The Gift of Tears, Dorothee Sölle

I have long loved this poem by Dorothee Sölle, one of the earliest and greatest German liberation/feminist theologians; this comes from her collection of poetry, fliegen lernen. It is a very appropriate poem for Lent. I couldn’t find a translation anywhere, so I made one of my own, which focuses on clarity and makes no claims to accuracy or beauty.

Soelle’s rumination on “the gift of tears” places in her in that tradition of Christian spirituality that considers “holy tears” to be a means of God’s grace and a path to compassion and mercy. (See e.g. St. Augustine on the gift of tears, who praises Hannah and Mary Magdalene for their weeping, and asks for a similar grace to call his own.) I could write a lot more about affective meditation, tears, and empathy, especially in the Middle Ages; but I will refrain, and leave you with this simple poem on a snowy Sunday evening.

Blessings for your journeys towards Jerusalem, and towards eternal life.

The Gift of Tears
by Dorothee Soelle

Give me the gift of tears god
give me the gift of speech

Lead me out of the house of lies
wash away my education
free me from my mother daughter
capture my defensive rampart
sand away my intelligent castle

Give me the gift of tears god
give me the gift of speech.

Purify me from remaining silent
give me words to reach my neighbors
remind me of the tears of the little student in göttingen
how can i speak when i have forgotten how to cry
make me wet
do not hide me any more

Give me the gift of tears god
give me the gift of speech.

Shatter my pride make me simple
let me be water that others can drink
how can I speak when my tears are only for me
take from me private possessions and the desire for them
give and i learn to give

Give me the gift of tears god
give me the gift of speech
give me the water of life

Station of the cross, Saint Symphorian church of Pfettisheim, Bas-Rhin, France. XIXth century. Detail of the 13th station : Mary Magdalene weeping. Photo by Pethrus; shared under Creative Commons license, via wikicommons.

(And now for the original poem:)

Gib mir die gabe der tränen gott
gib mir die gabe der sprache

Führ mich aus dem lügenhaus
wasch meine erziehung ab
befreie mich von meiner mutter tochter
nimm meinen schutzwall ein
schleif meine intelligente burg

Gib mir die gabe der tränen gott
gib mir die gabe der sprache

Reinige mich vom verschweigen
gib mir die wörter den neben mir zu erreichen
erinnere mich an die tränen der kleinen studentin in göttingen
wie kann ich reden wenn ich vergessen habe wie man weint
mach mich naß
versteck mich nicht mehr

Gib mir die gabe der tränen gott
Gib mir die gabe der sprache

Zerschlage den hochmut mach mich einfach
laß mich wasser sein das man trinken kann
wie kann ich reden wenn meine tränen nur für mich sind
nimm mir das private eigentum und den wunsch danach
gib und ich lerne geben

Gib mir die gabe der tränen gott
gib mir die gabe der sprache
gib mir das wasser des lebens

(aus: fliegen lernen, S. 35)

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3 thoughts on “The Gift of Tears, Dorothee Sölle

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