Poem from William W. Phelps, between 1 and 20 January 1843
, Poem, , Hancock Co., IL, to JS, [, Hancock Co., IL, between 1 and 20] Jan. 1843. Featured version published in “Vade Mecum, (Translated,) Go with Me,” Times and Seasons, 1 Feb. 1843, vol. 4, no. 6, –82. For more complete source information, see the source note for Letter to Isaac Galland, 22 Mar. 1839.
Between 1 and 20 January 1843, composed a poem addressed to JS. Titled “Vade Mecum” (Latin for “Go with Me”), the poem invited JS to join Phelps in contemplating a heavenly paradise. Since joining the in 1831, Phelps had become a prominent Latter-day Saint poet and hymnist.
It is unclear what motivated to compose the poem. JS’s discharge on in early January 1843 seems to have prompted several Saints to create poetic tributes to the event, including two songs that JS printed on a broadside and distributed on 18 January, just two days before Phelps presented his poem to JS. Unlike those songs, however, Phelps’s work made no mention of JS’s discharge or the events surrounding it, suggesting his recent legal victory was not a primary motivation. The poem instead may have been a way for Phelps to express gratitude for or commemorate recommencing work on JS’s ongoing history. Alternatively, the poem simply may have been the first step in a plan to counter those who challenged JS’s poetic abilities. In an attempt to silence these criticisms, JS publicly responded to Phelps’s invitation to join him in pondering a blissful afterlife with a poetic adaptation of his 1832 vision of heaven.
later indicated that his four-stanza poem was designed to be sung, with the meter and tune borrowed from a song called “The Indian Hunter.” He was presumably referring to the poem “The Indian’s Entreaty,” which was later adapted as a song, frequently under the title “The Indian Hunter.” Although Phelps adapted the original poem’s refrain from “let me go” to “go with me,” his 1842 poem otherwise bore little resemblance to this earlier work.
’s poem was published alongside JS’s response in the 1 February 1843 issue of the Times and Seasons. There are manuscript copies of this poem and JS’s response in the JS Collection at the Church History Library. However, the manuscript version of Phelps’s poem appears to be a later copy of a different version of the poem with some significant textual variants. Because the handwritten version is missing some text, apparently through copying errors, the printed version is featured here. Although it is dated simply January 1843 in both the printed and manuscript versions, the poem had to have been completed by 20 January, when Phelps delivered it to JS.
Phelps first began working on the history by mid-1842 but ceded primary responsibility for the work to Willard Richards on 1 December 1842. Phelps noted in his journal that he recommenced “writing on the history of the church for B Joseph” on 19 January 1843. On 20 January, JS “gave some inst[r]uctions” to Phelps and Richards about “uniting in writing the history of the chu[r]ch.” Immediately after this meeting, Phelps presented the poem to JS. (William W. Phelps, Nauvoo, IL, to Parley P. Pratt, Liverpool, England, 16 June 1842, Parley P. Pratt, Correspondence, CHL; JS, Journal, 1 Dec. 1842 and 20 Jan. 1843; Richards, Journal, 1 Dec. 1842; Phelps, Diary and Notebook, 19 Jan. 1843.)
Pratt, Parley P. Correspondence, 1842–1855. CHL. MS 897.
John Perry, “The Indian’s Entreaty,” New-York Christian Messenger and Philadelphia Universalist, 28 Dec. 1833, 68; see also Hadaway’s Select Songster, 198–199.
New-York Christian Messenger and Philadelphia Universalist. New York City and Phila- delphia. 1831–1834.
Hadaway’s Select Songster: Being a Collection of the Most Approved New and Fashionable Sentimental and Comic Songs: Many of Which Have Been Contributed by Our Most Able and Distinguished Vocalists. Edited by T. H. Hadaway. Philadelphia: Gihon and Kucher, 1840.