Preface and Acknowledgement
In June of this year,  I was privileged to write the original, more prosaic version of the poem that follows this preface, for Vision Forum’s 400th Jubilee Celebration of Jamestown’s settlement. The following paragraphs give some background for the direction the poem took when, at last, I found a poetic ‘voice’ to tell the story. Before I read the poem to the gathered audience under the big white tent, I said something like this in introduction:
Recently I spent a week at the beach with my children and grandchildren. They love to hear my stories and ballads and asked to hear favorites every day. I come from a long line of storytellers and can anticipate the request of each one–little four-year old Anita wants princesses because she imagines she is one; for Jane, at six, exciting stories of adventures, battles and horses and scary beasts are perfect;
My husband and I had brought stacks of books with us for further research on the settlement of
The realization that this voice was a strong one from my childhood gradually dawned on me as the grandfather in the poem began to take on flesh and blood through his stories. The voice wasn’t vague but was one that is forever enshrined in my heart: the voice of my own story-telling grandfather.
How can the scope of the drama of
My grandfather was small of stature, but I never knew that until I saw pictures of him when I was grown up. Maybe the reason he seemed bigger than life to me was because of the gargantuan stories he read and told me when I was a little girl–-I was riveted by selections he chose from La Chanson de Roland, Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Spencer’s Faerie Queen, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. A former schoolteacher turned Presbyterian preacher, he showered me with a plethora of stories from history and literature. On Sundays after Granny’s home-cooked lunch, he’d quiz us on Bible trivia and check up on our memorization (and comprehension) of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Of course, we read the Bible--the book of Job was our favorite to read aloud because of its majestic, poetic descriptions of God’s creation and its happy ending! I delighted to hear him read or quote poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, William Wordsworth, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Service, and Rudyard Kipling, to name a few favorites. This rich heritage is better far to me than chests of gold!
The clank of the old Royal typewriter keys as Grandpa carefully prepared his sermons each week and the pungent smell of the mimeograph ink mingled with the scent of the dust of the decades clinging to his old books will forever remain in my memory. He let me help make the Sunday bulletin on Saturdays in the summer. The heat of that cramped, third-story office in the manse intensified the sounds and smells that seemed to seep into my pores, enveloping me like a mantle. I never felt that I was interfering; rather, as he talked and listened to me, always giving me real work to do, no matter how small the job, we became a team. I was helping my grandfather and I was content.
Gradually and steadily, under his wise and loving tutelage, together with that of my parents, theologically, morally and historically, I formed a solid personal identity and found a foothold in the rapidly moving current of history. This firm foundation is the bedrock, the base upon which I have built my life and it is broad and strong enough to hold future generations.
I adored my grandfather--we were “kindred spirits”; and I loved my Grandpa’s dad. Great-Grandpa Charles had a snowy beard and hair that curled in soft clouds around his gentle face. He always carried peppermints in his pockets for his grandchildren and often entertained us with little songs or stories. One evening, when just a hint of frost was in the air, he sat rocking on the back porch where the nearby Golden Delicious apple tree spilled its juicy treasures for our eager mouths. The shadows made by the trees as the sun set behind the craggy cliffs across the little river a few hundred yards away were creeping across the lawn. I munched my apple and decided to try to make conversation.
“Gonna be gettin’ cold soon, Great-Grandpa,” I ventured. “Want me to fetch your shawl?” When he didn’t answer, I got up from my seat on the painted porch floor where I’d been dangling my legs, enjoying the peace of the quiet Sabbath afternoon and touched his arm.
“Great-grandpa, did you hear me?” His head was bowed onto his chest and his whittling knife slipped soundlessly to the floor a-top curled shavings from the toy he had started for me. On the backside of the blade, I could see the worn place his thumb had made. It was our last moment together: Hush’d is the harp: the Minstrel gone, (from The Lay of the Last Minstrel, by Sir Walter Scott). I was seven years old and thought it was tragic that my great-grandpa had died so suddenly and alone. But now, more than fifty years later, my perspective has broadened.
I am a grandparent, six times over, so far. I have five “born” grandchildren and one due early next year. I pray that I may live to a ripe old age and see them become strong, Christian warriors as my children, their parents have grown up to become. But I have come to realize that there was a blessing attached to my kind great-grandfather peacefully passing on to glory as he watched me happily swinging my short legs out into the future. The length of our days holds much less importance than the heritage we leave our children who will either bless or curse our memory. A long life can be one of misery if fraught with bitterness and discontentment from a rebellious heart; while a life dedicated to the glory of God and trusting in
Belief in God’s sovereign purposes accompanied by daily discipline and devotion to duty kept the fear of death at bay for my grandparents and many of the original settlers. Arms become steeled for battle when such a belief is strongly held and life-altering decisions become plain, if not always easy to make. For a man, woman or child devoted to duty, as it is properly understood, death is not the greatest enemy. Are we not stirred to perseverance by the boy, who, faithful to his father’s orders, stayed at his post on a burning ship? “The boy stood on the burning deck, whence all but him had fled…,” (from Casabianca, by Felicia Hemans). My own son, John Calvin, memorized this poem from his McGuffey Reader, as did my grandfather almost a century before him! Courage and faithfulness were stamped on the consciences of generations of brave men and women who inspired their children and grandchildren to embrace heroism and virtue, not only through their own daily examples, but also through the tools of Scripture, true tales from history, stirring poetry, music that inspires the heart and great literature. Our current age and culture, in large part, seems to have cast these standards off as outdated sentimentalism.
Such a faithful man was Matthew Maury of Virginia, who in a letter to the Grand Admiral of Russia in the mid-1800’s, declining his invitation to continue his studies in oceanography at St. Petersburg, gave his reasons: I am contending, as the fathers of the Republic did, for the right of self-government, and those very principles for the maintenance of which Washington fought, when this, his native state, was a colony of Great Britain. The path of duty and honor is therefore plain, (from Library of Southern Literature, VIII, pp. 3453-3454, quoted by Richard M. Weaver in, The Southern Tradition at Bay, p. 169).
We are called quite simply to be faithful; not necessarily to accomplish feats of grandeur and achieve fleeting fame, but to stand at our post, relying on the grace of an all-sufficient God, and be faithful as they were who came before us, those who realized the joy of triumphant perseverance! Not cruel fate, but kind
My great-grandparents, Charles and Sarah (Raines) Anderson, blessed us with my wonderful grandfather, their son, Elihu Hiram Anderson, faithful minister of the Gospel, educator, storyteller, balladeer and godly example. I am grateful for the legacy of his sterling character, his love for the Lord, the testimony of his life’s diligent work, and for the stories, poems and songs he passed on to both my mother and me, as well as hundreds of friends, students and parishioners who were privileged to know him. I could never adequately thank my unforgettable grandmother, “Granny Anne,” Anne (Fuller) Anderson, his wife, who was everything a grandmother should be; nor her daughter, my mother’s sister, my Aunt Virginia Belle, who taught me to read in a little two-room wooden school house on Prater Creek. I loved cuddling in her lap as a very little girl and hearing her gentle voice read poems as steam from her cup of tea made sweet-smelling curls in the air.
My mother was delighted to hear of the poem project I had undertaken for our state and nation’s 400th birthday. I watched excitedly as she turned the pages, reading each line for the first time as familiarly as if she’d written it herself. Suddenly she stopped and said, “Honey, I’ve heard about these events before.” Her china blue eyes opened wider and she snapped her fingers–“I know where!” she exclaimed and raced back to her bedroom to return with an antique book across whose faded cover I could barely make out the title: To Have and to Hold, by Mary Johnston, an up-dated copy of which I had just read during the week at the beach because of the history of the settlement of Jamestown it contains. “My dad, your grandpa, read this book over and over and had practically memorized it. He told it to me from memory as we walked to school together when I was just a small child. It was one of our favorites.” My mother had often told me how she stayed beside him from the time she was a toddler, following after him at his chores, listening to his songs and stories, begging for more as they walked together several miles each day, to and from the little mountain school where he taught his own and local children.
Even though my mother had heard this story about the settlement of
How can I find adequate words to thank you for making my heritage a treasure to me, dearest of all mothers, Anita (
People who give up their own land too readily need careful weighing, exactly as do those who are so with their convictions. I am …sure that one of the deepest mysteries, one of the great, as it were, natural beauties of the heart, …lie[s] in one’s love for his own land, (from an essay by Stark Young, quoted by Richard Weaver in The Southern Essays of Richard Weaver, p. 22). Our land has always been important to my mother and father, as it was to the settlers at
When my mother’s last parent passed away many years ago, without hesitation she gave up what remained of the monetary inheritance to her sister who lived many miles away in another state and asked to keep the land. My father and his father built the house I grew up in that still stands on ground adjoining Grandpa Anderson’s, given to them by Grandpa when they married over sixty years ago. A few miles hence, each of my brothers was given a parcel of land that we have been told my father’s family inherited as part of a large land-grant bestowed upon our ancestors by an English king more than ten generations ago. Why and exactly to whom we do not know. I used to fantasize as a child that an English cousin would show up at our door and cry out, “Ah, Lady Rebecca! At last we have found you,” thereafter informing me of a vast estate and title I had inherited from some forgotten ancestor. (I hope it’s in the Cotswolds!) Maybe a little work on our family history will give us missing pieces to the puzzle of the land-grant, although I’m not holding my breath for the ancestral estate and title.)
Thank you, “Papa C.,” Clynard C. Belcher, for keeping the land my mother inherited as well as the land given you by your mother and father, Marion Calvin and Una (Puckett) Belcher. No place on earth do I love more sincerely…, (from
Thank you, Mama and Papa, for guarding the candle of faith and keeping the wick well-trimmed, from Candle of Faith, on the recording, Arise! Shine! by Judy (Belcher)
Along with, Richard Hakluyt, more responsible than any man in history for the founding of
…Godliness is great riches, …if we first seeke the kindgome of God, al other thinges will be given unto us, and that as the light accompanieth the Sunne and the heate the fire, so lasting riches do wait upon them that are jealous for the advancement of the Kingdome of Christ, and the enlargement of his glorious Gospell: As it is sayd, I will honour them that honour mee…, (Richard Hakluyt, quoted in The American Dream, by Stephen McDowell and Mark Beliles, p. 45).
We were planted here on
The flame of faith will be fed by “war stories” from our lives and the lives of those throughout history who have stayed at their appointed posts, regardless of the cost, such as those men who, one-hundred and sixty-nine years after the settlement of Jamestown, declared our independence from England: …for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor, (from The Declaration of Independence). Steadfast commitment to duty, to Christ and to the welfare of future generations marked true heroes and heroines of
Along with great stories from history that illustrate God’s providential dealings, tell your own stories of God’s hand in your life and in current events. My own dear children and nieces and nephews, (whom I love like my own children), in the midst of your productive lives, don’t forget to leave time to sit out on the porch, singing the moon up, telling your children and grandchildren stories about when you were little...,–RBM (from the preface to my book of poems, Roots and Vines). Remember God’s providence in history as you tell the great stories you have learned, look for it in your own lives, and by His grace, persevere!
Thank you, my precious children and your godly spouses, (I still want to be like you when I grow up), Anne Elizabeth and Dr. Grant Jones Scarborough; Joey (Joseph Charles, IV) and Jennifer (Pabsch) Morecraft; John Calvin and Kim (Pepper) Morecraft, and Mercy Rebecca Frances Morecraft ________?; thank you for sitting still and listening to all those stories and books and songs when you were little and for passing them on now to our grandchildren, our darlings Jane Elizabeth, Anita Katherine and
Our grandchildren already love hearing the stories and songs we’re passing on to them. On a recent visit, our oldest granddaughter, Jane, (who is named for a dear friend and descendant of Pocahontas, Jane Brown, as well as for Lady Jane Grey, courageous queen of England for nine days), absolutely fell in love with John Smith. After hearing his stories from us for four days, she borrowed my camera and took photos of a book cover with his face on it to carry home with her and post on her bedroom wall! Think of that: not a cultural idol, but John Smith! I pray that my grandchildren will reverence these treasures and tell my great-grandchildren the stories and songs they’ve learned from Granddaddy and me--the ones we learned from our great-grandparents and parents and from great, reliable books--in a way that will engage the hearts and minds of our future generations and cause them to love their godly heritage: Oh, Lord, may Your favor rest upon us – show your glory to our children, (from, Psalm 90, on the recording, Never Be Shaken, by Judy (Belcher) Rogers).
In God’s perfect timing and by His gracious providence, the man who was to become my husband came to our tiny mountain hamlet in
Thank you, precious Mercy, our laatlammetjie (Afrikaans for ‘late spring lamb’ and pronounced, laht-lahm-uh-kee), not only for filling in for me all these weeks--for cheerfully and skillfully shopping, cooking, cleaning, and so much more; but most importantly, for being a shining star in the lives of all you touch. (For you will shine like stars in a crooked and perverse generation, Phil. 2:15, sung by
I gratefully acknowledge the incomparable assistance, inspiration and support I continually receive from my best friend and sister, poetess, songwriter and singer,
God is good. May He receive all the glory from this work of love, attempted originally for our dear friend and esteemed brother, Douglas Winston Phillips, Esq., a warrior for King Jesus, of whom the world is not worthy. We consider it no small honor to engage the enemy on the battlefield of this world alongside you. I pray that God will be pleased to wield His mighty sword in the defeat of His enemies in our children’s lifetime. May this tribute to our founding fathers at
Soli Deo Gloria!
Mrs. Joe (Rebecca B./Becky)
September 7, anno Domini, 2007