“Written in a Blank Leaf of Thomas A Kempis” by Elizabeth Oakes Smith

by Ann Neilson

Thomas-von-Kempen

Thomas à Kempis was a German monk, priest, and writer, who is best known for his work Imitatio Christi, or Imitation of Christ. According to Christian Classics Ethereal Library online, the book is “a charming instruction on how to love God…free from intellectual pretensions, [and] has had great appeal to anyone interested in probing beneath the surface of life.” Kempis, born in 1380, entered Mount St. Agnes’s monastery at age nineteen and lived the remainder of his life there until his death in 1471.

Oaksmith’s poem is a warm tribute to Kempis’s patient temperament and bids the preservation of his legacy in Heaven. One wonders whether or not she felt compelled to pen the following poem after reading Kempis’s book?

Written in a Blank Leaf of Thomas A Kempis
By Elizabeth Oakes Smith
From Godey’s Magazine and Lady’s Book, May, 1849, pg. 336.

What though a gloomy faith were thine,
With vigil pale and penance stern,
That deemed it sinful when the heart
For kindly sympathy did yearn;
And thou, within thy monkish cell,
For weary years thy beads didst tell—

Yet, Kempis, it is sweet to feel
That God’s own spirit from above,
Will rightly guide the blinded child
By its own law of truth and love;
That, let the creed be what it may,
The heart will find the better way.

We praise thee not, that to thy limbs
The hairy vesture torture gave;
That all thy cloister vows were kept,
And fastings wore thee to the grave—
But humble Peace to thee was given,
And Love, which leads to God and Heaven.