I Would Be True

I have been away for the past few weeks and have used my restricted access to the internet as an excuse not to write and therefore not to post any messages during my absence. A mistake admittedly and one which runs counter to the purpose of this week’s blog since the theme of my message is to announce a new series about personal character. This means that my lackadaisical approach for writing and posting these messages needs to be replaced with the disciplined attitude essential to my goals if my writing is to have the credibility I ultimately seek.

The source of this new series is a 1905 poem entitled I Would Be True, which ironically highlights my recent deficiency in fulfilling my own writing commitment. The author was a young Princeton graduate teaching English at the Wasada University in Japan. He wrote the poem for his mother and mailed it to her as a Christmas gift, since his commitment to his profession prevented him from making the journey home to be with his family.

The author was Harold Arnold Walter, whose brief life left this one creative legacy, which others have found appealing for pursuing their own creative sensibilities. Preceding me was Joseph Yates Peek, a Methodist lay-minister and self-taught musician, who put Walter’s poem to music, transforming it into a hymn of modest popularity. Ralph Harlow, a Congregational minister, followed. He added three more verses to the hymn, claiming that Walter came to him in a dream with an appeal to complete what was lacking in the original. Maybe so, but now there is me, no dream needed, just the audacity to piggyback on another’s work in order to keep faith with my own aspirations.

I discovered I Would Be True in an old hymnal. Its appeal was not in the tune, which I did not know and could not read, nor in Harlow’s additions.  Rather I was struck my Walter’s original message to his mother, written as if it were a pledge of assurance that her teaching would always shape his character for the balance of his adult life. This put his poem outside the mainstream of what we expect to see in a Christian worship service, where praise and adoration of a Redeemer God are paramount.

Walter’s three verses consist of four lines each, with each line containing a character trait essential to the type of service he sought to perform. And each verse contains a sub-theme, indicating that these traits found their significance in his relationship with others, his self and with the God of his theological training. His quest for personal depth has subsequently provided me with a road map for drafting my next twelve messages as we enter, appropriately, the Christmas season guided by a poem of Christmas origin.

It only remains to be seen if I can be true to both my intentions for writing and Walter’s vision for doing the same.

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