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Sarah B. Judson, 1803-1845

by Henry S. Burrage

In Urwick's Selection, Dublin, 1829, appeared a fine hymn of four stanzas, without the author's name, commencing—

Proclaim the lofty praise
Of him who once was slain,
But now is risen, through endless days
To live and reign.

He lives and reigns on high,
Who bought us with his blood,
Enthroned above the farthest sky,
Our Savior, God.

This hymn was transferred to "The Psalmist" (1843), ascribed to Urwick's Collection. By Dr. Hatfield, the well known hymnologist ("Poets of the Church," p. 713), this hymn is ascribed to Mrs. Sarah B. Judson, but on what grounds I am not informed.

Sarah Boardman Judson, the second wife of Adoniram Judson, and the eldest daughter of Ralph and Abiah Hall, was born in Alstead, N.H., November 4, 1803. Her parents subsequently removed to Danvers, Mass., and then to Salem, Mass., where, in her seventeenth year, she became a member of the First Baptist church, of which Dr. Lucius Bolles was pastor.

The work of Christian missions was prominent in the thoughts of the members of that church. Dr. Bolles, as early as 1812, had organized in Salem a society to aid Dr. Carey in translating and publishing the Scriptures, and the young convert was impressed with a desire to follow Judson and his associates, who, a few years before, had sailed from Salem to engage in missionary work on heathen shores.

The way was at length opened; and as the wife of George Dana Boardman, to whom she was married July 4, 1825, she embarked July 19, following, for Calcutta, where they arrived December 13. Here, on account of the Burmese war, they were obliged to remain until March, 1827. They then proceeded to Amherst, shortly after to Maulmain, and later to Tavoy.

Meanwhile three children were born to them, of whom only one, George Dana, survived the perils of infancy. Mr. Boardman died at Tavoy, February 11, 1831. "When I first stood by the grave of my husband," wrote Mrs. Boardman, "I thought I must go home with George. But these poor, inquiring and Christian Karens, and the school boys, and the Burmese Christians, would then be left without any one to instruct them; and the poor, stupid Tavoyans would go on in the road to death, with no one to warn them of their danger. How then, oh, how can I go? We shall not be separated long. A few more years, and we shall all meet in yonder blissful world, whither those we love have gone before us."

April 10, 1834, Mrs. Boardman was married to Dr. Judson, whose heroic wife, Ann H. Judson, was laid to rest beneath the hopia tree at Amherst, eight years before. For eleven years Dr. Judson and Sarah Boardman toiled together, and then, her health having failed, with her husband and their elder children, she embarked for London, April 26, 1845. During the first part of the voyage the weather was rough, and the vessel, having sprung a leak, put in to the Isle of France for repairs. Mrs. Judson had improved so much it was thought that she would be able to continue the voyage with her children, leaving her husband to return to his work in Burma; and it was under these circumstances that she wrote the following memorable lines:

We part on this green islet, love,
  Thou for the eastern main,
I for the setting sun, love,
  O, when to meet again!

My heart is sad for thee, love,
  For lone thy way will be;
And oft thy tears will fall, love,
  For thy children and for me.

The music of thy daughter's voice
  Thou'lt miss for many a year;
And the merry shout of thine elder boys
  Thou'lt list in vain to hear.

When we knelt to see our Henry die,
  And heard his last, faint moan,
Each wiped the tear from others' eye;
  Now each must weep alone.

My tears fall fast for thee, love;
  How can I say, Farewell!
But go; thy God be with thee, love,
  Thy heart's deep grief to quell.

Yet my spirit clings to thine, love;
  Thy soul remains with me,
And oft we'll hold communion sweet
  O'er the dark and distant sea.

And who can paint our mutual joy,
  When, all our wanderings o'er,
We both shall clasp our infants three
  At home, on Burma's shore!

But higher shall our raptures glow,
  On yon celestial plain,
When the loved and parted here below
  Meet, ne'er to part again.

Then gird thine armor on, love;
  Nor faint thou by the way,
Till Buddh shall fall, and Burma's sons
  Shall own Messiah's sway.

But the parting was not to take place. A relapse followed, and July 25, Dr. Judson embarked with his family on the ship Sophia Walker; which was to sail direct for the United States. Mrs. Judson again seemed to be recovering, but there came another relapse, and she died on shipboard, in the harbor of St. Helena, September 1, 1845, in the forty-second year of her age, and the twenty-first of her missionary life.

She was buried on the island. Dr. Judson says: "In the course of the day a coffin was procured from the shore, in which I placed all that remained of her whom I had so much loved, and after a prayer had been offered by a dear brother minister from the town, the Rev. Mr. Bertram, we proceeded in boats to the shore. There we were met by the colonial chaplain, and accompanied to the burial ground by the adherents and friends of Mr. Bertram, and a large concourse of the inhabitants.

They had prepared the grave in a beautiful shady spot, contiguous to the grave of Mrs. Chater, a missionary from Ceylon, who had died in similar circumstances on her passage home. There I saw her safely deposited, and in the language of prayer, which we had often presented together at the throne of grace, I blessed God that her body had attained the repose of the grave, and her spirit the repose of Paradise."

Mrs. Judson early evinced skill in poetical composition. Among other productions written when she was thirteen years of age is a "Versification of David's Lament over Saul and Jonathan," commencing—

The beauty of Israel forever is fled,
And low lie the noble and strong;
Ye daughters of music encircle the dead,
And chant the funeral song.

These early lines were amended by the cultivated taste of later years, and in their altered dress appear in Mrs. Judson's "Life." A later poem, entitled "Come Over and Help Us," and written after she had become interested in Christian missions, voices a plea from the heathen world, of which the following is the first stanza—

Ye, on whom the glorious Gospel
  Shines with beams serenely bright,
Pity the deluded nation,
  Wrapped in shades of dismal night;
Ye, whose bosoms glow with rapture
  At the precious hopes they bear;
Ye, who know a Savior's mercy,
  Listen to our earnest prayer!

She was deeply affected by the death of Colman, and wrote the "Lines" commencing—

'Tis the voice of deep sorrow from India's shore;
The flower of our churches is withered, is dead;
The gem that shone brightly will sparkle no more,
And the tears of the Christian profusely are shed.
Two youths of Columbia, with hearts glowing warm,
Embarked on the billows far distant to rove,
To bear to the nations all wrapped in thick gloom,
The lamp of the Gospel — the message of love.
But Wheelock now slumbers beneath the cold wave,
And Colman lies low in the dark, cheerless grave.

Mourn, daughters of India, mourn!
The rays of that star, clear and bright,
That so sweetly on Arracan shone
Are shrouded in black clouds of night,
For Colman is gone!

These "Lines," which found their way into print, fell under the eye of George Dana Boardman, and in this way an acquaintanceship was formed, that ripened into marriage.

During her missionary life, Mrs. Judson found little time for poetical composition, but her occasional contributions to our poetical literature bear witness to the rare quality of the gift which she possessed.

From Baptist Hymn Writers and Their Hymns by Henry S. Burrage. Portland, Maine: Brown Thurston & Co., ©1888.

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