For Ash Wednesday, the contrite heart by William Cowper 1731-1800
William Cowper was a broken spirit who poured out poetry. Put away as insane, he was tortured with spiritual doubt. He broke some barriers of language that opened doors to more famous English Romantics like Coleridge and Wordsworth.
The Lord will happiness divine
On contrite hearts bestow;
Then tell me, gracious God, is mine
A contrite heart or no?
I hear, but seem to hear in vain,
Insensible as steel;
If aught is felt, ’tis only pain,
To find I cannot feel.
I sometimes think myself inclined
To love Thee if I could;
But often feel another mind,
Averse to all that’s good.
My best desires are faint and few,
I fain would strive for more;
But when I cry, “My strength renew!”
Seem weaker than before.
Thy saints are comforted, I know,
And love Thy house of prayer;
I therefore go where others go,
But find no comfort there.
Oh make this heart rejoice or ache;
Decide this doubt for me;
And if it be not broken, break —
And heal it, if it be.