It is the grief of love

Most of my day today was taken up with the Palo Alto Sacred Harp all-day singing (shapenotes from 10 to 3!); I’m pleased to say I was not only able to participate in this event (via Zoom), but managed to last through the whole thing, sometimes singing quite powerfully. I wasn’t physically there, and people couldn’t hear me (I had to mute myself because of the way Zoom works), but I got to choose a couple of songs (Confidence SH270 and Bridgewater SH276), and managed a really big contact high — a tonic for my life of solitude these days.

Early in the singing someone chose a song that I found moving but didn’t recall ever having sung before: SH83t, Vale of Sorrow: brief and easy to sing, a haunting minor melody, and a text I found deeply moving: the words of an earnest Christian who hopes to have earned his place with Jesus in heaven, but is nevertheless saddened that his death will take him from those he loves. He is experiencing what he thinks of as the grief of love.

The music (from the 1991 Denson revision of The Sacred Harp (first compiled in 1844)):

A reminder: the melody is in the tenor line, the third from the top (the treble line, at the top, has either high harmony or a counter-melody); the different shapes of the notes locate them in a scale (sort of a visual DO-RE-MI)

The text comes on two parts: one stanza of background, one with the grief of love:

While in this vale of sorrow,
I travel on in pain;
My heart is fixed on Jesus,
I hope the prize to gain.

But when I come to bid adieu
To those I dearly love,
My heart is often melted —
It is the grief of love.

The phrase comes at you out of the blue, after some conventional imagery and conventional expression (vale of sorrow, the heart being fixed on something, gaining a prize, bidding adieu, the heart melting with emotion).

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