Wendell Berry is a writer who lives in Kentucky probably not too far from where I live. I do not remember exactly where I tripped over his work but I am currently reading his novel Hannah Coulter which is a story about a farm matron and growing up, farming, marrying, getting widowed and living life in Port William during the mid to last years of the last century. Port William is a mythical place but may have been a real place at one time along the Ohio river near what is now Carrollton. There are a few facilities that bear the name Port William.
There is a very touching – to me – scene in one part of the book where an older member of the community group plays the hymn Abide with Me on his fiddle one evening. The hymn was written approximately one hundred years before the scene in the book takes place. I reproduce the lyrics here. Like many old hymns there seems to be several slightly altered versions. These lyrics come from England. The spirituality is very strong regardless of your religious bent.
Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;
the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide:
when other helpers fail and comforts flee,
help of the helpless, O abide with me.
I need thy presence every passing hour;
what but thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless;
ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s dark sting? where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.
Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies;
heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
These words were originally written by Henry Francis Lyte who passed away in 1847. The words still convey a powerful prayer of want and hope. Stand with me Lord, abide with me. I have no where else to turn except to you. We are here for a short time. Stand with me while I am here.
Powerful. Carpe Diem.