely heart can well give touching pathos to my words."
Not long after, the song of “ Home, Sweet Home” was given to the world by John Howard Payne. The dream is more especially recalled by the closing verse :—
“An exile from home, pleasure dazzles in vain ;
|Home, Sweet Home|
by John Howard Payne
An Oriental Trance Medium
The following interesting narrative is some three-and-twenty centuries old, and is to be found in “ Plato's Republic ” Book x., c. 16.
I will tell you the story of a brave man (Erus), the son of Armenius, by descent a Pamphylian, who happening on a time to die in battle, when the dead were on the tenth day carried off, already corrupted, was taken up sound ; and being carried home, as he was about to be buried on the twelfth day, when laid on the funeral pile, revived ; and being revived he told what he saw in the other state, and said, after the soul left the body, it went with many others, and that they came to a certain mysterious, hallowed place, where there were two chasms in the earth, near to each other, and two other openings in the heavens opposite to them, and that the judges sat between these; that when they gave judgment they commanded the just to go on the right hand and upwards through the heaven, having fitted marks on the front of those that had been judged; but the unjust they commanded to the left, and downwards, and these likewise had behind them marks of all that they had done. But when he came before the judges, they said he ought to be a messenger to men concerning things there, and they commanded him to hear and contemplate everything therein; and that he saw there through two openings, one of the heaven and one of the earth the souls departing, after they were there judged; and through the other two openings he saw, rising through the one out of the earth, souls full of squalidness and dust; and through the other, be saw other souls descending pure from, heaven; and that on their arrival from time to time they seemed as if they came from a long journey, and that they gladly went to rest themselves in the meadow, as in a public assembly, and such as were acquainted saluted one another, and those who rose out of the earth asked the others concerning the things above, and those from heaven asked them concerning the things below, and that they told one another, — those wailing and weeping, while they called to mind what and how many things they suffered and saw in their journey under the earth (for it was a journey of a thousand years); and that these, again, from heaven explained their enjoyments, and spectacles of amazing beauty.
To narrate many of them, Glaucon, would occupy much time; but this, he said, was the same, that whatever just actions a man had committed, and whatever injuries a man had committed, they were punished for all these separately tenfold ; and that it was in each, according to the rate of a hundred years— the life of man being considered as so long—that they might suffer tenfold punishment for the injustice they had done ; so that if any had been the cause of many deaths, either by betraying cities or armies, or bringing men into slavery, or being confederates in any other wickedness for each of all these they reaped tenfold sufferings; and if
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again, they had benefited any by good deeds, and had been just and holy, they were rewarded according to their deserts. Of those who died very young, and lived but a little time, he related other things not worth mentioning; but of impiety and piety towards the gods and parents, and of suicide, he told the more remarkable retributions. . . . . . . .
After they arrive here it is necessary for them to go direct to Lachesis. Then a certain prophet first of all ranges them in order, and afterwards taking the lots, and the models of lives, from the knees of Lachesis, and ascending a lofty tribunal, he says :— “ The speech of the Virgin Lachesis, the daughter of Necessity : Souls of a day ! The beginning of another period of men of mortal race. The demon shall not receive you as his lot, but you shall choose the demon ; he who draws the first, let him first make choice of a life, to which he must of necessity adhere. Virtue is independent, of which everyone shall partake, more or less, according as he honors or dishonors her : the cause is in him who makes the choice, and the Deity is blameless.” When he had said these things, he threw the lots on all of them, and each took up the one which fell beside him, except himself, for he was not permitted ; and when each had taken it, he knew what number he had drawn. After this he placed on the ground before them the models of lives, many more than those we see at present: and they were all various, for there was lives of all sorts of animals, and human lives of every kind : and among these there were tyrannies also, some of them perpetual, and others destroyed in the midst of their greatness, and ending in poverty, banishment, and want. There were also lives of renowned men, some for their appearance as to beauty, strength and agility ; and others for their descent, and the virtues of their ancestors. There were the lives of renowned women in the same manner. But there was no disposition of soul among these models, because of necessity, on choosing a different life, it becomes different itself. As to other things, riches and poverty, sickness and health, they are mixed with one another, and some were in a middle station between these.
At that time, therefore, the messenger from the other world further told how that the prophet spoke thus :— “ Even to him who comes last, if he chooses with judgment, and lives consistently, there is prepared a desirable life, and by no means bad. Let neither him who is first be negligent in his choice, nor let him that is last, despair.”
Of the water of Lethe all of them must necessarily drink a certain quantity, and such as are not kept by prudence drink more than they ought, and he who from time to time drinks forgets everything. And, after they were laid asleep, and midnight was approaching, there was thunder and an earthquake, and they were thence on a sudden carried upwards, some one way and some another, approaching to generation like stars. And he himself was forbidden to drink of the water. Where, however, and in what manner he came into his body, he was entirely ignorant, but suddenly looking up in the morning, he saw himself already laid on the funeral pile.