Few of us take the time to mine and appreciate the vast stores of poetry laid up by so many of our Christian forebears. Yet in centuries past poetry was the language of many a sorrowful and rejoicing believer. In the last several months I have been discovering some of treasures and particularly enjoying the work of the 19th-century American poet Hannah Flagg Gould. This work, “The Penitential Tear,” is representative of her spiritual meditations.
Thou trembling, pure, and holy thing!
What skill from ocean’s depths can bring,
Or toil from out the mine—
What monarch in his diadem,
Or glittering garb, produce a gem,
Whose brightness equals thine?
Thy source is deeper than the caves
Of riven rock, or opening waves,
Invisible as air:
And, though the angel throng above
Behold thee with delight and love,
They ne’er can have thee there.
Nor change, nor age thy sheen can dim;
Thou ‘rt now unstained as when with him,
Who dared, in olden time,
Thrice his dear, suffering Lord deny;
Then, melted at the Saviour’s eye,
And paid thee for his crime.
Called from the treasures of the soul
By power divine, when thou dost roll
Forth from the mourner’s eye,
Thy wearer thou dost then proclaim
The heir of life, who has his name
Writ in the Book on high.
Thou art a pearl, that all may own,
And when thy matchless worth is known
To those, who wear thee here,
They will be changed, and shall behold
The shining gates of heaven unfold,
Bright Penitential Tear!