July 12, 2011

To fit our souls for hell or heaven

The Christian Recorder issue for July 12, 1888 included a short poem, "Memory," by Katherine Davis Chapman Tillman. It was her first published poem; the Illinois-born poet was 18 years old. She spent several years in South Dakota before attending college in Kentucky and Ohio. Very little is known about her life, though it is assumed she married a Reverend G. M. Tillman. Much of her work is highly religious and, as she once wrote, aimed "to the young women of [her] race."

Of all the powers that be in earth,
That fill the soul with joy or mirth
To memory's care it has been given
To fit our souls for hell or heaven.
Sometimes upon the mountain side
With God, foul sin will glide
Into our most holy place
And challenge Jehovah to his face.
The sinful echoes of a doubtful past
Rush o'er the mind and hold it fast.

But why art troubled, O my soul,
Since Jesus' touch has made thee whole?
Bid Memory waft to thee the story
Of thy great Saviour's wond'rous glory,
Tell thee sweetly, calmly, well,
How He saved thy soul from hell --
How when friendless, poor, alone,
Thou couldst nothing do but moan,
He revealed Himself to thee
Made the joyful, set thee free.

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