“In Memory of the Great Titanic”

In my last post, I cited the poem, “Only”, by Jessie Gordon.  I said that I couldn’t find out anything about her, but I had a “wild-eyed theory.”  Today, you get to read about it, and also another thought-provoking poem.

When you go searching the Internet, you often can’t tell whether the person you’ve found is the person for whom you were seeking.  In looking for Jessie Gordon, I found a mostly unknown poet who had written many poems.

I only have one poem from this other poet.  In it, we see (just like in “Only”), an awareness of the spiritual reality that runs through every part of our lives.  Her poem, which is below, speaks of the urgent need for conversion and salvation — just as in “Only”, where even the falling of a seed is seen as the potential mechanism for bringing souls to the new birth that will bring them eventually to glory.

This poet is named Jessie Gordon Allan.  Was “Gordon” her maiden name, and was she the Jessie Gordon who penned “Only”?  Perhaps, and perhaps not.  We know nothing about Jessie Gordon except that “Only” appeared in print in more than one newspaper in the late 1870s.

Jessie Gordon Allan may well have been alive then, and perhaps old enough to have written a poem.  Her father worked on the Forth Rail Bridge (work began in 1882) and she was apparently old enough to be aware of the men who lost their lives in its building.  Her family was unaware of any of her poems being published, but in those days there wasn’t the same urgency to protect intellectual property, and if someone liked “Only” and showed it to their friends, it could have ended up in print without the author ever being identified or knowing about it.

That’s all sheer speculation.  What isn’t speculation is that Jessie Gordon Allan’s poem is worth reading.  In it, we see the Christian’s heart, as taught by our Lord.  Grieving over the tragedy of lives lost.  Grieving over the tragedy of  men “who had forgot to pray,” over those who thought they were secure in an unsinkable ship.  Her poem comes with a reference to Psalm 93:4.

Psalm 93:4

The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.

You can read more about Jessie Gordon Allan on the website, Scotland’s Enchanting Kingdom.

In Memory of the Great Titanic,
April 14th 1912

Psalm xciii:4

Was there ever build a boat
So great or so surpassing grand,
As that boat – The Great Titanic –
Which left our native land?
Well might our hearts beat fast with pride,
As we look on this fruit of British toil,
The finest product of human skill
That ever left our British soil.

All that the heart could wish had she,
Rooms of treasure and luxury:
Well might our hearts beat fast with pride,
As we looked on this boat now bound for sea.
Rooms there were where one might dream,
Soothed by the lull of the waves
And think they were in some mystic land
Or dwelling in magic caves.

Music, too, of the very best,
Which filled that boat with a Heavenly strain,
Perchance, making some sad hearts rejoice,
Bidding them hope again.
But dearer than all those earthly treasures,
More precious than all that luxury,
Were the souls of the many on board that boat
Who now are sleeping in the sea.

How little you thought, ye mothers,
As you waved a last goodbye
To the dear ones now who are leaving you
That soon in the deep they would lie.
Mothers, sisters, take one fond look
Of those who are leaving your tender care,
For soon, too soon, ah, how can you know,
They’ll need your every prayer.

Cheer after cheer now rends the air
As from her moorings she slips away;
No finer boat has left our shore
Than the Titanic that sailed that April day.

‘Tis Sunday night,
And all is calm and still,
The waves are rippling at their will,
When onward comes this mighty boat –
The grandest that was e’er afloat
Upon the sea.T
As through the deep it ploughed its way,
Oh, souls on board, did you stop to pray?
Or was it with a dance or song
Ye passed the precious hours along
Of that most Holy night?

No fear did fill their hearts,
For looking up to God’s wondrous stars
No thought had they of broken spars;
The stormiest sea it would endure,
They were so safe, their boat secure,
And unsinkable.
But, hark! They felt a shock,
They laugh their fears to mock
Nothing can sink their boat
The safest of those afloat
Upon the sea.

And thus they jest,
They have no fear,
Or see the cause to shed a tear,
Or know that grim death was hovering near
That stately ship.
They didn’t know the boat was rent from stem to stern
By a huge iceberg they didn’t discern
Till all too late.
But the sailors on the watch below,
The alone knew it to their woe,
As they are caught in Death’s cold grip,
And soon are severed from the ship,
Never to rise again.

A message is sent across the wave:
“Come to our help our souls to save;
“Titanic’s sinking, but our hearts are brave”
Is the message borne across the wave.
And then they man the boats
“Women and children first”, they cry
Fathers, husband, brothers, stand by.
Bidding their dear ones a fond good-bye,
Perhaps never to meet again.

Soon every boat is lowered down,
And slowly sail away;
The souls on that sinking vessel,
What could they do but pray.
But list! o’er the water’s din
Come the strains of a well-known hymn;

“Nearer my God, to Thee, Nearer to Thee
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me,
Still all my song to Thee –
Nearer to Thee!”

Men who had forgot to pray-
Who once had knelt at mother’s knee –
Prayed to God whose name is Love,
That He might take them home above.
Fainter, yet fainter, the strains of the hymn,
Slowly the lights disappear;
Shrieks, groans and awful cries
Now rend the still-night air;
And there they struggle these poor, poor souls,
As over them the Atlantic rolls
Her treacherous waves.

But slowly they die away,
Soon they are rocked to sleep
By the cruel waves, and o’er their graves
Their loved ones may not weep.
And where is the great Titanic?
Which was so full of life and pleasure,
Down in the deep, comes the answer,
Adding to the seas great treasure.

Oh mighty sea! thy toll is great!
‘Tis felt all o’er the world,
For the loss of the great Titanic
Our British flags are half-mast unfurled.
Oh cruel sea! Why dost thou take
Those that we love best?
What carest thou tho’ hearts do ache,
And we no more see their face,
For thou has rock’d then safe to sleep
In thy dark impenetrable deep.

By Jessie Gordon Allan, April 25th 1912

About Jon Gleason

Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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2 Responses to “In Memory of the Great Titanic”

  1. Rod says:

    Hi Jon,
    Yes, the tragedy of the Titanic still fascinates people today. Was it not said before her maiden voyage that even God couldn’t sink her ?
    There is a boat in the bible that God would not allow to sink. Eight souls were saved from certain death while an unbelieving and sinful world suffered God’s wrath.
    Christ is our ark today and whosoever places their trust in him shall never perish.

    Rod.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Thanks, Rod. For readers who don’t recognise it, Rod is referring to the following passage:

      1Pe 3:20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
      1Pe 3:21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

      The ark of Noah was a divinely-planned, real-life illustration of God’s saving mercy, the greatest manifestation of which is the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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