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 by American and European authors including some surprisingly 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 poetic piece of prose in honour of a mother’s love has no acknowledged author, which is not unusual, but leads me to believe it was a woman. The tone makes me suspect she had a very direct experience of loss herself, or observed that in someone very close to her. There are a few interesting observations to make about this piece, firstly that it appeared to have been published in abbreviated format in the New England Farmer and Horticultural Journal of June 3 1835 – a good 17 years before it was published here. The version terminated at the line: ‘goes to the grave to weep there’, which is quite a beautiful line to stop at. Interestingly, and not unusually, it has some discrepancies in quotation marks and an odd word here and there. Why create quotations? Usually to reference biblical verse or popular literary knowledge – in this piece we have 3 likely biblical references, not all quoted below, but in the linked version above. “seeks it in the morning” could reference Isaiah 26:9 – yearning for God, for meaning, for salvation during the night, through the night and seeking it in the morning – will this search ever end? Will morning bring relief? “I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning” references Genesis 37:35 and pertinently speaks of Jacob’s lament for the (perceived) loss of his son Joseph. In this version the telling line is not in quotations, but it is in the 1835 version “she goes to the grave to weep there”, and it is also the final line of the earlier published article. A line which ponders the very ethics of mourning as it references John 11:31 when Mary prostrates herself to Jesus begging for reprieve at the death of her brother Lazarus. It worked. Would you do it?
A MOTHER’S TEARS.
THERE is a sweetness in a mother’s tears when they fall on the face of a dying babe, which no eye can behold with heart untouched. It is holy ground, upon which the unhallowed foot of profanity dares not encroach. Infidelity itself is silent and forbears her mocking ; and here woman shows not her weakness, but her strength ; it is strength of attachment which man never did nor ever can feel. It is perennial ; dependent on no climate, no changes, nor soil, but, alike in storms as in sunshine, it knows no shadow of turning. A father, when he sees his child going down the valley, may weep when the shadow of death has full come over him, and as the last departing knell falls on his ears, may say : “I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning,” but he turns away ; in the hurry of business the tear is wiped, and though, when he returns to his fireside, the sportive laugh comes up to his remembrance, the succeeding day blunts the poignancy of his grief, and it finds no permanent seal. Not so with her who has borne and nourished the tender blossom. It lives in the heart where it was first entwined in the dreamy hours of night. She sees its playful mirth, or plaintive cries ; she “seeks it in the morning,” and she goes to the grave to weep there. Its little toys are carefully laid aside as mementos to keep continually alive that thrilling anguish which the dying struggle and sad look produces ; and though grief, like a canker-worm, may be gnawing at her vitals, yet she finds a luxury in her tears, a sweetness in her sorrow, which none but a mother ever tasted.