I am lucky enough to have in my personal library a book entitled ‘The Mourner’s Friend or Sighs of Sympathy For Those Who Sorrow’. It is a collection of prose and verse compiled to give comfort to the grieving. Edited by J.B. Syme, published in 1852 by S.A. Howland in Worcester, Mass, USA; its contents are predominantly by American authors and some surprising famous names. My copy of the book has some water damage, ageing paper, and precarious binding, so before it deteriorates my project to preserve the words of the authors will find its way here on the MOLAM blog.
This poem below is unattributed in the publication, however, thanks to modern research wunderkind the internet I have discovered it is by Charles H. Hitchings. The poem was published in London in 1851 in a collection of poetry by the author, and surprisingly is not reproduced in full in my publication of The Mourner’s Friend published only a year later. I have included the missing verses at the end, and note where the poem ceases in the 1852 publication. Why was it edited and unattributed? Were the later verses too gritty, was the social realism and references to her lover deemed inappropriate for the American audience? Or, merely a necessity of space! How interesting!
The Soul’s Passing. by Charles H Hitchings but unattributed in publication.
IT is ended! – all is over!
Lo, the weeping mourners come,-
Mother, father, friend and lover,
To the death-incumbered room;
Lips are pressed to the blessed,
Lips that evermore are dumb.
Take her faded hand in thine, –
Hand that no more answereth kindly;
See the eyes were wont to shine,
Uttering love, now staring blindly;
Tender-hearted speech departed,-
Speech that echoed so divinely.
Runs no more the circling river,
Warming, brightening every part;
There it slumbereth cold forever,-
No more merry leap and start;
No more flushing cheeks to blushing,-
In its silent home the heart!
Hope not answer to your praying!
Cold, responseless, lies she there.
Death, that ever will be slaying
Something gentle, something fair,
Came with numbers soft as slumbers,-
She is with him otherwhere!
Mother! yes, you scarce would chide her,
Had you seen the form he bore,
Heard the words he spoke beside her,
Tender as the look he wore,
While he proved her how he loved her
More than mother, – ten times more!
Earthly father! weep not o’er her!
To another Father’s breast,
On the wings of love he bore her,-
To the kingdom of the blest;
Where no weeping eyelids keeping,
Dwells she now in perfect rest.
The poem ceases here in The Mourner’s Friend. In Hitchings’ original publication it continues with the following verses:
Friend! He was a friend that found her
Amid blessings poor and scant,
With a wicked world around her,
And within a heavenly want;
And supplied her, home to guide her,
Wings, for which the weary pant.
Lover ! Yes, she loved thee dearly!
When she left thee, loved thee best!
Love, she knew, alone burns clearly
In the bosoms of the blest :
Love she bore thee watches o’er thee-
Is the angle in thy breast!
Mourners all! Have done with weeping!
I will tell you what he said,
When he came and found her sleeping;
On her heart his hand he laid-
“Sleep is, maiden, sorrow-laden;
Peace dwells only with the dead.
Wend with me across the river-
Seems so bitter, is so sweet!
On whose other shore for ever
Happy, Holy spirits greet ;
Grief all over friend and lover
In a sweet communion meet !
“Is it bitter father, mother,
lover, friend, to leave behind
All their blessed loves, and other?
Come with me, and thou shalt find,
Where thy spirit shall inherit
Perfect love and perfect mind.
“Love that is to mortals given
Struggles with imperfect will,
Love alone that homes in heaven
Can its perfect self fulfil;
Where, posessing every blessing,
Still it grows and greatens still!
“See, I bring thee wings to bear thee
To the blessed angel home,
Dear ones dead, for ever near thee
From thy side no more to roam;
Love increased, wait thou blessed
Till the living loved ones come!
“O’er the river!” – Lo, she faltered
While he took her by the hand ;
And her blessed face grew altered
As she heard the sweet command.
Father! lover! All was over !
So she passed to the Spirit Land !