James T. Fields was born Dec. 31, 1817. His father was a sea captain and died before Fields was three.
James T. Fields became the editor of the Atlantic Monthly, 1862-1870, where he became friends with the most notable writers of his day, including:
- William Wordsworth
- William Makepeace Thackeray
- Charles Dickens
- Nathaniel Hawthorne
- Herman Melville
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
- James Russell Lowell
Similar to the Scots poem written by Robert Burns in 1788, “Auld Lang Syne,” (meaning “in days of old gone by”), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow dedicated his 1881 poem to the memory of James T. Fields, “Auf Wiedersehen” (meaning “until we meet again”):
Until we meet again! That is the meaning
Of the familiar words, that men repeat
At parting in the street.
Ah yes, till then! but when death intervening
Rends us asunder, with what ceaseless pain
We wait for the Again! …
Believing, in the midst of our afflictions,
That death is a beginning, not an end,
We cry to them, and send
Farewells, that better might be called predictions,
Being fore-shadowings of the future, thrown
Into the vast Unknown.
Faith overleaps the confines of our reason,
And if by faith, as in old times was said,
Women received their dead
Raised up to life, then only for a season
Our partings are, nor shall we wait in vain
Until we meet again!
The Atlantic Monthly published many notable works, including Julia Ward Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” works of Mark Twain, and later Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s response to pacifist clergy who argued preachers should not get involved in politics.
King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” referred to Christian and Jewish thinkers such as St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Paul Tillich and Martin Buber.
The Atlantic Monthly published an article by abolitionist minister Thomas Wentworth Higginson in April of 1862 titled “Letter to a Young Contributor,” which inspired the young Emily Dickinson.
Of Puritan descent, Emily Dickinson’s grandfather Samuel Fowler Dickinson founded Amherst College. While Emily Dickinson attended Amherst College in 1845, there was religious revival. She wrote: “I never enjoyed such perfect peace and happiness as the short time in which I felt I had found my savior. … (It was the) greatest pleasure to commune alone with the great God & to feel that he would listen to my prayers.”
Though attending church regularly for years, she later mentioned in poem written around 1852: “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church – I keep it, staying at Home.”
Emily Dickinson referred to the Creator in her poem “As If The Sea Should Part”:
As if the Sea should part
And show a further Sea –
And that – a further – and the Three
But a presumption be –
Of Periods of Seas –
Unvisited by Shores –
Themselves the Verge of Seas to be –
Eternity – is Those –
Time feels so vast that were it not
For an Eternity –
I fear me this Circumference
Engross my Finity –
To His exclusion, who prepare
By rudiments of Size
For the stupendous Volume
Of His Diameters –
The Atlantic Monthly editor James T. Fields wrote “The Captain’s Daughter or The Ballad of the Tempest,” 1858:
… We were crowded in the cabin,
Not a soul would dare to sleep, –
It was midnight on the waters,
And a storm was on the deep.
‘Tis a fearful thing in winter
To be shattered by the blast,
And to hear the rattling trumpet
Thunder, ‘Cut away the mast!’
So we shuddered there in silence, –
For the stoutest held his breath,
While the hungry sea was roaring
And the breakers talked with death.
As thus we sat in darkness
Each one busy with his prayers,
‘We are lost!’ the captain shouted,
As he staggered down the stairs.
But his little daughter whispered,
As she took his icy hand,
‘Isn’t God upon the ocean,
Just the same as on the land?’
Then we kissed the little maiden,
And we spake in better cheer,
And we anchored safe in harbor
When the morn was shining clear.
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