Saturday, May 24, 2008

Lorena - the song

This is considered the most popular song in both North and South during the War years of the 1860s. Its connections here? It was written by Universalist minister Henry Lafayette Webster. Toward the end of Rev Webster's life, he would winter and preach at the Universalist Church in Tarpon Springs.

He was born August 29, 1824 in Oneida County, New York. In those days Oneida County was full of Universalists - He attended the Columbian Institute. He begain preaching in 146, ordained in 1848, serving Paris, New York. He moved to Zanesville Ohio in the Fall of 1848, which is where he met Martha Ellen Blockson "Ella" (1828-1917), who was "small of statue, blue eyes and light blond hair, a sweet singer" and member of the Universalist Church choir. He would walk her home, and they became engaged. The engagment ended in May 1849, at the strong encouragement of her family.

He moved from Zanesville, became a medical doctor - met a song composer and they had Lorena published in 1857. After serving as an Army psychian during the war, he return to the ministry in 1863 - serving until his retirement in 1890 and his death on November 4, 1896.

He married twice, and at his death was survived by three children -- and of course by a lingering haunting song of a long-ago love.


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LORENA
The years creep slowly by, Lorena
The snow is on the grass again
The sun's low down the sky, Lorena
The frost gleams where the flowers have been
But the heart throbs on as warmly now
As when the summer days were nigh
Oh, the sun can never dip so low
A-down affection's cloudless sky.

A hundred months have passed, Lorena
Since last I held that hand in mine
And felt the pulse beat fast, Lorena
Though mine beat faster far than thine
A hundred months...'twas flowery May
When up the hilly slope we climbed
To watch the dying of the day
And hear the distant church bells chime.

We loved each other then, Lorena
More than we ever dared to tell
And what we might have been, Lorena
Had but our loving prospered well
But then, 'tis past, the years have gone
I'll not call up their shadowy forms
I'll say to them, "Lost years, sleep on
Sleep on, nor heed life's pelting storms."

The story of the past, Lorena
Alas! I care not to repeat
The hopes that could not last, Lorena
They lived, but only lived to cheat
I would not cause e'en one regret
To rankle in your bosom now
"For if we try we may forget"
Were words of thine long years ago.

Yes, these were words of thine, Lorena
They are within my memory yet
They touched some tender chords, Lorena
Which thrill and tremble with regret
'Twas not the woman's heart which spoke
Thy heart was always true to me
A duty stern and piercing broke
The tie which linked my soul with thee.

It matters little now, Lorena
The past is in the eternal past
Our hearts will soon lie low, Lorena
Life's tide is ebbing out so fast
There is a future, oh, thank God!
Of life this is so small a part
'Tis dust to dust beneath the sod
But there, up there, 'tis heart to heart.

revisied November 27, 2008

2 comments:

patrickmurfin said...

John Hartford (the banjo player in the video) not withstanding, most folks—at least most old movie fans—will probably remember the beautiful, haunting melody of "Lorena" mostly from its repeated use in some of the great John Ford/John Wayne westerns. Ford had a great ear for this kind of sentimental music. The song showed up in his cavalry trilogy and was a major theme in THE SEARCHERS

SC Universalist said...

ah, it's been decades since I saw the Searchers - I have watched one of Ford's films with Will Rogers recently. Because of it's history, Lorena is done by alot of those Civil War Re-Enchantment bands, and I suspect most folks of a certain age would have heard the song first on Ken Burns' DVD or CD.
Or heard Johnny Cash's early 1970s version.