Mary Dyer's Hymn and other Quaker Poems
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This, for me, is Stanford Searl at his strongest, blending the themes of space, place, and memory, with the theme of Mary Dyer's martyrdom, part of his faith heritage. The collection is poignant and lyrical and yet also apocalyptic in the ways it continually lifts the veil and pulls it aside to reveal another layer of a still more subtle sensibility. This is a collection that for all the Quaker silent prayer is musical and melodic in the way it calls to us. Searl engages past and present, roots and routes, to offer us fresh visions of how we can relate to the confusion of the human condition in our everyday context.
--Ben Pink Dandelion, Professor of Quaker Studies, Woodbrooke
Stanford Searl's tender, lyrical poetry leads us into a past time, arrested, yet brought to life, with mystery and nuance. The harsh receptivity of the Northeast Colonies to anyone not Puritan is laid bare, accompanied by strains of music, sounds of the living marshes, prophecies of my ancient Quaker Mothers of Israel. These courageous souls, neither male nor female in Christ, faithful in the face of hideous persecution challenge my complacency and sometimes tepid engagement with the Spirit. The cruel realities of that fear driven time and place, sadly familiar to our condition today, are juxtaposed with the messages of God's sure presence. The compelling narrative contained in this delicate collection leaves me buoyed up and inspired by the joy and certitude to which these early Friends gave witness. "I am already in Paradise."
--Deborah L. Shaw, Recorded Minister, Director Emeritus of Guilford College's Quaker Leadership Scholars Program
In 1880, John Greenleaf Whittier poetically evoked the sacrifice of Quaker martyrs to the fears and prejudice of the Puritans in "The King's Missive." His verse also captured the continued resilience of those whose "lives preached" in the face of persecution and death. Contemporary Quaker poet Stanford Searl similarly expresses in Mary Dyer's Hymn and Other Quaker Poems the poignancy of that time (including Searl's own dissenter ancestry); the witness borne by willing martyrs for a greater cause; and the emotion still experienced by witnesses to such courage and faith. Beyond the stirring poetry and important history, however, are lessons that are still important to learn as latter-day Puritans seek in their own way to take cherished values to the scaffold. Are we willing, like Dyer, Leddra, Stephenson, and Robinson, to face the ultimate sacrifice for a good greater than ourselves? Or are we fated, as another poet (James Russell Lowell in "The Present Crisis") once penned, to see "Truth forever on the scaffold, / Wrong forever on the throne?"
--Max L. Carter, William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College (emeritus)
Stan Searl's exquisite poems give us the powerful feeling of being present with Mary Dyer and the other Quakers, whom the Puritans hanged on Boston Common. He has created a collection of voices, and throughout we feel the beauty of Stan's own singing voice. In this way, these poems are like his other recent book, Songs for Diana, a beautiful book of life and love for his daughter.
--Mike Heller, Professor of English Emeritus, Roanoke College, author of the Pendle Hill Pamphlet From West Point to Quakerism