Bri Colorful

Posts Tagged ‘history

Among the most precious gifts I received this Christmas, is a binder full to burst of memoirs, testimonies, old photographs, life histories, etc. of ancestors from both sides of my family tree (up to my great, great, great grandparents). The gift was inspired and drawn from work my aunt Mardi did on my maternal line this past year; my angel mother added to and organized further research for each of her grown up children.


Tonight, for Family Home Evening, we decided to read about my paternal great, great, great grandfather, Alfred Henry Atkinson, born in 1849. His parents were converts from England; his father the branch president at Middlesex. We learned that they sailed to America in 1855.

My husband recalled to me that he had helped design a website at BYU called Mormon Migration about converts who voyaged to America. You can look up voyages by ancestor name, location, ship name, or dates. We quickly found our ancestors names listed among those who sailed on the Chimborazo from Liverpool to Philadelphia in 1855. I browsed through the different voyage accounts and read a few of them, including the account kept by the ship historian, Elder William G. Mills. I was touched by his account of the rapture the saints felt at leaving their homeland for a life full of promise, hearts so full they were singing. I was especially impressed by the hymn he wrote during the voyage.

When on our Mother Earth we trod
And oft admired her gorgeous robe;
When wandering thru life’s varied scene
At will upon the solid globe;
The goodness of our God we knew
And felt the power of His command;
We praised and loved His holy name
And owned this providential hand.

Thus now when on the watery sphere
When every wave is crowned with foam;
The Chimborazo’s “wooden walls”
Our temporary floating home;
With horizon of sky and sea
That circumscribes us like a ring.
We see the kindness of our God,
We feel the power of ocean’s king.

Then let our numerous voices blend
In songs of deepest gratitude
To him, whose hand controls the sea,
And guides us over the briny flood,
He claims our praise, so let us be
Humbly obedient to his word,
Be faithful now and evermore
To gain all blessings from our Lord.

May we still feel his favouring hand
While traveling over the trackless deep;
The winds in storms and gushing sound
or calmly over nature sleep
God bless our worthy president
The council, president & Saints,
The noble captain, mates and crew
And may we have no just complaints [p.11]

Oh! May we live as Saints should live
our walk & conversation good;
As living testimonies to
The gospel covenant received
Be cheerful Saints all will be well
Angels watch over our gallant ship;
And for the power that brings us thru
Let it be heard from every lip.

As I read on about Alfred and his wife, Mathilda’s lives, I marveled at how they took hardship in stride. They seem to have had no expectations that their lives would be free from trial, that their needs would be met. They took in so many people (at different times both of their mothers – They built an add-on to their home for Mathilda’s mother-in-law and her four young children when Alfred’s father died of cancer and in Mathilda’s own words: “There was never a cross word spoken between them” – not in all 19 of the years she lived with them before she passed away.) They probably thought their lives unremarkable, but I stand in awe of their patient acceptance of life as it came to them. There was little to romanticize about their lives but the way Mathilda writes and historian W.G. Mills writes…. it is just so obvious that they were grateful for every moment of joy and peace; they knew how to drink it in. They knew that life was beautiful. I am proud to know them, prouder still to be descended from them, and I yearn to know them better.


So we have the enlightenment, the French Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution (and a move to the cities) and then suddenly we get the romantic movement with their focus on nature and imagination.

Then much later on we have great strides in technology in the 20th century and the creation of all these new appliances and then we get the hippie movement. Ironic that many hippies read William Blake’s (romantic poet) poetry. It’s the push and pull of reason and emotion, technology and nature, objective and subjective.

My experience with the Sublime

We’ve been studying William Wordsworth’s poetry in a couple of my classes. Wordsworth is one of the prime romantic poets. By romantic poet, we’re not talking about someone who wrote a bunch of sappy sonnets. Romanticism was born as a reaction to the revolutionary (political and technological) milieu of the late 18th century and is an artistic genre (sometimes described more as a pervasive feeling) in which artists questioned the epistemology of everything and limitations of reason and imagination. Romantic artists focused on the sublime, intuition, nature and imagination as legitimate, even superior, ways of thinking about the world.

In Digital Civilizations we were asked to read some articles that connected his poem Tintern Abbey* to the sublime. Romantic Poets had a preoccupation with the sublime power of  nature and Wordsworth was no exception.  His Lyrical Ballads seek to answer the questions of epistemology (where does our knowledge come from) and universal human suffering. Tintern Abbey, the last minute insertion at the end of Lyrical Ballads does just that.

Tintern Abbey has a push and pull feel to it. The speaker goes back and forth between the power of his childhood memories of nature and the fear that he will loose those memories and no longer have this connection to nature. His fear is legitimate because to Wordsworth nature and the sublime is the beginning and the end of knowledge and the answer to suffering. Nature leads us “from joy to joy: for she can so inform/ the mind that is within us, so impress/ with quietness and beauty, and so feed/ with lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,/ rash judgements, nor the sneers of selfish men/ . . . shall e’er prevail against us, or disturb/ our cheerful faith that all which we behold is full of blessings.” This is his description of the sublime, the effect that nature has upon us. Nature is the foundation of both joy and knowledge; it can remind us of our infinite blessings and fill us with faith.

Katherine Hales has compared the sublimity of nature in Tintern Abbey to that felt in awe of the internet on her blog. I cannot say that I fully agree with her argument that the internet can be the sublime for us in the same way that nature was sublime for Wordsworth. She writes “In [the internet] we can find this same kind of power to influence our thoughts and actions that Wordsworth experiences in nature, if only we make the effort to see it. The internet is incredibly grand and powerful, uncontrollable, and both intimately connected with and utterly separate from ourselves. It is a perfect example of the sublime.”

This slot canyon filled me with awe for the sublimity of nature.

We create meta data and organizational tools to try to organize and tame the internet. By doing so we destroy nothing about the internet: it was created by man, for man. But as much as we try to tame the wild, we cannot. We can shape and farm and create highways through and cities over but we cannot truly tame Nature.  When we do, we destroy the inherent wildness and beauty of nature. We have not yet mastered the ocean. We can do many things to get around and over it; we have mapped much of it; but we cannot organize and tag its components and I believe therein lies the difference. The sublimity of nature is incomprehensible. The internet is still within the scope and boundaries of man to understand.

*The full name of the poem is “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798.

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