For never, since the Son of God was slain/ Had blood so noble, flow’d from human vein

By June 27, 2008

No time for a real post dealing with the martyrdom today, but here’s ERS’s memorial of Joseph Smith’s death.

“And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar, the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.
And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also, and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” Rev. 6:9, 10, 11.

Ye heav’ns attend! Let all the earth give ear!
Let Gods and seraphs, men and angels hear-
The worlds on high-the universe shall know
What awful scenes are acted here below!
Had nature’s self a heart, her heart would bleed;
For never, since the Son of God was slain
Had blood so noble, flow’d from human vein
As that which now, on God for vengeance calls
From “freedom’s ground”-from Carthage prison walls!
Oh! Illinois! thy soil has drank the blood
Of Prophets martyr’d for the truth of God.
Once lov’d America! what can atone
For the pure blood of innocence, thou’st sown?
Were all thy streams in teary torrents shed
To mourn the fate of those illustrious dead;
How vain the tribute, for the noblest worth
That grac’d thy surface, O degraded Earth!
Oh wretched murd’rers! fierce for human blood!
You’ve slain the prophets of the living God,
Who’ve borne oppression from their early youth.
To plant on earth, the principles of truth.
Shades of our patriotic fathers! Can it be,
Beneath your blood stain’d flag of liberty;
The firm supporters of our country’s cause,
Are butcher’d while submissive to her laws?
yes, blameless men, defam’d by hellish lies
have thus been offer’d as a sacrifice
T’appease the ragings of a brutish clan,
That has defied the laws of God and man!
‘Twas not for crime or guilt of theirs, they fell-
Against the laws they never did rebel.
True to their country, yet her plighted faith
Has prov’d an instrument of cruel death!
Where are thy far-fam’d laws-Columbia! where
Thy boasted freedom-thy protecting care?
Is this a land of rights” Stern FACTS shall say
If legal justice here maintains its sway,
The official pow’rs of State are sheer pretence
When they’re exerted in the Saints’ defence.
Great men have fall’n and mighty men have died
Nations have mourn’d their fav’rites and their pride;
But TWO, so wise, so virtuous, great and good,
Before on earth, at once, have never stood
Since the creation-men whom God ordain’d
To publish truth where error long had reigned;
Of whom the world, itself unworthy prov’d:
It KNEW THEM NOT; but men with hatred mov’d
And with infernal spirits have combin’d
Against the best, the noblest of mankind!
Oh persecution! shall thy purple hand
Spread utter destruction through the land?
Shall freedom’s banner be no more unfurled?
Has peace indeed, been taken from the world?
Thou God of Jacob, in this trying hour
Help us to trust in thy almighty pow’r;
Support thy Saints beneath this awful stroke
Make bare thine arm to break oppression’s yoke.
We mourn thy Prophet, from whose lips have flow’d
The words of life, thy spirit has bestow’d-
A depth of thought, no human art could reach
From time to time, roll’d in sublimest speech,
From the celestial fountain, through his mind,
To purify and elevate mankind:
The rich intelligence by him brought forth,
Is like the sun-beam, spreading o’er the earth.
Now Zion mourns-she mourns an earthly head;
The Prophet and Patriarch are dead!
The blackest deed that men or devils know
Since Calv’ry’s scene, has laid the brothers low!
One in their life, and one in death-they prov’d
How strong their friendship-how they truly lov’d;
True to their mission, until death, they stood,
Then seal’d their testimony with their blood.
All hearts with sorrow bleed, and ev’ry eye
Is bath’d in tears-each bosom heaves a sigh-
Hart broken widow’s agonizing groans
Are mingled with the helpless orphans’ moans!
Ye Saints! be still, and know that God is just
With steadfast purpose in his promise trust;
Girded with sackcloth, own his mighty hand,
And with his judgments on this guilty land!
The noble martyrs now have gone to move
The cause of Zion in the courts above.
Nauvoo, July 1, 1844.[1]


[1] Eliza R. Snow, “The Assassination of Gen’ls Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith, First Presidents of the Church of Latter Day Saints; Who were Massacred by a Mob, Hancock County, Ill., on the 27th of June 1844,” Times and Seasons, July 1, 1844, 575.

Article filed under Categories of Periodization: Origins Cultural History From the Archives Memory


  1. Impressive, especially since it was published the fourth day after the martyrdom.

    Comment by Jared T. — June 27, 2008 @ 10:26 am

  2. I’ve always loved this poem, David. In my post a few months back on the martyrdom, I listed four elements I found throughout all the Martyrdom memorial poetry:

    1. The praising of Joseph, specifically comparing him to Christ
    2. The villainousness-nature of the killers.
    3. The impending doom of all those involved, including the nation that allowed it to happen.
    4. The chance to see JS on the other side of the veil, as long as you stay worthy (kind of like a cultural reinforcement for righteous living).

    I think this poem exemplifies all of these points as well as anything else.

    Also, on a less analytical level, I sympathize with her easily perceived anguish for the loss of a beloved leader/friend/husband.

    Comment by Ben — June 27, 2008 @ 11:41 am

  3. Jared, indeed impressive.

    Ben, I agree with your four points. I’m also struck by Snow’s portrayal of JS as not only a Christian martyr, but also an American one.

    Shades of our patriotic fathers! Can it be,
    Beneath your blood stain?d flag of liberty;
    The firm supporters of our country?s cause,
    Are butcher?d while submissive to her laws?

    Comment by David G. — June 27, 2008 @ 12:11 pm

  4. Be sure to also check out Blair’s martyrdom post at Life on Gold Plates.

    Comment by David G. — June 27, 2008 @ 12:13 pm

  5. Thanks for this—for remembering to commemorate and for posting the poem, which I’ve somehow managed to have never read before.

    Comment by Edje — June 27, 2008 @ 12:58 pm

  6. A nice work, as mentioned, only 4 days later. I am also very partial to The Seer, a wonderful song, and I wish I had a recording of it. Last I heard it was during a session of the Nauvoo Temple dedication.

    Comment by BHodges — June 27, 2008 @ 1:39 pm

  7. David: Maybe JS’s head should be found on Mt. Rushmore 🙂

    Comment by Ben — June 27, 2008 @ 3:55 pm

  8. Just stopping by to let you all know that I am a big fan of your blog. Keep up the good work. BTW, thanks for the link to our group blog (American Creation). I’ll get with our blog moderator so that we can return the favor.

    Comment by Brad Hart — June 27, 2008 @ 8:09 pm

  9. Thanks for stopping by, Brad, and nice Market Revolution post. Thanks for linking to us as well.

    Comment by David G. — June 27, 2008 @ 10:57 pm

  10. It’s interesting how much of that language shows up in later tributes–the notion that no one since Jesus was nobler, the blood-stained ground of Illinois, etc. John Taylor takes several phrases verbatim for “Oh, Give Me Back My Prophet Dear”, which also follows the narrative trajectory of this poem (in large strokes, anyway.)

    Thanks for putting this up, David. I think we need a poet laureate for the church, someone to churn out rhyming words for ceremonial occasions–all our press releases could be sestinas or something.

    Comment by Kristine — June 28, 2008 @ 12:14 am

  11. Kristine, agreed. All the early memorials to JS seem to be playing off of each other, at least broadly as you suggest. We really need a good study of Mormon poetry in general but of the martyrdom in particular. Maybe Ben can expand his work into something.

    Having an official church poet woud be awesome.

    Comment by David G. — June 28, 2008 @ 1:21 pm

  12. Hmmm. Having good Mormon poetry PERIOD would be awesome. The _Ensign_ no longer publishes poetry (but so much of what they did publish was really maudlin–sorry). We have so many excellent poets in the Church, but given the breadth of educational levels in Mormon readership, would an “official” poet have to write beneath his/her abilities? Stegner had little respect for Eliza R. Snow’s abilities. I would love to see Philip White (I’m not sure he’s still LDS) publish religious poetry. I love Lance Larsen, Susan Howe, Emma Lou Thayne and so many others. But the time of having an “official” poet is long past, I’m afraid.

    Comment by Margaret Young — June 28, 2008 @ 2:45 pm

  13. I very much admire the work of Philip White, but I thought he was LDS (although I have not read any religious undertones in his work)? I’ve known his family, which is how I got turned on to his poetry, through church, though.

    Comment by May — July 4, 2008 @ 5:09 pm


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