Beacon Street Diary blog
The Tuft of Flowers
Longtime friend of the library Rick Taylor sent us a wonderful story in response to the latest issue of our Bulletin, which focused on poetry.
When I was a youngster growing up in an old city church in Paterson, NJ, I couldn't help but notice the 320-foot-high stained glass windows of Jesus in the building. Jesus and the children, Jesus knocking at the door, Jesus, the good shepherd. Beautiful, colorful. The first two were given by families. But the good shepherd window was in memory of a former pastor. He was also the only former pastor whose picture hung in the Church. What was so special about him? As I contemplated becoming a pastor, I wondered what would cause a congregation to honor a pastor with a good shepherd window? What was there about him?
His name was Charles Loveland Merriam (Congregational Yearbook, 1914). What I found out then was not much. In Paterson in the 1880s and 1890s, he helped get the local YMCA started. Then he went to another urban church in the Merrimack Valley, then Derry, New Hampshire, then Newton. In 1913 the Paterson church recalled him as pastor. But that pastorate was short. He died in an auto accident the next year. Auto accidents were probably so rare then, that is was quite a shock. I attributed the memorial to the shock of the sudden death, and left it at that.
Have you guessed it? The young man was Robert Frost. I ran into this when reading a biography of Frost years ago. I hope I remember the details correctly. I've used Merriam's life to illustrate the text "Cast your bread upon the waters…" Read "The Tuft of Flowers", and you will find what it means for a lonely hard working farm hand to discover that someone else recognizes beauty.
So maybe this is another of our Congregational poet stories.
Red chrysanthemums drawn by William Clarke for the Transactions of the Horticultural Society, London courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art