"When Joseph came home." There is the word that strikes a universal chord! In the early spring of 1863 the Union and the Confederate armies lay encamped along the Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg, the Union army on the northern bank of the river, and the Confederate on the southern. In the evenings, when there was a lull in the fighting, the soldiers of both armies would sing their favorite songs. On the Union side the band would play "We Are Coming, Father Abraham," or "The Girl I Left Behind Me," or "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"; and the Union soldiers would raise a great cheer. And on the Southern side the band would play, "The Bonnie Blue Flag," "My Maryland," or "Dixie"; and then the Confederate soldiers would raise a great cheer. At length the band on the northern side played "Home Sweet home"; and when it was finished, both armies sent up a great cheer. "Home Sweet Home" struck a universal chord which knew no union oR secession, no North or South.
Observing any great throng of peoph at the close of day, waiting about the gates of a railway station, or on the street corner for a car, and looking into their faces, you may have asked them, mentally, "Where do you live?—In the town or the village; in the city, or in the country; in a flat, an apartment, or a single house? Who is at home waiting for your return? Will the sound of your footsteps on the porch or on the stairway cause little children to run from their books or their toys to fling their arm about you and kiss you? Or will the sound of your coming strike an arrov of dread through some unhappy heart? Do they expect a caress and a smile; or a scowl, a frown, a repulse? Are you going to a house that is silent and lonely, and is this the reason that you walk less rapidly than the others, because you almost dread to go to that silent home where silent rooms, vacant chairs, unused garments, unlifted books, open sorrows, recent wounds, make you wonder why you call it home when all that makes home is gone?"
The only place to bring up a family is in a Christian church. A well-known minister went to a home to conduct a funeral service for the daughter of the home. It was the home of a successful businessman—but a thoroughly worldly and godless home. On one side of the coffin sat the father, on the other side the only other person present besides the minister, the father's intimate friend. Suddenly the father broke into speech, talking to himself more than to any other: "There is nothing in these things. You and I have been living for a good time and success. We have got everything we could during the week. We have been good poker players on Saturday night. We have spent our Sundays in the automobile and in social pleasures. We have put the club and the bank first, and my son has disgraced me with his shameless marriage, and my daughter is dead. I tell you there is only one place in which to bring up a family, and that is a Christian church. There is only one way to use Sunday for children, and that is to take them to church. What with money and wine and poker and pleasure all day Sunday, and parties all Sunday night, my family has been ruined. People don't know what the result of this kind of living will be until the end comes. But I know."
Years ago a number of skylarks were imported from England and set loose in one of the eastern sections of the country, where they soon were at home and began to breed. One day a student of birds was listening with great interest to the song of the emigrant birds in the American landscape. But as he was listening to their song he saw an Irish laboring man, who had heard the larks sing in Ireland, suddenly stop, take off his cap, and turn his face skyward, a look of surprise and joy and memory on his face as he listened entranced to the song of the bird that he had heard sing in his youth. For the bird expert it was only a scientific observation, but for the Irishman it was the listening of recollection and remembrance, of affection and of hope.
So through the gospel of Christ there come to us those songs which tell us of our heavenly home, the homeland of the soul.
Out of the heart are the issues of life; the thoughts and emotions which center about home declare the preeminence of the heart life. Abd-er-Rahman was the first caliph of Cordova in Spain. There, thousands of miles from his native haunts along the banks of the Euphrates, the Moslem prince set up his kingdom and ruled over the conquered Spaniards. But always he was homesick for Mesopotamia. He had a palm tree brought him and planted in the courtyard of the palace at Cordova, in order that it might remind him of his home; and never could he gaze upon that palm tree without bursting into tears. Patriotism is only an enlarged and exalted kind of love for home.
Toward the end of his life Sir Walter Scott, in ill-health, took a trip to Italy. One day in a bookshop he happened to see a lithograph of Abbottsford, his beautiful home on the Tweed in Scotland. Bursting into tears, he hurried from the shop and started at once for Scotland. When he reached London he was unable to stand, but he insisted that he be carried to the steamer for Leith. On the journey to Tweedside he lay unconscious in the carriage; but when the carriage entered the valley of Gala, he began to look about him, and presently to murmur a name or two: "Gala Water, surely!" "Buckholm!" "Torwoodly!" And when the towers of Abbottsford came into view, he sprang up with a cry of delight.
Into the life of Charles Lamb there came a deep attachment to a woman, but he willingly forewent marriage when he saw the need of his own family. Brother, son, and husband, he became the guardian angel of that home, and especially of his sister Mary, who was at times mentally deranged. After she had stabbed her mother to death in one of her mad moments, Charles Lamb stripped himself for his sister Mary as Jonadian stripped himself for David; and for eight and thirty years he watched over her with a tender solicitude. A friend tells how he would sometimes see the brother and sister walking hand in hand across the field to the old asylum, both their faces bathed in tears. A sad story, and yet a grand story. Charles Lamb had his place in his home, and it was never left empty.
Prosperity sometimes makes a man forget his home and his family. But not so Joseph. They put Pharaoh's gold collar around his neck and gave him an Egyptian name, but they could not change his heart. The heart of Joseph was ever in the highlands of Canaan. There were times when his ministers of state would come before him and ask him a question, and be amazed because he never answered, but stared straight ahead into the distance. The reason he never answered was that he was asking himself questions: "Jacob, my father? and Benjamin, my brother? Do they still live? And the ten brothers who sold me into Egypt? Have their hearts changed ? Do their consciences smite them?" There were days, too, when his beautiful wife, the daughter of the Priest of On, put her arms about his neck and said, "Joseph, what means that far-away look? Withdraw your wandering thoughts. Are not my love and the love of your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, enough for thee?" No! Joseph did not forget his shepherd home. There were days when the colossal pyramids, the rigid lines of saluting soldiers, the splendors of his palace, the fountains climbing the ladder of the sun, the red sandstone columns, enwound with fierce birds and serpents, the pillars bursting at the top into lotus flowers, his gleaming, golden chariot—all faded from his view, and in their place he saw the live oak trees and the black tents and the flocks of Hebron, and the faces of Jacob and Benjamin and his brothers.
'Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.— John Howard Payne