( Originally Published 1879 )
THERE is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquence than ten thousand tongues. They are the messages of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, of unspeakable love. If there were wanting any argument to prove that man is not mortal, I would look for it in the strong conclusive emotions of the breast, when the soul has been deeply agitated; when the fountains of feeling are rising, and when tears are gushing forth in crystal streams. O, speak not harshly of the stricken one-weeping in silence! Break not the solemnity by rude laughter, or intrusive footsteps. Despise not woman's tears—they are what make her an angel. Scoff not if the stern heart of manhood is sometimes melted to sympathy—they are what help to elevate him above the brute. We love to see tears of affection. They are painful tokens, but still most holy. There is pleasure in tears—an awful pleasure. If there were none on earth to shed a tear for us, we should be loth to live; and if no one might weep over our grave, we could never die in peace.
Genuine tears are the involuntary and faithful expressions of the soul. The soul's sorrow or joy—for joy weeps—guilt or innocence—for insulted virtue has its tears—glistens in the pearly drop. Tears relieve the soul; they are prevailing orators; they win triumphs which neither the infernal sword, nor divine speech could ever achieve. A true tear is electric to the true. A tear dropped in the silence of a sick chamber often rings in heaven with a sound which belongs not to earthly trumpets or bells.
Tears generally tremble in our eyes when we are happy, and 'glisten like pearls, or dew-drops on the flower cup; but when we first realize any overwhelming and unlooked for happiness, we gaze round with a smile of bewildered ecstacy, and no tears tremble in our eyes. The extremes of joy and sorrow are too great, too deep for tears.
Tender, holy and sanctifying are human tears—crystals of affection and pity—jewels of the soul. One trickled on the cheek of a child. It had been crossed in the fulfillment of some anticipation, and from a grieved heart gushed up the sympathizing tear. Another trembled from the eyelid of youth. He had felt the touch of a bitter reproof, or of disappointed love, and to soften his brain and sorrow came the same beautiful tear.
O, doubt not that manhood—strong manhood—was then solaced by tears. O, ye tears ! what a mission have ye wrought in our sorrowing world! How tenderly worshiped on the altars of pity and sincere love—how gloriously sanctified repentance and grief! Down in the damp cell where the martyr rattles his chains; in the dungeon where the patriot waits for the block—ye have performed, O tears! the same blessed work. Even to joy ye have been a balm of oil—a refiner's fire. When the Macedonian passed the pillar of Hercules, he was conquered by tears—the same tears that sprung but now, like dew-drops, from the lashes of yon blue-eyed child.
For what different ends, and yet unchanged, have ye wrought. Every moment mellowing and calming some sad, worn heart—aye, every day doing some mission for each of our souls. Ye have gushed over battle-fields and over festive halls; around the bier and the board; and deeper, holier, have been our loves and our friendliness with each return of your hallowed feet—aye, feet! for tears have feet, and they come treading up the soul like so many angels, offering sacrifices through our eyes. Repress them not, child—they are a purifying vent to thy young heart. Repress them not, O youth—they are good and holy for thee. Repress them not, mother—for unto thee God has given them to be a comforter in the lone and bitter hour. And thou, manhood, quench not the fountain whose upheaving is the most beautiful manifestation of thy spiritual life. Tears, beautiful, blessed tears, be ever with every reader—with us all; our token when we sigh for the absent, or weep for the lost—a sacred witness that our regrets and sorrows are sincere.
It is a striking fact that the dying never weep. The sobbing, the heart-breaking agony of the circle of friends around the death-bed, call forth no responsive tears from the dying. Is it because he is insensible, and stiff in the chill of dissolution? That cannot be, for he asks for his father's hand, as if to gain strength in the mortal struggle, and leans on the breast of his mother, sister or brother, in still conscious affection. just before expiring, he calls the loved ones, and with quivering lips says : "Kiss me," showing that the love which he has borne in his heart is still fresh and warm. It must be because the dying have reached a point too deep for earthly sorrows, too transcendent for weeping. They are face to face with higher and holier things, with the Father in Heaven and His angels. There is no weeping in that blessed abode to which the dying man is hastening.