Nearer my God to Thee
100 years ago, on April 15th 1912, RMS Titanic sank with the loss of around 1500 lives. The hymn 'Nearer my God to Thee' would have been the last music they heard. This performance comes from the memorial concert in Maastricht, led by André Rieu. The following appeared in that week's edition of The Spectator:
The appalling loss of life in the 'Titanic' and the story of what is in some ways the most terrible wreck in the history of shipping have not only compelled the emotion of the whole world, but have turned both Great Britain and the United States to wide and solemn searchings of heart. The destruction of the largest ship afloat on her maiden voyage, of a ship reputed to be unsinkable, of a ship followed everywhere with admiring thoughts as the last word in ingenuity, in luxury, and in the impressive accomplishments of science, brings to every thoughtful person a deep sense of powerlessness, of smallness, and humility. Even in these moments of crushing personal sorrow one is conscious — perhaps only to deepen the sorrow — of the overwhelming reverses of human confidence. One thinks of the flattering tales of the immensity of this pride of the ocean, with her restaurants and cafes and sun-parlours and Roman baths and racquet court and private suites of cabins; one contemplates the ineffectualness of it all against the great hidden elements of nature and the sudden stroke of fate, and one feels inclined to sit in sackcloth and ashes.As our boats sink, towers collapse and aeroplanes fall out of the sky, we are occasionally reminded of our impotence and fragility against the forces of nature. While many millions more lives are lost in earthquake, tsunami and famine, it is the few thousands which can be attributed to man's flawed ingenuity and industry which haunt the memory. Here we are, a century on from the 9/11 of the era, reading out the names of those who perished, just as we do every September 11th with those who died in the World Trade Center attrocity. Some will dismiss it as sentimental tosh: few know and even fewer care about the names which are recited, for they mean very little or nothing to most. But in the secular ritual we see humanity reaching out to cope with his own smallness and inadequacy in the face of evil and suffering, and to apologise for his own hubris to the face of God. And that, just occasionally, can be a healthy pursuit.