Charles T. Lockwood

Born October, 1835. - Died October 19, 1870. The breath of true genius upon the world is the breath of life. Under its power, hearts dead and cold are warmed and uplifted, and the most sluggish pulses are quickened. Its most powerful manifestations are in the poet, the orator, the musician, the painter, and the sculptor. In this exalted company, he whose life and labor we commemorate to-night held a just place. Time, that tests all things, has established his rank and title.

Charles T. Lockwood was born at Alcott, New York, in October, 1835. He was the son of a farmer, was reared under a healthful home discipline, and received a common school education. At sixteen, he adopted music as his profession, and at once entered upon its careful study. After various changes of location, he settled in Pontiac in 1862, where he resided until his death, October 19, 1870. The work which established his fame was almost his last. He did not flash like a meteor; he grew like an oak. He was past thirty years of age before he took rank as a leading American composer. The struggle was long, at times almost desperate; but at last he "dragged up drowned honor by the locks."

It was my fortune, during the last six years of his life, to be his intimate associate and friend. I knew his kind and generous heart, his true and manly qualities. I knew, too, his aspirations and his triumphs, his disappointments and his hopes. He was a man of good mind, but without remarkable mental endowments, except in his chosen field; here he was a master. At times, in his highest and best efforts, he was overshadowed by that indescribable, controlling inspiration which only a born artist ever feels. This was always to me one of the highest proofs of his genius. His compositions number more than fifty. Among these are many models of excellence, but his masterpiece, by the verdict of the public, as well as his own judgment, is "Gathering Home." He toiled upon it secretly for months. When it was completed he brought it to me, and said, " I believe I have at last written something that will live." He already had words for it, but they did not satisfy him. He destroyed them in my presence, and continued," I have embodied the spirit of this piece in music. I want you to embody it in language. No one else must do it."

As best I could, I complied with his request. A few days after I presented him the words of "Gathering Home," and stood by his side at the first full rehearsal of the piece. He was himself at the piano. As the closing refrain died away, he lifted his eyes to my face, - they were filled with tears. I shall always be touched with a grateful pride that he deemed the poem worthy to be inseparably blended with his loftiest production. How little did we then dream we were writing his requiem! Lockwood was great, if only in a single, yet in a true sense. Weaknesses he may have had, yet he performed a great work. A great man may do a small thing, but a small man can never do a great thing. Except to a few, his personality is lost in his immortal work. He is not to-night a man moving and walking among us, but an aesthetic and moral force; not an individual, but an influencer. That influence, which vibrates through the years like an ever-repeating echo, is only for good. He never wrote but upon the side of purity and truth. When the earth fell upon his coffin one said, "It seems strange that he should be taken now, when his best work seems just begun." Yes, strange to us, and yet "Perhaps the cup was broken here That Heaven's new wine might show more clear."

Lockwood is gone, but his tuneful bequest remains to the world. Death could rob us of him, but his achievements defy the King of Terrors. His dust sleeps to-night in the kind bosom of the earth; his spirit walks with Israel, - Israel the Bright, whose voice, the Moslem says, entrances Paradise.


Source:  History of Oakland County, Michigan by Durant, Samuel W. Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & co., 1877.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Previous  |  Next ]     [ Up  |  First  |  Last ]     (Article 33 of 230)