On this day in 1829 William Booth, founder and first General of the Salvation Army was born.
After years of work as a travelling Methodist preacher who was trying to help the poor Booth one day realised that he and his helpers were a kind of army. He began to organise them on military lines naming himself as General and giving others appropriate ranks and uniforms. He adapted popular songs into strident marching songs, giving them Christian themes so ‘the devil should not have all the best tunes’.
Within a few years the Salvation Army was a worldwide ‘brand’ and it thrives today doing an enormous amount of good work. When Booth died in 1912, aged 83, forty Salvation Army bands and ten thousand Christian soldiers marched behind his coffin.
This poem was written by Vachel Lindsay on the occasion, Above the Battle’s Front:
St. Francis, Buddha, Tolstoi, and St. John —
Friends, if you four, as pilgrims, hand in hand,
Returned, the hate of earth once more to dare,
And walked upon the water and the land,
If you, with words celestial, stopped these kings
For sober conclave, ere their battle great,
Would they for one deep instant then discern
Their crime, their heart-rot, and their fiend’s estate?
If you should float above the battle’s front,
Pillars of cloud, of fire that does not slay,
Bearing a fifth within your regal train,
The Son of David in his strange array—
If, in his majesty, he towered toward Heaven,
Would they have hearts to see or understand?
Today I remember with gratitude the work of William Booth and his army; I will do my best to help those less fortunate than myself.