Whispering under the floorboards… send out the sun.

In my most recent job, I replaced a rotten sill on an old New England house. Since I’m not the one with claustrophobia, my job was to crawl into the crawlspace, through an opening too small for inhalation. What did the sill look like? It didn’t take long to decide. A very, very bad decking installation under a standing-seam eave meant that all the roof’s water was redirected into the wall and onto the sill. A solid old 6×6 sill had been reduced to mulch.

But while I was under there, I saw some very old fragments of a newspaper still glued to the bottom of the building’s old hemlock or pine floorboards. There was just a slender scrap left. All the rest had fallen off and disintegrated in the dirt of the crawlspace. I carefully pulled off the remaining fragments and brought them, perhaps for the first time in a hundred years, into the light of the sun. We had all wondered how old the building was – when it was built.  Anything that might have identified the paper itself, or the date, was gone. Some other scraps hinted at news from New York or Boston. But here was the fragment of a poem – a little clue.

The fragment praises the sun. How quieting to think that a song like this had been hidden away in a dank darkness for so long.

Send out the sunlight it sings again and again.

So, as a kind of gift to this little fragment, here is some sunlight (and as a gift to the song’s author, surely long since received by a different kind of light).

Send out the sunlight! ’tis needed on earth,
…                                       afar in scintillant mirth
…     more than gold in its wealth-giving worth!

And it’s last words before it vanishes…

…send out the sun…

There will surely be some librarians among my readers. Take a look. If you ever discover the name of the poem or the author, leave a comment. In the meantime, a little fragment for the sun – after so much darkness.

From up in Vermont
June 5, 2010

8 responses

  1. this reminds me of the “surya namaskar”,salute to the sun in the yoga tradition ,what beautiful words to muse on as I practice my daily surya namaskaras. thank you for posting this.

    • Hi Jim. You know, it’s so close that I can’t help wondering if they’re related.

      Maybe they’re both sung to the same melody?

      While the anapestic rhythm seems the same, the words and form are different from the poem I found under the floorboards. What do you think?

  2. its posts like these that I come to your site for. the poetry in unearthing a long lost poem on the sun… too lovely

    thanks for dropping by the other day – it was a pleasant surprise – and a much needed distraction

  3. It seems so similar it must be a version of the same song. Maybe the eHymnal web site doesn’t contain all the stanzas and the newspaper version left out the repeated refrain. Or . . . maybe it was such a popular inspirational song at the time that people made up their own verses to it.

    • Hi Jim. Having to guess, I would opt for the third choice.

      Somewhere, I suppose, there is a microfiche of this newspaper and this poem (or the actual paper). I recall an NPR report, some years ago, of an individual who was buying all the old newspapers that libraries no longer want to keep or maintain. There must be another copy of this poem, somewhere… or maybe not.

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