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Funeral Poems for Loved Ones

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The best poems for funerals and memorial services

Poetry read at a funeral is an eloquent way to pay tribute to the life and legacy of someone you love. For the bereaved, poems about dying, the pain of loss, grief, mourning, the afterlife, or rebirth can bring comfort and be a source of inspiration and hope.  

Find a meaningful poem to include in a funeral or memorial service, as well as poetry to help you cope with a loved one’s death. Here is a collection of some of the best funeral poems of all time, organized by theme, sentiment, and relationship to the deceased:

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Comforting, Hopeful & Inspiring Poetry

An Adieu

Florence Earle Coates
 

Sorrow, quit me for a while!
Wintry days are over;
Hope again, with April smile,
Violets sows and clover.

Pleasure follows in her path,
Love itself flies after,
And the brook a music hath
Sweet as childhood’s laughter.

Not a bird upon the bough
Can repress its rapture,
Not a bud that blossoms now
But doth beauty capture.

Sorrow, thou art Winter’s mate,
Spring cannot regret thee
Yet, ah, yet—my friend of late—
I shall not forget thee!

The Angel of Patience

Elizabeth Akers Allen
 

Beside the toilsome way
Lonely and dark, by fruits and flowers unblest,
Which my feet tread sadly, day by day,
Longing in vain for rest.
 
An angel softly walks,
With pale sweet face, and eye cast meekly down,
The while from withered leaves and flowerless stalks
She weaves my fitting crown.
 
A sweet and patient grace,
A look of firm endurance, true and tried,
Of suffering meekly borne, rests on her face
So pure — so glorified.
 
And when my fainting heart
Desponds and murmurs at its adverse fate,
Then quietly the angel’s bright lips part,
Murmuring softly, “Wait!
 
‘Patience!’ she sweetly saith, —
The Father’s mercies never come too late;
Gird thee with patient strength and trusting faith,
And firm endurance, — wait!”
 
Angel! behold, I wait,
Wearing the thorny crown through all life’s hours, —
Wait till thy hand shall ope the eternal gate,
And change the thorns to flowers!

The Day is Done

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 
 

The day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.
 
I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me
That my soul cannot resist:
 
A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.
 
Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.
 
Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of Time.
 
For, like strains of martial music,
Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life's endless toil and endeavor;
And to-night I long for rest.
 
Read from some humbler poet,
Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start;
 
Who, through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.
 
Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.
 
Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.
 
And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.

A Death-Bed

James Aldrich
 

Her suffering ended with the day;
Yet lived she at its close,
And breathed the long, long night away,
In statue-like repose.

But when the sun, in all his state,
Illumed the eastern skies,
She passed through glory's morning-gate,
And walked in Paradise!

Fear No More the Heat O' the Sun

William Shakespeare
 

Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Fear no more the frown o' the great,
Thou art past the tyrant's stroke;
Care no more to clothe, and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning flash
Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan:
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.

Give All to Love (excerpt)

Ralph Waldo Emerson 
 

GIVE all to love;
Obey thy heart;
Friends, kindred, days,
Estate, good fame,
Plans, credit, and the Muse—
Nothing refuse.

'Tis a brave master;
Let it have scope:
Follow it utterly,
Hope beyond hope:
High and more high
It dives into noon,
With wing unspent,
Untold intent;
But it is a god,
Knows its own path,
And the outlets of the sky.

It was never for the mean;
It requireth courage stout,
Souls above doubt,
Valour unbending:
Such 'twill reward;—
They shall return
More than they were,
And ever ascending.

At the Grave of the Forgotten

Effie Waller Smith
 

In a churchyard old and still,
Where the breeze-touched branches thrill
To and fro,
Giant oak trees blend their shade
O’er a sunken grave-mound, made
Long ago.

No stone, crumbling at its head,
Bears the mossed name of the dead
Graven deep;
But a myriad blossoms’ grace
Clothes with trembling light the place
Of his sleep.

Was a young man in his strength
Laid beneath this low mound’s length,
Heeding naught?
Did a maiden’s parents wail
As they saw her, pulseless, pale,
Hither brought?

Was it else one full of days,
Who had traveled darksome ways,
And was tired,
Who looked forth unto the end,
And saw Death come as a friend
Long desired?

Who it was that rests below
Not earth’s wisest now may know,
Or can tell;
But these blossoms witness bear
They who laid the sleeper there
Loved him well.

In the dust that closed him o’er
Planted they the garden store
Deemed most sweet,
Till the fragrant gleam, outspread,
Swept in beauty from his head
To his feet.

Still, in early springtime’s glow,
Guelder-roses cast their snow
O’er his rest;
Still sweet-williams breathe perfume
Where the peonies’ crimson bloom
Drapes his breast.

Passing stranger, pity not
Him who lies here, all forgot,
‘Neath this earth;
Some one loved him—more can fall
To no mortal. Love is all
Life is worth.

On a Grave at Grindelwald

Frederic William Henry Myers
 

Here let us leave him; for his shroud the snow,
For funeral-lamps he has the planets seven,
For a great sign the icy stair shall go
Between the heights to heaven.

One moment stood he as the angels stand,
High in the stainless eminence of air;
The next, he was not, to his fatherland
Translated unaware.

Greenwood Cemetery

Crammond Kennedy
 

How calm they sleep beneath the shade
Who once were weary of the strife,
And bent, like us, beneath the load
Of human life!

The willow hangs with sheltering grace
And benediction o'er their sod,
And Nature, hushed, assures the soul
They rest in God.

O weary hearts, what rest is here,
From all that curses yonder town!
So deep the peace, I almost long
To lay me down.

For, oh, it will be blest to sleep,
Nor dream, nor move, that silent night,
Till wakened in immortal strength
And heavenly light!

Hope

Joseph Addison
 

Our lives, discoloured with our present woes,
May still grow white and shine with happier hours.
So the pure limped stream, when foul with stains
Of rushing torrents and descending rains,
Works itself clear, and as it runs refines,
till by degrees the floating mirror shines;
Reflects each flower that on the border grows,
And a new heaven in it's fair bosom shows.

On Joy and Sorrow (From “The Prophet”)

Kahlil Gibran
 

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

The Light of the House

Louise Imogen Guiney
 

Beyond the cheat of Time, here where you died, you live;
You pace the garden walk, secure and sensitive;
You linger on the stair: Love’s lonely pulses leap!
The harpsichord is shaken, the dogs look up from sleep.

Here, after all the years, you keep the heirdom still;
The youth and joy in you achieve their olden will,
Unbidden, undeterred, with waking sense adored;
And still the house is happy that hath so dear a lord.

To every inmate heart, confirmed in cheer you brought,
Your name is as a spell midway of speech and thought,
And to a wonted guest (not awestruck heretofore),
The sunshine that was you floods all the open door.

A Reminiscence

Anne Brontë
 

YES, thou art gone! and never more
Thy sunny smile shall gladden me;
But I may pass the old church door,
And pace the floor that covers thee.

May stand upon the cold, damp stone,
And think that, frozen, lies below
The lightest heart that I have known,
The kindest I shall ever know.
 
Yet, though I cannot see thee more,
'Tis still a comfort to have seen;
And though thy transient life is o'er,
'Tis sweet to think that thou hast been;
 
To think a soul so near divine,
Within a form so angel fair,
United to a heart like thine,
Has gladdened once our humble sphere.

The Sailor's Grave at Clo-oose, V.I.

Marjorie Pickthall
 

Out of the winds' and the waves' riot,
Out of the loud foam,
He has put in to a great quiet
And a still home.
 
Here he may lie at ease and wonder
Why the old ship waits,
And hark for the surge and the strong thunder
Of the full Straits,
 
And look for the fishing fleet at morning,
Shadows like lost souls,
Slide through the fog where the seal's warning
Betrays the shoals,
 
And watch for the deep-sea liner climbing
Out of the bright West,
With a salmon-sky and her wake shining
Like a tern's breast, —
 
And never know he is done for ever
With the old sea's pride,
Borne from the fight and the full endeavor

She Died in Beauty

Charles Doyne Sillery
 

She died in beauty,—like a rose
Blown from its parent stem;
She died in beauty,—like a pearl
Dropped from some diadem.

She died in beauty,—like a lay
Along a moonlit lake;
She died in beauty,—like the song
Of birds amid the brake.

She died in beauty,—like the snow
On flowers dissolved away;
She died in beauty,—like a star
Lost on the brow of day.

She lives in glory,—like night's gems
Set round the silver moon;
She lives in glory,—like the sun
Amid the blue of June.

Softly Woo Away Her Breath

Bryan Waller Procter (Barry Cornwall)
 

Softly woo away her breath,
Gentle death!
Let her leave thee with no strife,
Tender, mournful, murmuring life!
She hath seen her happy day,—
She hath had her bud and blossom;
Now she pales and shrinks away,
Earth, into thy gentle bosom!

She hath done her bidding here,
Angels dear!
Bear her perfect soul above.
Seraph of the skies,—sweet love!
Good she was, and fair in youth;
And her mind was seen to soar.
And her heart was wed to truth:
Take her, then, forevermore,—
Forever—evermore—

Spirits of the Dead

Edgar Allan Poe
 

I

Thy soul shall find itself alone
’Mid dark thoughts of the gray tombstone—
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.
 
II

Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness—for then
The spirits of the dead who stood
In life before thee are again
In death around thee—and their will
Shall overshadow thee: be still.

III

The night, tho’ clear, shall frown—
And the stars shall look not down
From their high thrones in the heaven,
With light like Hope to mortals given—
But their red orbs, without beam,
To thy weariness shall seem
As a burning and a fever
Which would cling to thee for ever.

IV

Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish,
Now are visions ne’er to vanish;
From thy spirit shall they pass
No more—like dew-drop from the grass.

V

The breeze—the breath of God—is still—
And the mist upon the hill,
Shadowy—shadowy—yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token—
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!

Time Is

Henry van Dyke
 

Time is
Too Slow for those who Wait,
Too Swift for those who Fear,
Too Long for those who Grieve,
Too Short for those who Rejoice;
But for those who Love,
Time is not. 

The Two Mysteries

Mary Maples Dodge
 

We know not what it is, dear, this sleep so deep and still;
The folded hands, the awful calm, the cheek so pale and chill;
The lids that will not lift again, though we may call and call;
The strange white solitude of peace that settles over all.

We know not what it means, dear, this desolate heart-pain;
This dread to take our daily way, and walk in it again;
We know not to what other sphere the loved who leave us go,
Nor why we 're left to wonder still, nor why we do not know.

But this we know: Our loved and dead, if they should come this day—
Should come and ask us, "What is life?" not one of us could say.
Life is a mystery, as deep as ever death can be;
Yet, O, how dear it is to us, this life we live and see!

Then might they say—these vanished ones—and blessed is the thought,
"So death is sweet to us, beloved! though we may show you nought;
We may not to the quick reveal the mystery of death—
Ye cannot tell us, if ye would, the mystery of breath."

The child who enters life comes not with knowledge or intent,
So those who enter death must go as little children sent.
Nothing is known. But I believe that God is overhead;
And as life is to the living, so death is to the dead.

Warm Summer Sun

Mark Twain
 

Warm summer sun,
Shine kindly here,
Warm southern wind,
Blow softly here.
Green sod above,
Lie light, lie light.
Good night, dear heart,
Good night, good night.

Sorrowful Poems

The Broken Heart

John Donne
 

He is stark mad, whoever says,
That he hath been in love an hour,
Yet not that love so soon decays,
But that it can ten in less space devour;
Who will believe me, if I swear
That I have had the plague a year?
Who would not laugh at me, if I should say
I saw a flash of powder burn a day?

Ah, what a trifle is a heart,
If once into love's hands it come!
All other griefs allow a part
To other griefs, and ask themselves but some;
They come to us, but us love draws;
He swallows us and never chaws;
By him, as by chain'd shot, whole ranks do die;
He is the tyrant pike, our hearts the fry.
 
If 'twere not so, what did become
Of my heart when I first saw thee?
I brought a heart into the room,
But from the room I carried none with me.
If it had gone to thee, I know
Mine would have taught thine heart to show
More pity unto me; but Love, alas!
At one first blow did shiver it as glass.
 
Yet nothing can to nothing fall,
Nor any place be empty quite;
Therefore I think my breast hath all
Those pieces still, though they be not unite;
And now, as broken glasses show
A hundred lesser faces, so
My rags of heart can like, wish, and adore,
But after one such love, can love no more.

Clouds Will Separate Us

Matsuo Basho
 

Clouds will separate us —
the time to part has come now.
Wild goose flies away...

A Daughter of Eve

Christina Rossetti
 

A fool I was to sleep at noon,
And wake when night is chilly
Beneath the comfortless cold moon;
A fool to pluck my rose too soon,
A fool to snap my lily.
 
My garden-plot I have not kept;
Faded and all-forsaken,
I weep as I have never wept:
Oh it was summer when I slept,
It's winter now I waken.
 
Talk what you please of future spring
And sun-warm'd sweet to-morrow:—
Stripp'd bare of hope and everything,
No more to laugh, no more to sing,
I sit alone with sorrow.

The Death-Bed

Thomas Hood
 

We watched her breathing through the night,
Her breathing soft and low,
As in her breast the wave of life
Kept heaving to and fro.

So silently we seemed to speak,
So slowly moved about,
As we had lent her half our powers
To eke her living out.

Our very hopes belied our fears,
Our fears our hopes belied—
We thought her dying when she slept,
And sleeping when she died.

For when the morn came, dim and sad,
And chill with early showers,
Her quiet eyelids closed—she had
Another morn than ours.

Forever

Paul Laurence Dunbar
 

I had not known before
Forever was so long a word.
The slow stroke of the clock of time
I had not heard.

‘Tis hard to learn so late;
 It seems no sad heart really learns,
But hopes and trusts and doubts and fears,
And bleeds and burns.

The night is not all dark,
 Nor is the day all it seems,
But each may bring me this relief—
 My dreams and dreams.

I had not known before
 That Never was so sad a word,
So wrap me in forgetfulness—
I have not heard.

To Jake

Eunice Tietjens
 

You are turned wraith. Your supple, flitting hands,
As formless as the night wind’s moan,
Beckon across the years, and your heart’s pain
Fades surely as a stainèd stone.
And yet you will not let me rest, crying
And calling down the night to me
A thing that when your body moved and glowed,
Living, you could not make me see.
Lean down your homely, mist-encircled head
Close, close above my human ear,
And tell me what of pain among the dead—
Tell me, and I will try to hear.

Lavender

Anonymous
 

How prone we are to hide and hoard
Each little treasure time has stored,
To tell of happy hours!
We lay aside with tender care
A tattered book, a lock of hair,
A bunch of faded flowers.

When death has led with silent hand
Our darlings to the "Silent Land,"
Awhile we sit bereft;
But time goes on; anon we rise,
Our dead are buried from our eyes,
We gather what is left.

The books they loved, the songs they sang,
The little flute whose music rang
So cheerily of old;
The pictures we had watched them paint,
The last plucked flower, with odor faint,
That fell from fingers cold.

We smooth and fold with reverent care
The robes they living used to wear;
And painful pulses stir
As o'er the relics of our dead,
With bitter rain of tears, we spread
Pale purple lavender.

And when we come in after years,
With only tender April tears
On cheeks once white with care,
To look on treasures put away
Despairing on that far-off day,
A subtle scent is there.

Dew-wet and fresh we gather them,
These fragrant flowers; now every stem
Is bare of all its bloom:
Tear-wet and sweet we strewed them here
To lend our relics, sacred, dear,
Their beautiful perfume.

The scent abides on book and lute,
On curl and flower, and with its mute
But eloquent appeal
It wins from us a deeper sob
For our lost dead, a sharper throb
Than we are wont to feel.

It whispers of the "long ago;"
Its love, its loss, its aching woe,
And buried sorrows stir;
And tears like those we shed of old
Roll down our cheeks as we behold
Our faded lavender.

Nature

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
 

As a fond mother, when the day is o'er,
Leads by the hand her little child to bed,
Half willing, half reluctant to be led,
And leave his broken playthings on the floor,
 
Still gazing at them through the open door,
Nor wholly reassured and comforted
By promises of others in their stead,
Which, though more splendid, may not please him more;
 
So Nature deals with us, and takes away
Our playthings one by one, and by the hand
Leads us to rest so gently, that we go
 
Scarce knowing if we wish to go or stay,
Being too full of sleep to understand
How far the unknown transcends the what we know.

O Captain! My Captain!

Walt Whitman
 

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up- for you the flag is flung- for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Requiescat

Matthew Arnold 
 

Strew on her roses, roses,
And never a spray of yew.
In quiet she reposes:
Ah! would that I did too.

Her mirth the world required:
She bathed it in smiles of glee.
But her heart was tired, tired,
And now they let her be.

Her life was turning, turning,
In mazes of heat and sound.
But for peace her soul was yearning,
And now peace laps her round.

Her cabin’d, ample Spirit,
It flutter’d and fail’d for breath.
To-night it doth inherit
The vasty hall of Death.

Sorrow

Aubrey Thomas de Vere
 

COUNT each affliction, whether light or grave,
God's messenger sent down to thee; do thou
With courtesy receive him; rise and bow;
And, ere his shadow pass thy threshold, crave
Permission first his heavenly feet to lave;
Then lay before him all thou hast; allow
No cloud of passion to usurp thy brow,
Or mar thy hospitality; no wave
Of mortal tumult to obliterate
The soul's marmoreal calmness: Grief should be,
Like joy, majestic, equable, sedate;
Confirming, cleansing, raising, making free;
Strong to consume small troubles; to commend
Great thoughts, grave thoughts, thoughts lasting to the end.

To Keep the Memory of Charlotte Forten Grimke

Angelina Weld Grimké
 

Still are there wonders of the dark and day;
The muted shrillings of shy things at night,
So small beneath the stars and moon;
The peace, dream-frail, but perfect while the light
Lies softly on the leaves at noon.
These are, and these will be
Until Eternity;
But she who loved them well has gone away.
 
Each dawn, while yet the east is veiléd grey,
The birds about her window wake and sing;
And far away each day some lark
I know is singing where the grasses swing;
Some robin calls and calls at dark.
These are, and these will be
Until Eternity;
But she who loved them well has gone away.
 
The wild flowers that she loved down green ways stray;
Her roses lift their wistful buds at dawn,
But not for eyes that loved them best;
Only her little pansies are all gone,
Some lying softly on her breast.
And flowers will bud and be
Until Eternity;
But she who loved them well has gone away.
 
Where has she gone? And who is there to say?
But this we know: her gentle spirit moves
And is where beauty never wanes,
Perchance by other streams, mid other groves;
And to us here, ah! she remains
A lovely memory,
Until Eternity;
She came, she loved, and then she went away.

XXIII

Stephen Crane
 

Places among the stars,
Soft gardens near the sun,
Keep your distant beauty;
Shed no beams upon my weak heart.
Since she is here
In a place of blackness,
Not your golden days
Not your silver nights
Can call me to you.
Since she is here
In a place of blackness,
Here I stay and wait.

Spiritual and Religious Poetry

Awakening

Washington Gladden
 

Down to the borders of the silent land
He goes with halting feet;
He dares not trust; he cannot understand
The blessedness complete
That waits for God's beloved at his right hand.

He dreads to see God's face, for though the pure
Beholding him are blest,
Yet in his sight no evil can endure;
And still with fear oppressed
He looks within and cries, "Who can be sure?"

The world beyond is strange; the golden streets,
The palaces so fair,
The seraphs singing in the shining seats,
The glory everywhere,—
And to his soul he solemnly repeats

The visions of the Book. "Alas!" he cries,
"That world is all too grand;
Among those splendors and those majesties
I would not dare to stand;
For me a lowlier heaven would well suffice!"

Yet, faithful in his lot this saint has stood
Through service and through pain;
The Lord Christ he has followed, doing good;
Sure, dying must be gain
To one who living hath done what he could.

The light is fading in the tired eyes,
The weary race is run;
Not as the victor that doth seize the prize.
But as the fainting one,
He nears the verge of the eternities.

And now the end has come, and now he sees
The happy, happy shore;
O fearful, and faint, distrustful soul, are these
The things thou fearedst before—
The awful majesties that spoiled thy peace?

This land is home; no stranger art thou here;
Sweet and familiar words
From voices silent long salute thine ear;
And winds and songs of birds,
And bees and blooms and sweet perfumes are near.

The seraphs—they are men of kindly mien;
The gems and robes—but signs
Of minds all radiant and of hearts washed clean;
The glory—such as shines
Wherever faith or hope or love is seen.

And he, O doubting child! the Lord of grace
Whom thou didst fear to see—
He knows thy sin—but look upon his face!
Doth it not shine on thee
With a great light of love that fills the place?

O happy soul, be thankful now and rest!
Heaven is a goodly land;
And God is love; and those he loves are blest;—
Now thou dost understand;
The least thou hast is better than the best

That thou didst hope for; now upon thine eyes
The new life opens fair;
Before thy feet the Blessed journey lies
Through homelands everywhere;
And heaven to thee is all a sweet surprise.

The Christian's Goodnight

Sarah Doudney 
 

1.
Sleep on, Beloved, sleep, and take thy rest;
Lay down thy head upon the Savior’s breast;
We loved thee well, but Jesus loves thee best
Good night! Good night! Good night!

2.
Calm is thy slumber as an infant’s sleep;
But thou shall wake no more to toil and weep;
Thine is a perfect rest, secure and deep
Good night! Good night! Good night!

3.
Until the shadows from this earth are cast,
Until He gathers in His sheaves at last;
Until the twilight gloom be over past
Good night! Good night! Good night!

4.
Until the Easter glory lights the skies,
Until the dead in Jesus shall arise,
And He shall come, but not in lowly guise
Good night! Good night! Good night!

5.
Until, made beautiful by love divine,
Thou, in the likeness of thy Lord shall shine,
And He shall bring that golden crown of thine
Good night! Good night! Good night!

6.
Only Good night, beloved not farewell!
A little while, and all His saints shall dwell
In hallowed unison indivisible
Good night! Good night! Good night!

7.
Until we meet again before His throne,
Clothed in the spotless robe He gives His own,
Until we know even as we are known
Good night!  Good night!  Good night!

Death

Eric Mackay
 

It is the joy, it is the zest of life,
To know that Death, ungainly to the vile,
Is not a traitor with a reckless knife,
And not a serpent with a look of guile,
But one who greets us with a seraph's smile, —
An angel — guest to tend us after strife,
And keep us true to God when fears are rife,
And sceptic thought would daunt us or defile.
He walks the world as one empower'd to fill
The fields of space for Father and for Son.
He is our friend, though morbidly we shun
His tender touch, — a cure for every ill.
He is the king of peace, when all is done.
Earth and the air are moulded to his will.

The Dying Christian to His Soul

Alexander Pope
 

VITAL spark of heav'nly flame!
Quit, O quit this mortal frame:
Trembling, hoping, ling'ring, flying,
O the pain, the bliss of dying!
Cease, fond Nature, cease thy strife,
And let me languish into life.

Hark! they whisper; angels say,
Sister Spirit, come away!
What is this absorbs me quite?
Steals my senses, shuts my sight,
Drowns my spirits, draws my breath?
Tell me, my soul, can this be death?

The world recedes; it disappears!
Heav'n opens on my eyes! my ears
With sounds seraphic ring!
Lend, lend your wings! I mount! I fly!
O Grave! where is thy victory?
O Death! where is thy sting?

Last Lines

Emily Bronte
 

NO coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heaven's glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.
O God within my breast,
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life—that in me has rest,
As I—undying Life—have power in Thee!
Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men's hearts: unutterably vain;
Worthless as wither'd weeds,
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,
To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by Thine infinity;
So surely anchor'd on
The steadfast rock of immortality.
With wide-embracing love
Thy Spirit animates eternal years,
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.
Though earth and man were gone,
And suns and universes cease to be,
And Thou were left alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.
There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou—Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.

 

Poems from the Deceased

Beyond the Smiling and the Weeping

Horatius Bonar
 

Beyond the smiling and the weeping
I shall be soon;
Beyond the waking and the sleeping,
Beyond the sowing and the reaping,
I shall be soon.
Love, rest, and home!
Sweet hope!
Lord, tarry not, but come.

Beyond the blooming and the fading
I shall be soon;
Beyond the shining and the shading,
Beyond the hoping and the dreading,
I shall be soon.
Love, rest, and home!
Sweet hope!
Lord, tarry not, but come.

Beyond the rising and the setting
I shall be soon;
Beyond the calming and the fretting,
Beyond remembering and forgetting,
I shall be soon.
Love, rest, and home!
Sweet hope!
Lord, tarry not, but come.

Beyond the gathering and the strowing
I shall be soon;
Beyond the ebbing and the flowing.
Beyond the coming and the going,
I shall be soon.
Love, rest, and home!
Sweet hope!
Lord, tarry not, but come.

Beyond the parting and the meeting
I shall be soon;
Beyond the farewell and the greeting,
Beyond this pulse's fever beating,
I shall be soon.
Love, rest, and home!
Sweet hope!
Lord, tarry not, but come.

Beyond the frost chain and the fever
I shall be soon;
Beyond the rock waste and the river,
Beyond the ever and the never,
I shall be soon.
Love, rest, and home!
Sweet hope!
Lord, tarry not, but come.

Credo

Alfred Kreymborg
 

I sing the will to love:
the will that carves the will to live,
the will that saps the will to hurt,
the will that kills the will to die;
the will that made and keeps you warm,
the will that points your eyes ahead,
the will that makes you give, not get,
a give and get that tell us what you are:
how much a god, how much a human.
I call on you to live the will to love.

Crossing the Bar

Alfred, Lord Tennyson
 

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
 
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
 
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
 
For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

Genealogy

Gertrude Murrell DuPont Howland
 

When I’m a name on the family tree
I know what they will say of me:
She was the daughter of see above
She was the wife of see below
She was the mother of so and so.
With these I wish to live and die,
But they are they and I am I.
I am the one
Who loved the hot August sun.
Moss like gray lace hung from very large trees.
The breathless green of tropical seas.
A shining sail up the path of the moon.
A dance out of doors to a lilting tune.
Books and more books of every kind
And a quick-witted argument to sharpen the mind.
But anything, anything, I don’t care,
To try and escape the dismally bare
She was the daughter of...
She was the wife of...
She was the mother of...

My Spirit Will Not Haunt the Mound

Thomas Hardy
 

My spirit will not haunt the mound
Above my breast,
But travel, memory-possessed,
To where my tremulous being found
Life largest, best.
 
My phantom-footed shape will go
When nightfall grays
Hither and thither along the ways
I and another used to know
In backward days.
 
And there you’ll find me, if a jot
You still should care
For me, and for my curious air;
If otherwise, then I shall not,
For you, be there.

Old Age (excerpt)

Anne Bradstreet
 

What you have been, ev'n such have I before,
And all you say, say I, and something more.
Babe's innocence, Youth's wildness I have seen,
And in perplexed Middle-age have been,
Sickness, dangers, and anxieties have past,
And on this Stage am come to act my last.
I have been young, and strong, and wise as you
But now, Bis pueri senes is too true.
In every Age I've found much vanity.
An end of all perfection now I see.
It's not my valour, honour, nor my gold,
My ruin'd house, now falling can uphold;
It's not my Learning, Rhetoric, wit so large,
Now hath the power, Death's Warfare, to discharge.
It's not my goodly house, nor bed of down,
That can refresh, or ease, if Conscience frown;
Nor from alliance now can I have hope,
But what I have done well, that is my prop.
He that in youth is godly, wise, and sage
Provides a staff for to support his age.
Great mutations, some joyful, and some sad,
In this short Pilgrimage I oft have had.
Sometimes the Heavens with plenty smil'd on me,
Sometimes, again, rain'd all adversity;
Sometimes in honour, sometimes in disgrace,
Sometime an abject, then again in place:
Such private changes oft mine eyes have seen.
...

I've seen a land unmoulded with great pain,
But yet may live to see't made up again.
I've seen it shaken, rent, and soak'd in blood,
But out of troubles ye may see much good.
These are no old wives' tales, but this is truth.
We old men love to tell, what's done in youth.
...

There I shall rest till heavens shall be no more;
And when this flesh shall rot and be consum'd,
This body, by this soul, shall be assum'd;
And I shall see with these same very eyes
My strong Redeemer coming in the skies.
Triumph I shall, o're Sin, o're Death, o're Hell,
And in that hope, I bid you all farewell.

Remember

Christina Rossetti
 

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land; 
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost
 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
 
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
 
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
 
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Rock Me to Sleep

Elizabeth Akers Allen
 

Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight,
Make me a child again just for tonight!
Mother, come back from the echoless shore,
Take me again to your heart as of yore;
Kiss from my forehead the furrows of care,
Smooth the few silver threads out of my hair;
Over my slumbers your loving watch keep;—    
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep!

Backward, flow backward, O tide of the years!
I am so weary of toil and of tears,—
Toil without recompense, tears all in vain,—
Take them, and give me my childhood again!
I have grown weary of dust and decay,—
Weary of flinging my soul-wealth away;
Weary of sowing for others to reap;—
Rock me to sleep, mother — rock me to sleep!

Tired of the hollow, the base, the untrue,
Mother, O mother, my heart calls for you!
Many a summer the grass has grown green,
Blossomed and faded, our faces between:
Yet, with strong yearning and passionate pain,
Long I tonight for your presence again.
Come from the silence so long and so deep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep!

Over my heart, in the days that are flown,
No love like mother-love ever has shone;
No other worship abides and endures,—
Faithful, unselfish, and patient like yours:
None like a mother can charm away pain
From the sick soul and the world-weary brain.
Slumber’s soft calms o’er my heavy lids creep;—  
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep!

Come, let your brown hair, just lighted with gold,
Fall on your shoulders again as of old;
Let it drop over my forehead tonight,
Shading my faint eyes away from the light;
For with its sunny-edged shadows once more
Haply will throng the sweet visions of yore;
Lovingly, softly, its bright billows sweep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep!

Mother, dear mother, the years have been long
Since I last listened your lullaby song:
Sing, then, and unto my soul it shall seem
Womanhood’s years have been only a dream.
Clasped to your heart in a loving embrace,
With your light lashes just sweeping my face,
Never hereafter to wake or to weep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep!

So Long! (excerpt)

Walt Whitman
 

Dear friend whoever you are take this kiss,
I give it especially to you, do not forget me,
I feel like one who has done work for the day to retire awhile,
I receive now again of my many translations, from my avataras
ascending, while others doubtless await me,
An unknown sphere more real than I dream’d, more direct,
darts awakening rays about me, So long!
Remember my words, I may again return,
I love you, I depart from materials, 
I am as one disembodied, triumphant, dead.

Song (When I Am Dead My Dearest)

Christina Rossetti
 

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

Poems About Veterans

Before Marching, and After

Thomas Hardy
 

(In Memoriam F. W. G.)

Orion swung southward aslant
Where the starved Egdon pine-trees had thinned,
The Pleiads aloft seemed to pant
With the heather that twitched in the wind;
But he looked on indifferent to sights such as these,
Unswayed by love, friendship, home joy or home sorrow,
And wondered to what he would march on the morrow.

The crazed household clock with its whirr
Rang midnight within as he stood,
He heard the low sighing of her
Who had striven from his birth for his good;
But he still only asked the spring starlight, the breeze,
What great thing or small thing his history would borrow

From that Game with Death he would play on the morrow.
When the heath wore the robe of late summer,
And the fuchsia-bells, hot in the sun,
Hung red by the door, a quick comer
Brought tidings that marching was done
For him who had joined in that game overseas
Where Death stood to win; though his memory would borrow
A brightness therefrom not to die on the morrow.

Bobs

Jessie Pope
 

The call came in the stormy night,
Beneath a stranger’s sky.
The soldier of a life-long fight,
Still fighting, went to die.

His country’s honour was his goal;
Patient, unswerving, brave,
His mind, his heart, his work, his soul—
His very all, he gave.

He toiled to rouse us from our sleep,
And now he takes his rest,
And we—it is not ours to weep,
But follow his behest.

’Tis ours to make this matter plain—
That though our “Bobs” has gone,
Though dust returns to dust again—
His soul goes marching on.

Come Up From the Fields Father

Walt Whitman
 

Come up from the fields father, here’s a letter from our Pete,
And come to the front door mother, here’s a letter from thy dear son.

Lo, ‘tis autumn,
Lo, where the trees, deeper green, yellower and redder,
Cool and sweeten Ohio’s villages with leaves fluttering in the moderate wind,
Where apples ripe in the orchards hang and grapes on the trellis’d vines,
(Smell you the smell of the grapes on the vines?
Smell you the buckwheat where the bees were lately buzzing?)

Above all, lo, the sky so calm, so transparent after the rain, and with wondrous clouds,
Below too, all calm, all vital and beautiful, and the farm prospers well.

Down in the fields all prospers well,
But now from the fields come father, come at the daughter’s call,
And come to the entry mother, to the front door come right away.

Fast as she can she hurries, something ominous, her steps trembling,
She does not tarry to smooth her hair nor adjust her cap.

Open the envelope quickly,
O this is not our son’s writing, yet his name is sign’d,
O a strange hand writes for our dear son, 0 stricken mother’s soul!
All swims before her eyes, flashes with black, she catches the main words only,
Sentences broken, gunshot wound in the breast, cavalry skirmish, taken to hospital,
At present low, but will soon be better.

Ah now the single figure to me,
Amid all teeming and wealthy Ohio with all its cities and farms,
Sickly white in the face and dull in the head, very faint,
By the jamb of a door leans.

Grieve not so, dear mother, (the just-grown daughter speaks through her sobs,
The little sisters huddle around speechless and dismay’d,)
See, dearest mother, the letter says Pete will soon be better.
Alas poor boy, he will never be better, (nor may-be needs to be better, that brave and simple soul,)
While they stand at home at the door he is dead already,
The only son is dead.

But the mother needs to be better,
She with thin form presently drest in black,
By day her meals untouch’d, then at night fitfully sleeping, often waking,
In the midnight waking, weeping, longing with one deep longing,
O that she might withdraw unnoticed, silent from life escape and withdraw,
To follow, to seek, to be with her dear dead son.

The Dark Hills

Edwin Arlington Robinson
 

Dark hills at evening in the west,
Where sunset hovers like a sound
Of golden horns that sang to rest
Old bones of warriors under ground,
Far now from all the bannered ways
Where flash the legions of the sun,
You fade—as if the last of days
Were fading, and all wars were done.

Dreamers

Siegfried Sassoon
 

Soldiers are citizens of death’s gray land,
Drawing no dividend from time’s to-morrows.
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.
Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win
Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
They think of firelit homes, clean beds, and wives.

I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,
And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain,
Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,
And mocked by hopeless longing to regain
Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,
And going to the office in the train.

Dulce et Decorum Est

Wilfred Owen
 

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!–An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.*

 
*“It is sweet and right to die for your country.”

 

Home They Brought Her Warrior Dead

Alfred, Lord Tennyson
 

Home they brought her warrior dead:
She nor swooned, nor uttered cry;
All her maidens, watching, said,
"She must weep or she will die."

Then they praised him, soft and low,
Called him worthy to be loved,
Truest friend and noblest foe;
Yet she neither spoke nor moved.

Stole a maiden from her place,
Lightly to the warrior stept,
Took the face-cloth from the face;
Yet she neither moved nor wept.

Rose a nurse of ninety years,
Set his child upon her knee,—
Like summer tempest came her tears,
"Sweet my child, I live for thee."

In Flanders Fields

John McCrae
 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Mother and Poet

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
 

Dead! one of them shot by the sea in the east,
And one of them shot in the west by the sea.
Dead! both my boys! When you sit at the feast,
And are wanting a great song for Italy free,
Let none look at me!

Yet I was a poetess only last year,
And good at my art, for a woman, men said.
But this woman, this, who is agonized here,
The east sea and west sea rhyme on in her head
Forever instead.

What art can a woman be good at? O, vain!
What art is she good at, but hurting her breast
With the milk teeth of babes, and a smile at the pain?
Ah, boys, how you hurt! you were strong as you pressed,
And I proud by that test.

What art's for a woman! To hold on her knees
Both darlings! to feel all their arms round her throat
Cling, struggle a little! to sew by degrees
And 'broider the long-clothes and neat little coat!
To dream and to dote.

To teach them ... It stings there. I made them indeed
Speak plain the word "country," I taught them, no doubt,
That a country's a thing men should die for at need.
I prated of liberty, rights, and about
The tyrant turned out.

And when their eyes flashed ... O my beautiful eyes! ...
I exulted! nay, let them go forth at the wheels
Of the guns, and denied not.—But then the surprise,
When one sits quite alone!—Then one weeps, then one kneels!—
God! how the house feels!

At first happy news came, in gay letters moiled
With my kisses, of camp-life and glory, and how
They both loved me, and soon, coming home to be spoiled,
In return would fan off every fly from my brow
With their green laurel-bough.

Then was triumph at Turin. "Ancona was free!"
And some one came out of the cheers in the street
With a face pale as stone, to say something to me.
—My Guido was dead!—I fell down at his feet,
While they cheered in the street.

I bore it;—friends soothed me: my grief looked sublime
As the ransom of Italy. One boy remained
To be leant on and walked with, recalling the time
When the first grew immortal, while both of us strained
To the height he had gained.

And letters still came,—shorter, sadder, more strong,
Writ now but in one hand. "I was not to faint.
One loved me for two ... would be with me ere-long:
And 'Viva Italia' he died for, our saint,
Who forbids our complaint."

My Nanni would add "he was safe, and aware
Of a presence that turned off the balls ... was imprest
It was Guido himself, who knew what I could bear,
And how 't was impossible, quite dispossessed,
To live on for the rest."

On which without pause up the telegraph line
Swept smoothly the next news from Gaëta:—"Shot.
Tell his mother." Ah, ah, "his," "their" mother; not "mine."
No voice says "my mother" again to me. What!
You think Guido forgot?

Are souls straight so happy that, dizzy with heaven,
They drop earth's affections, conceive not of woe?
I think not. Themselves were too lately forgiven
Through that love and sorrow which reconciled so
The above and below.

O Christ of the seven wounds, who look'dst through the dark
To the face of thy mother! consider, I pray.
How we common mothers stand desolate, mark,
Whose sons, not being Christs, die with eyes turned away,
And no last word to say!

Both boys dead! but that's out of nature. We all
Have been patriots, yet each house must always keep one.
'T were imbecile hewing out roads to a wall.
And when Italy's made, for what end is it done
If we have not a son?

Ah, ah, ah! when Gaëta's taken, what then?
When the fair wicked queen sits no more at her sport
Of the fire-balls of death crashing souls out of men?
When your guns at Cavalli with final retort
Have cut the game short,—

When Venice and Rome keep their new jubilee,
When your flag takes all heaven for its white, green, and red,
When you have your country from mountain to sea,
When King Victor has Italy's crown on his head,
(And I have my dead,)

What then? Do not mock me. Ah, ring your bells low,
And burn your lights faintly!—My country is there,
Above the star pricked by the last peak of snow,
My Italy's there,—with my brave civic pair,
To disfranchise despair.

Forgive me. Some women bear children in strength,
And bite back the cry of their pain in self-scorn.
But the birth-pangs of nations will wring us at length
Into such wail as this!—and we sit on forlorn
When the man-child is born.

Dead! one of them shot by the sea in the west,
And one of them shot in the east by the sea!
Both! both my boys!—If in keeping the feast
You want a great song for your Italy free,
Let none look at me!

The Old Road to Paradise

Margaret Widdemer
 

OURS is a dark Easter-tide,
And a scarlet Spring,
But high up at Heaven-Gate
All the saints sing,
Glad for the great companies
Returning to their King.

Oh, in youth the dawn's a rose,
Dusk's an amethyst,
All the roads from dusk to dawn
Gay they wind and twist;
The old road to Paradise
Easy it is missed!

But out on the wet battlefields,
Few the roadways wind,
One to grief, one to death
No road that's kind–
The old road to Paradise
Plain it is to find!

(Martin in his Colonel's cloak,
Joan in her mail,
David with his crown and sword–
None there be that fail–
Down the road to Paradise
Stand to greet and hail!)

Where the dark's a terror-thing,
Morn a hope doubt-tossed.
Where the lads lie thinking long
Out in rain and frost,
There they find their God again,
Long ago they lost:

Where the night comes cruelly,
Where the hurt men moan,
Where the crushed forgotten ones
Whisper prayers alone,
Christ along the battlefields
Comes to lead His own:

Souls that would have withered soon
In the hot world's glare,
Blown and gone like shriveled things,
Dusty on the air,
Rank on rank they follow Him,
Young and strong and fair!

Ours is a sad Easter-tide,
And a woeful day,
But high up at Heaven-Gate
The saints are all gay,
For the old road to Paradise,
That's a crowded way!

Prelude: The Troops

Siegfried Sassoon
 

Dim, gradual thinning of the shapeless gloom
Shudders to drizzling daybreak that reveals
Disconsolate men who stamp their sodden boots
And turn dulled, sunken faces to the sky
Haggard and hopeless. They, who have beaten down
The stale despair of night, must now renew
Their desolation in the truce of dawn,
Murdering the livid hours that grope for peace.

Yet these, who cling to life with stubborn hands,
Can grin through storms of death and find a gap
In the clawed, cruel tangles of his defence.
They march from safety, and the bird-sung joy
Of grass-green thickets, to the land where all
Is ruin, and nothing blossoms but the sky
That hastens over them where they endure
Sad, smoking, flat horizons, reeking woods,
And foundered trench-lines volleying doom for doom.

O my brave brown companions, when your souls
Flock silently away, and the eyeless dead
Shame the wild beast of battle on the ridge,
Death will stand grieving in that field of war
Since your unvanquished hardihood is spent.
And through some mooned Valhalla there will pass
Battalions and battalions, scarred from hell;
The unreturning army that was youth;
The legions who have suffered and are dust.

Sacred To The Memory Of “Unknown”

Henry Lawson
 

Oh, the wild black swans fly westward still,
While the sun goes down in glory,
And away o’er lonely plain and hill
Still runs the same old story:
The sheoaks sigh it all day long,
It is safe in the Big Scrub’s keeping,
‘Tis the butcher-birds’ and the bell-birds’ song
In the gum where “Unknown” lies sleeping,
(It is heard in the chat of the soldier-birds
O’er the grave where “Unknown” lies sleeping).
Ah! the Bushmen knew not his name or land,
Or the shame that had sent him here,
But the Bushmen knew by the dead man’s hand
That his past life lay not near.
The law of the land might have watched for him,
Or a sweetheart, wife, or mother;
But they bared their heads, and their eyes were dim,
For he might have been a brother!
(Ah! the death he died brought him near to them,
For he might have been a brother.)
 
Oh, the wild black swans to the westward fade,
And the sunset burns to ashes,
And three times bright on an eastern range
The light of a big star flashes,
Like a signal sent to a distant strand
Where a dead man’s love sits weeping.
And the night comes grand to the Great Lone Land
O’er the grave where “Unknown” lies sleeping,
And the big white stars in their clusters blaze
O’er the Bush where “Unknown” lies sleeping.

The Soldier

Rupert Brooke
 

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.  There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

There Will Come Soft Rains

Sara Teasdale
 

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field one Night

Walt Whitman
 

Vigil strange I kept on the field one night;
When you my son and my comrade dropt at my side that day,
One look I but gave which your dear eyes return’d with a look I shall never forget,
One touch of your hand to mine O boy, reach’d up as you lay on the ground,
Then onward I sped in the battle, the even-contested battle,
Till late in the night reliev’d to the place at last again I made my way,
Found you in death so cold dear comrade, found your body son of responding kisses, (never again on earth responding,)
Bared your face in the starlight, curious the scene, cool blew the moderate night-wind,
Long there and then in vigil I stood, dimly around me the battle-field spreading,
Vigil wondrous and vigil sweet there in the fragrant silent night,
But not a tear fell, not even a long-drawn sigh, long, long I gazed,
Then on the earth partially reclining sat by your side leaning my chin in my hands,
Passing sweet hours, immortal and mystic hours with you dearest comrade—not a tear, not a word,
Vigil of silence, love and death, vigil for you my son and my soldier,
As onward silently stars aloft, eastward new ones upward stole,
Vigil final for you brave boy, (I could not save you, swift was your death,
I faithfully loved you and cared for you living, I think we shall surely meet again,)
Till at latest lingering of the night, indeed just as the dawn appear’d,
My comrade I wrapt in his blanket, envelop’d well his form,
Folded the blanket well, tucking it carefully over head and carefully under feet,
And there and then and bathed by the rising sun, my son in his grave, in his rude-dug grave I deposited,
Ending my vigil strange with that, vigil of night and battle-field dim,
Vigil for boy of responding kisses, (never again on earth responding,)
Vigil for comrade swiftly slain, vigil I never forget, how as day brighten’d,
I rose from the chill ground and folded my soldier well in his blanket,
And buried him where he fell.

War is Kind

Stephen Crane
 

Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind.
Because your lover threw wild hands toward the sky
And the affrighted steed ran on alone,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Hoarse, booming drums of the regiment,
Little souls who thirst for fight,
These men were born to drill and die.
The unexplained glory flies above them,
Great is the battle-god, great, and his kingdom—
A field where a thousand corpses lie.

Do not weep, babe, for war is kind.
Because your father tumbled in the yellow trenches,
Raged at his breast, gulped and died,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Swift, blazing flag of the regiment,
Eagle with crest of red and gold,
These men were born to drill and die.
Point for them the virtue of slaughter,
Make plain to them the excellence of killing
And a field where a thousand corpses lie.

Mother whose heart hung humble as a button
On the bright splendid shroud of your son,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Poems for the Loss of a Spouse or Partner 

Ae Fond Kiss 

Robert Burns
 

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever;
Ae fareweel, and then forever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee.
Who shall say that Fortune grieves him,
While the star of hope she leaves him?
Me, nae cheerfu' twinkle lights me;
Dark despair around benights me.

I'll ne'er blame my partial fancy,
Naething could resist my Nancy;
But to see her was to love her;
Love but her, and love forever.
Had we never lov'd sae kindly,
Had we never lov'd sae blindly,
Never met—or never parted—
We had ne'er been broken-hearted.

Fare thee weel, thou first and fairest!
Fare thee weel, thou best and dearest!
Thine be ilka joy and treasure,
Peace. enjoyment, love, and pleasure!
Ae fond kiss, and then we sever;
Ae fareweel, alas, forever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee!

Annabel Lee 

Edgar Allan Poe 
 

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we—
Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above
Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea—
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Après

Arthur Joseph Munby
 

Down, down, Ellen, my little one,
Climbing so tenderly up to my knee;
Why should you add to the thoughts that are taunting me,
Dreams of your mother's arms clinging to me?

Cease, cease, Ellen, my little one,
Warbling so fairily close to my ear;
Why should you choose, of all songs that are haunting me,
This that I made for your mother to hear?

Hush, hush, Ellen, my little one,
Wailing so wearily under the stars;
Why should I think of her tears, that might light to me
Love that had made life, and sorrow that mars?

Sleep, sleep, Ellen, my little one!
Is she not like her whenever she stirs?
Has she not eyes that will soon be as bright to me,
Lips that will some day be honeyed like hers?

Yes, yes, Ellen, my little one.
Though her white bosom is stilled in the grave,
Something more white than her bosom is spared to me,—
Something to cling to and something to crave.

Love, love, Ellen, my little one!
Love indestructible, love undefiled,
Love through all deeps of her spirit lies bared to me,
Oft as I look on the face of her child.

Fair Helen

Anonymous
 

I wish I were where Helen lies;
Night and day on me she cries;
O that I were where Helen lies
On fair Kirconnell lea!

Curst be the heart that thought the thought,
And curst the hand that fired the shot,
When in my arms burd Helen dropt,
And died to succor me!

O think na but my heart was sair
When my Love dropt down and spak nae mair!
I laid her down wi' meikle care
On fair Kirconnell lea.

As I went down the water-side,
None but my foe to be my guide,
None but my foe to be my guide,
On fair Kirconnell lea;

I lighted down my sword to draw,
I hackèd him in pieces sma',
I hackèd him in pieces sma',
For her sake that died for me.

O Helen fair, beyond compare!
I'll make a garland of thy hair
Shall bind my heart for evermair
Until the day I die.

O that I were where Helen lies!
Night and day on me she cries;
Out of my bed she bids me rise,
Says, "Haste and come to me!"

O Helen fair! O Helen chaste!
If I were with thee, I were blest,
Where thou lies low and takes thy rest
On fair Kirconnell lea.

I wish my grave were growing green,
A winding-sheet drawn ower my een,
And I in Helen's arms lying,
On fair Kirconnell lea.

I wish I were where Helen lies;
Night and day on me she cries;
And I am weary of the skies,
Since my Love died for me.

He Loved Three Things, Alive

Anna Akhmatova
 

He loved three things, alive:
White peacocks, songs at eve,
And antique maps of America.
Hated when children cried,
And raspberry jam with tea,
And feminine hysteria.
…And he had married me.

On His Deceased Wife

John Milton
 

Me thought I saw my late espousèd Saint
Brought to me like Alcestis from the grave,
Whom Joves great Son to her glad Husband gave,
Rescu’d from death by force though pale and faint.
Mine as whom washt from spot of child-bed taint,
Purification in the old Law did save,
And such, as yet once more I trust to have
Full sight of her in Heaven without restraint,
Came vested all in white, pure as her mind:
Her face was vail’d, yet to my fancied sight,
Love, sweetness, goodness, in her person shin’d
So clear, as in no face with more delight.
But O as to embrace me she enclin’d
I wak’d, she fled, and day brought back my night.

Lament for Heliodore

Meleager (translated by Andrew Lang)
 

Tears for my lady dead—
Heliodore!
Salt tears, and strange to shed, 
Over and o'er;
Tears to my lady dead,
Love do we send,
Longed for, rememberèd,
Lover and friend!
Sad are the songs we sing,
Tears that we shed,
Empty the gifts we bring
Gifts to the dead!
Go, tears, and go, lament,
Fare from her tomb,
Wend where my lady went
Down through the gloom!
Ah, for my flower, my love,
Hades hath taken I
Ah, for the dust above
Scattered and shaken!
Mother of blade and grass,
Earth, in thy breast
Lull her that gentlest was
Gently to rest!

The Last Ride Together

Robert Browning
 

I SAID—Then, dearest, since 'tis so,
Since now at length my fate I know,
Since nothing all my love avails,
Since all, my life seem'd meant for, fails,
Since this was written and needs must be—
My whole heart rises up to bless
Your name in pride and thankfulness!
Take back the hope you gave,—I claim
Only a memory of the same,
—And this beside, if you will not blame;
Your leave for one more last ride with me.

My mistress bent that brow of hers,
Those deep dark eyes where pride demurs
When pity would be softening through,
Fix'd me a breathing-while or two
With life or death in the balance: right!
The blood replenish'd me again;
My last thought was at least not vain:
I and my mistress, side by side
Shall be together, breathe and ride,
So, one day more am I deified.
Who knows but the world may end to-night?

Hush! if you saw some western cloud
All billowy-bosom'd, over-bow'd
By many benedictions—sun's
And moon's and evening-star's at once—
And so, you, looking and loving best,
Conscious grew, your passion drew
Cloud, sunset, moonrise, star-shine too,
Down on you, near and yet more near,
Till flesh must fade for heaven was here!—
Thus leant she and linger'd—joy and fear!
Thus lay she a moment on my breast.

Then we began to ride. My soul
Smooth'd itself out, a long-cramp'd scroll
Freshening and fluttering in the wind.
Past hopes already lay behind.
What need to strive with a life awry?
Had I said that, had I done this,
So might I gain, so might I miss.
Might she have loved me? just as well
She might have hated, who can tell!
Where had I been now if the worst befell?
And here we are riding, she and I.

Fail I alone, in words and deeds?
Why, all men strive and who succeeds?
We rode; it seem'd my spirit flew,
Saw other regions, cities new,
As the world rush'd by on either side.
I thought,—All labour, yet no less
Bear up beneath their unsuccess.
Look at the end of work, contrast
The petty done, the undone vast,
This present of theirs with the hopeful past!
I hoped she would love me; here we ride.

What hand and brain went ever pair'd?
What heart alike conceived and dared?
What act proved all its thought had been?
What will but felt the fleshly screen?
We ride and I see her bosom heave.
There 's many a crown for who can reach.
Ten lines, a statesman's life in each!
The flag stuck on a heap of bones,
A soldier's doing! what atones?
They scratch his name on the Abbey-stones.
My riding is better, by their leave.

What does it all mean, poet? Well,
Your brains beat into rhythm, you tell
What we felt only; you express'd
You hold things beautiful the best,
And pace them in rhyme so, side by side.
'Tis something, nay 'tis much: but then,
Have you yourself what 's best for men?
Are you—poor, sick, old ere your time—
Nearer one whit your own sublime
Than we who never have turn'd a rhyme?
Sing, riding 's a joy! For me, I ride.

And you, great sculptor—so, you gave
A score of years to Art, her slave,
And that 's your Venus, whence we turn
To yonder girl that fords the burn!
You acquiesce, and shall I repine?
What, man of music, you grown gray
With notes and nothing else to say,
Is this your sole praise from a friend,
'Greatly his opera's strains intend,
But in music we know how fashions end!'
I gave my youth: but we ride, in fine.

Who knows what 's fit for us? Had fate
Proposed bliss here should sublimate
My being—had I sign'd the bond—
Still one must lead some life beyond,
Have a bliss to die with, dim-descried.
This foot once planted on the goal,
This glory-garland round my soul,
Could I descry such? Try and test!
I sink back shuddering from the quest.
Earth being so good, would heaven seem best?
Now, heaven and she are beyond this ride.

And yet—she has not spoke so long!
What if heaven be that, fair and strong
At life's best, with our eyes upturn'd
Whither life's flower is first discern'd,
We, fix'd so, ever should so abide?
What if we still ride on, we two
With life for ever old yet new,
Changed not in kind but in degree,
The instant made eternity,—
And heaven just prove that I and she
Ride, ride together, for ever ride?

Loss

Winifred M. Letts
 

In losing you I lost my sun and moon
And all the stars that blessed my lonely night.
I lost the hope of Spring, the joy of June,
The Autumn’s peace, the Winter’s firelight.
I lost the zest of living, the sweet sense
Expectant of your step, your smile, your kiss;
I lost all hope and fear and keen suspense
For this cold calm, sans agony, sans bliss.
I lost the rainbow’s gold, the silver key
That gave me freedom of my town of dreams;
I lost the path that leads to Faërie
By beechen glades and heron-haunted streams.
I lost the master word, dear love, the clue
That threads the maze of life when I lost you.

To Mary in Heaven

Robert Burns
 

Thou lingering star, with lessening ray,
That lov'st to greet the early morn,
Again thou usher'st in the day
My Mary from my soul was torn.
O Mary! dear departed shade!
Where is thy place of blissful rest?
See'st thou thy lover lowly laid?
Hear'st thou the groans that rend his breast?

That sacred hour can I forget,—
Can I forget the hallowed grove,
Where by the winding Ayr we met
To live one day of parting love?
Eternity will not efface
Those records dear of transports past;
Thy image at our last embrace;
Ah! little thought we 't was our last!

Ayr, gurgling, kissed his pebbled shore,
O'erhung with wild woods, thickening green;
The fragrant birch, and hawthorn hoar,
Twined amorous round the raptured scene;
The flowers sprang wanton to be prest,
The birds sang love on every spray,—
Till soon, too soon, the glowing west
Proclaimed the speed of wingèd day.

Still o'er these scenes my memory wakes,
And fondly broods with miser care!
Time but the impression stronger makes,
As streams their channels deeper wear.
My Mary! dear departed shade!
Where is thy place of blissful rest?
See'st thou thy lover lowly laid?
Hear'st thou the groans that rend his breast?

Minstrel's Song

Thomas Chatterton
 

O sing unto my roundelay!
O, drop the briny tear with me!
Dance no more at holiday;
Like a running river be.
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.

Black his hair as the winter night,
White his neck as the summer snow,
Ruddy his face as the morning light;
Cold he lies in the grave below.
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.

Sweet his tongue as the throstle's note;
Quick in dance as thought can be;
Deft his tabor, cudgel stout;
O, lie lies by the willow-tree!
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.

Hark! the raven flaps his wing
In the briered dell below;
Hark! the death-owl loud doth sing
To the nightmares as they go.
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.

See! the white moon shines on high;
Whiter is my-true-love's shroud,
Whiter than the morning sky,
Whiter than the evening cloud.
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.

Here, upon my true-love's grave
Shall the barren flowers be laid,
Nor one holy saint to save
All the coldness of a maid.
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.

With my hands I'll bind the briers
Round his holy corse to gre;
Ouphant fairy, light your fires;
Here my body still shall be.
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.

Come, with acorn-cup and thorn,
Drain my heart's blood away;
Life and all its good I scorn,
Dance by night, or feast by day.
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.

Water-witches, crowned with reytes,
Bear me to your lethal tide.
I die! I come! my true-love waits....
Thus the damsel spake, and died.

Oh That 'T Were Possible

Alfred, Lord Tennyson
 

Oh that 't were possible,
After long grief and pain,
To find the arms of my true love
Round me once again!

When I was wont to meet her
In the silent woody places
Of the laud that gave me birth,
We stood tranced in long embraces
Mixt with kisses sweeter, sweeter
Than anything on earth.

A shadow flits before me,
Not thou, but like to thee;
Ah Christ, that it were possible
For one short hour to see
The souls we loved, that they might tell us
What and where they be!

It leads me forth at evening,
It lightly winds and steals
In a cold white robe before me,
When all my spirit reels
At the shouts, the leagues of lights,
And the roaring of the wheels.

Half the night I waste in sighs,
Half in dreams I sorrow after
The delight of early skies;
In a wakeful doze I sorrow
For the hand, the lips, the eyes—
For the meeting of the morrow,
The delight of happy laughter,
The delight of low replies.

'Tis a morning pure and sweet,
And a dewy splendor falls
On the little flower that clings
To the turrets and the walls;
'T is a morning pure and sweet,
And the light and shadow fleet:
She is walking in the meadow,
And the woodland echo rings.
In a moment we shall meet;
She is singing in the meadow,
And the rivulet at her feet
Ripples on in light and shadow
To the ballad that she sings.

Do I hear her sing as of old,
My bird with the shining head,
My own dove with the tender eye?
But there rings on a sudden a passionate cry—
There is some one dying or dead;
And a sullen thunder is rolled;
For a tumult shakes the city,
And I wake—my dream is fled;
In the shuddering dawn, behold,
Without knowledge, without pity,
By the curtains of my bed
That abiding phantom cold!

Get thee hence, nor come again!
Mix not memory with doubt,
Pass, thou deathlike type of pain,
Pass and cease to move about!
'T is the blot upon the brain
That will show itself without.

Then I rise; the eave-drops fall,
And the yellow vapors choke
The great city sounding wide;
The day comes—a dull red ball
Wrapt in drifts of lurid smoke
On the misty river-tide.

Through the hubbub of the market
I steal, a wasted frame;
It crosses here, it crosses there,
Through all that crowd confused and loud
The shadow still the same;
And on my heavy eyelids
My anguish hangs like shame.

Alas for her that met me,
That heard me softly call,
Came glimmering through the laurels
At the quiet evenfall,
In the garden by the turrets
Of the old manorial hall!

Would the happy spirit descend
From the realms of light and song,
In the chamber or the street.
As she looks among the blest,
Should I fear to greet my friend
Or to say "Forgive the wrong,"
Or to ask her, "Take me, sweet,
To the regions of thy rest?"

But the broad light glares and beats,
And the shadow flits and Meets
And will not let me be;
And I loathe the squares and streets,
And the faces that one meets,
Hearts with no love for me;
Always I long to creep
Into some still cavern deep,
There to weep, and weep, and weep
My whole soul out to thee.

And Thou art Dead, as Young and Fair

Lord Byron (George Gordon)
 

And thou art dead, as young and fair
As aught of mortal birth;
And form so soft, and charms so rare,
Too soon return'd to Earth!
Though Earth receiv'd them in her bed,
And o'er the spot the crowd may tread
In carelessness or mirth,
There is an eye which could not brook
A moment on that grave to look.

I will not ask where thou liest low,
Nor gaze upon the spot;
There flowers or weeds at will may grow,
So I behold them not:
It is enough for me to prove
That what I lov'd, and long must love,
Like common earth can rot;
To me there needs no stone to tell,
'T is Nothing that I lov'd so well.

Yet did I love thee to the last
As fervently as thou,
Who didst not change through all the past,
And canst not alter now.
The love where Death has set his seal,
Nor age can chill, nor rival steal,
Nor falsehood disavow:
And, what were worse, thou canst not see
Or wrong, or change, or fault in me.

The better days of life were ours;
The worst can be but mine:
The sun that cheers, the storm that lowers,
Shall never more be thine.
The silence of that dreamless sleep
I envy now too much to weep;
Nor need I to repine
That all those charms have pass'd away,
I might have watch'd through long decay.

The flower in ripen'd bloom unmatch'd
Must fall the earliest prey;
Though by no hand untimely snatch'd,
The leaves must drop away:
And yet it were a greater grief
To watch it withering, leaf by leaf,
Than see it pluck'd to-day;
Since earthly eye but ill can bear
To trace the change to foul from fair.

I know not if I could have borne
To see thy beauties fade;
The night that follow'd such a morn
Had worn a deeper shade:
Thy day without a cloud hath pass'd,
And thou wert lovely to the last,
Extinguish'd, not decay'd;
As stars that shoot along the sky
Shine brightest as they fall from high.

As once I wept, if I could weep,
My tears might well be shed,
To think I was not near to keep
One vigil o'er thy bed;
To gaze, how fondly! on thy face,
To fold thee in a faint embrace,
Uphold thy drooping head;
And show that love, however vain,
Nor thou nor I can feel again.

Yet how much less it were to gain,
Though thou hast left me free,
The loveliest things that still remain,
Than thus remember thee!
The all of thine that cannot die
Through dark and dread Eternity
Returns again to me,
And more thy buried love endears
Than aught except its living years.

Too Late

Dinah Maria Mulock Craik 
 

Could ye come back to me, Douglas, Douglas,
In the old likeness that I knew,
I would be so faithful, so loving, Douglas,
Douglas, Douglas, tender and true.

Never a scornful word should grieve ye,
I 'd smile on ye sweet as the angels do;
Sweet as your smile on me shone ever,
Douglas, Douglas, tender and true.

Oh, to call back the days that are not!
My eyes were blinded, your words were few:
Do you know the truth now, up in heaven,
Douglas, Douglas, tender and true?

I never was worthy of you, Douglas;
Not half worthy the like of you:
Now all men beside seem to me like shadows—
I love you, Douglas, tender and true.

Stretch out your hand to me, Douglas, Douglas,
Drop forgiveness from heaven like dew;
As I lay my heart on your dead heart, Douglas,
Douglas, Douglas, tender and true!

We’ll Go No More a-Roving

William Ernest Henley
 

We’ll go no more a-roving by the light of the moon.
November glooms are barren beside the dusk of June.
The summer flowers are faded, the summer thoughts are sere.
We’ll go no more a-roving, lest worse befall, my dear.

We’ll go no more a-roving by the light of the moon.
The song we sang rings hollow, and heavy runs the tune.
Glad ways and words remembered would shame the wretched year.
We’ll go no more a-roving, nor dream we did, my dear.

We’ll go no more a-roving by the light of the moon.
If yet we walk together, we need not shun the moon.
No sweet thing left to savour, no sad thing left to fear,
We’ll go no more a-roving, but weep at home, my dear.

The Widow’s Lament in Springtime

William Carlos Williams
 

Sorrow is my own yard
where the new grass
flames as it has flamed
often before but not
with the cold fire
that closes round me this year.
Thirtyfive years
I lived with my husband.
The plumtree is white today
with masses of flowers.
Masses of flowers
load the cherry branches
and color some bushes
yellow and some red
but the grief in my heart
is stronger than they
for though they were my joy
formerly, today I notice them
and turn away forgetting.
Today my son told me
that in the meadows,
at the edge of the heavy woods
in the distance, he saw
trees of white flowers.
I feel that I would like
to go there
and fall into those flowers
and sink into the marsh near them.

Poems About Mothers

December, 1919

Claude McKay
 

Last night I heard your voice, mother,
The words you sang to me
When I, a little barefoot boy,
Knelt down against your knee.

And tears gushed from my heart, mother,
And passed beyond its wall,
But though the fountain reached my throat
The drops refused to fall.

‘Tis ten years since you died, mother,
Just ten dark years of pain,
And oh, I only wish that I
Could weep just once again.

Her Mother's Epitaph

Anne Bradstreet
 

Here lies
A worthy matron of unspotted life,
A loving mother and obedient wife,
A friendly neighbor, pitiful to poor,
Whom oft she fed, and clothed with her store;
To servants wisely aweful, but yet kind,
And as they did, so they reward did find:
A true instructor of her family,
The which she ordered with dexterity,
The public meetings ever did frequent,
And in her closest constant hours she spent;
Religious in all her words and ways,
Preparing still for death, till end of days:
Of all her children, children lived to see,
Then dying, left a blessed memory.

Mother

Lola Ridge
 

Your love was like moonlight
turning harsh things to beauty,
so that little wry souls
reflecting each other obliquely
as in cracked mirrors . . .
beheld in your luminous spirit
their own reflection,
transfigured as in a shining stream,
and loved you for what they are not.

You are less an image in my mind
than a luster
I see you in gleams
pale as star-light on a gray wall . . .
evanescent as the reflection of a white swan
shimmering in broken water. 

Mother o’ Mine

Rudyard Kipling
 

If I were hanged on the highest hill,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!
I know whose love would follow me still,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

If I were drowned in the deepest sea,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!
I know whose tears would come down to me,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

If I were damned of body and soul,
I know whose prayers would make me whole,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

To My Mother

Lucretia Maria Davidson
 

O thou whose care sustained my infant years,
And taught my prattling lip each note of love;
Whose soothing voice breathed comfort to my fears,
And round my brow hope’s brightest garland wove;

To thee my lay is due, the simple song,
Which Nature gave me at life’s opening day;
To thee these rude, these untaught strains belong,
Whose heart indulgent will not spurn my lay.

O say, amid this wilderness of life,
What bosom would have throbbed like thine for me?
Who would have smiled responsive?—who in grief,
Would e’er have felt, and, feeling, grieved like thee?

Who would have guarded, with a falcon-eye,
Each trembling footstep or each sport of fear?
Who would have marked my bosom bounding high,
And clasped me to her heart, with love’s bright tear?

Who would have hung around my sleepless couch,
And fanned, with anxious hand, my burning brow?
Who would have fondly pressed my fevered lip,
In all the agony of love and wo?

None but a mother—none but one like thee,
Whose bloom has faded in the midnight watch;
Whose eye, for me, has lost its witchery,
Whose form has felt disease’s mildew touch.

Yes, thou hast lighted me to health and life,
By the bright lustre of thy youthful bloom—
Yes, thou hast wept so oft o’er every grief,
That wo hath traced thy brow with marks of gloom.

O then, to thee, this rude and simple song,
Which breathes of thankfulness and love for thee,
To thee, my mother, shall this lay belong,
Whose life is spent in toil and care for me.

To My Mother

Edgar Allan Poe
 

Because I feel that, in the Heavens above,
The angels, whispering to one another,
Can find, among their burning terms of love,
None so devotional as that of “Mother,”
Therefore by that dear name I long have called you—
You who are more than mother unto me,
And fill my heart of hearts, where Death installed you
In setting my Virginia’s spirit free.
My mother—my own mother, who died early,
Was but the mother of myself; but you
Are mother to the one I loved so dearly,
And thus are dearer than the mother I knew
By that infinity with which my wife
Was dearer to my soul than its soul-life. 

Sonnets Are Full of Love

Christina Rossetti
 

Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome
Has many sonnets: so here now shall be
One sonnet more, a love sonnet, from me
To her whose heart is my heart’s quiet home,
To my first Love, my Mother, on whose knee
I learnt love-lore that is not troublesome;
Whose service is my special dignity,
And she my lodestar while I go and come.
And so because you love me, and because
I love you, Mother, I have woven a wreath
Of rhymes wherewith to crown your honored name:
In you not fourscore years can dim the flame
Of love, whose blessed glow transcends the laws
Of time and change and mortal life and death.

Telling the Bees

Lizette Woodworth Reese
 

A Colonial Custom

Bathsheba came out to the sun,
Out to our wallèd cherry-trees;
The tears adown her cheek did run,
Bathsheba standing in the sun,
Telling the bees.

My mother had that moment died;
Unknowing, sped I to the trees,
And plucked Bathsheba’s hand aside;
Then caught the name that there she cried
Telling the bees.

Her look I never can forget,
I that held sobbing to her knees;
The cherry-boughs above us met;
I think I see Bathsheba yet
Telling the bees.

Transfiguration

Louisa May Alcott
 

Mysterious death! who in a single hour
Life's gold can so refine,
And by thy art divine
Change mortal weakness to immortal power!

Bending beneath the weight of eighty years,
Spent with the noble strife
Of a victorious life,
We watched her fading heavenward, through our tears.

But ere the sense of loss our hearts had wrung,
A miracle was wrought;
And swift as happy thought
She lived again,— brave, beautiful, and young.

Age, pain, and sorrow dropped the veils they wore
And showed the tender eyes
Of angels in disguise,
Whose discipline so patiently she bore.

The past years brought their harvest rich and fair;
While memory and love,
Together, fondly wove
A golden garland for the silver hair.

How could we mourn like those who are bereft,
When every pang of grief
Found balm for its relief
In counting up the treasures she had left?—

Faith that withstood the shocks of toil and time;
Hope that defied despair;
Patience that conquered care;
And loyalty, whose courage was sublime;

The great deep heart that was a home for all,—
Just, eloquent, and strong
In protest against wrong;
Wide charity, that knew no sin, no fall;

The spartan spirit that made life so grand,
Mating poor daily needs
With high, heroic deeds,
That wrested happiness from Fate's hard hand.

We thought to weep, but sing for joy instead,
Full of the grateful peace
That follows her release;
For nothing but the weary dust lies dead.

Oh, noble woman! never more a queen
Than in the laying down
Of sceptre and of crown
To win a greater kingdom, yet unseen;

Teaching us how to seek the highest goal,
To earn the true success,—
To live, to love, to bless,—
And make death proud to take a royal soul.

Poems About Fathers

A.B.A.

Louisa May Alcott
 

Like Bunyan's pilgrim with his pack,
Forth went the dreaming youth
To seek, to find, and make his own
Wisdom, virtue, and truth.
Life was his book, and patiently
He studied each hard page;
By turns reformer, outcast, priest,
Philosopher and sage.

Christ was his Master, and he made
His life a gospel sweet;
Plato and Pythagoras in him
Found a disciple meet.
The noblest and best his friends,
Faithful and fond, though few;
Eager to listen, learn, and pay
The love and honor due.

Power and place, silver and gold,
He neither asked nor sought;
Only to serve his fellowmen,
With heart and word and thought.
A pilgrim still, but in his pack
No sins to frighten or oppress;
But wisdom, morals, piety,
To teach, to warn and bless.

The world passed by, nor cared to take
The treasure he could give;
Apart he sat, content to wait
And beautifully live;
Unsaddened by long, lonely years
Of want, neglect, and wrong,
His soul to him a kingdom was,
Steadfast, serene, and strong.

Magnanimous and pure his life,
Tranquil its happy end;
Patience and peace his handmaids were,
Death an immortal friend.
For him no monuments need rise,
No laurels make his pall;
The mem'ry of the good and wise
Outshines, outlives them all.

Her Father's Epitaph

Anne Bradstreet
 

Within this tomb a patriot lies
That was both pious, just and wise,
To truth a shield, to right a wall,
To sectaries a whip and maul,
A magazine of history,
A prizer of good company
In manners pleasant and severe
The good him loved, the bad did fear,
And when his time with years was spent
In some rejoiced, more did lament.
1653, age 77

Invocation

Jane Johnston Schoolcraft
 

To my Maternal Grand-father on hearing his descent from Chippewa ancestors misrepresented

Rise bravest chief! of the mark of the noble deer,
With eagle glance,
Resume thy lance,
And wield again thy warlike spear!
The foes of thy line,
With coward design,
Have dared with black envy to garble the truth,
And stain with a falsehood thy valorous youth.

They say when a child, thou wert ta’en from the Sioux,
And with impotent aim,
To lessen thy fame
Thy warlike lineage basely abuse;
For they know that our band,
Tread a far distant land,
And thou noble chieftain art nerveless and dead,
Thy bow all unstrung, and thy proud spirit fled.

Can the sports of thy youth, or thy deeds ever fade?
Or those e’er forget,
Who are mortal men yet,
The scenes where so bravely thou’st lifted the blade,
Who have fought by thy side,
And remember thy pride,
When rushing to battle, with valour and ire,
Thou saw’st the fell foes of thy nation expire?

Can the warrior forget how sublimely you rose?
Like a star in the west,
When the sun’s sink to rest,
That shines in bright splendour to dazzle our foes?
Thy arm and thy yell,
Once the tale could repel
Which slander invented, and minions detail,
And still shall thy actions refute the false tale.

Rest thou, noblest chief! in thy dark house of clay,
Thy deeds and thy name,
Thy child’s child shall proclaim,
And make the dark forests resound with the lay;
Though thy spirit has fled,
To the hills of the dead,
Yet thy name shall be held in my heart’s warmest core,
And cherish’d till valour and love be no more.

Lament

Edna St. Vincent Millay
 

Listen, children:
Your father is dead.
From his old coats
I'll make you little jackets;
I'll make you little trousers
From his old pants.
There'll be in his pockets
Things he used to put there,
Keys and pennies
Covered with tobacco;
Dan shall have the pennies
To save in his bank;
Anne shall have the keys
To make a pretty noise with.
Life must go on,
And the dead be forgotten;
Life must go on,
Though good men die;
Anne, eat your breakfast;
Dan, take your medicine;
Life must go on;
I forget just why.

Only a Dad

Edgar Albert Guest
 

Only a dad with a tired face,
Coming home from the daily race,
Bringing little of gold or fame
To show how well he has played the game;
But glad in his heart that his own rejoice
To see him come and to hear his voice.
 
Only a dad with a brood of four,
One of ten million men or more
Plodding along in the daily strife,
Bearing the whips and the scorns of life,
With never a whimper of pain or hate,
For the sake of those who at home await.
 
Only a dad, neither rich nor proud,
Merely one of the surging crowd,
Toiling, striving from day to day,
Facing whatever may come his way,
Silent whenever the harsh condemn,
And bearing it all for the love of them.
 
Only a dad but he gives his all,
To smooth the way for his children small,
Doing with courage stern and grim
The deeds that his father did for him.
This is the line that for him I pen:
Only a dad, but the best of men.

Poems About the Loss of a Child

Are the Children at Home?

Margaret E.M. Sangster
 

Each day, when the glow of sunset
Fades in the western sky,
And the wee ones, tired of playing,
Go tripping lightly by,
I steal away from my husband,
Asleep in his easy-chair,
And watch from the open door-way
Their faces fresh and fair.

Alone in the dear old homestead
That once was full of life,
Ringing with girlish laughter, 
Echoing boyish strife,
We two are waiting together;
And oft, as the shadows come,
With tremulous voice he calls me,
"It is night! are the children home?"

"Yes, love!" I answer him gently,
"They're all home long ago;"—
And I sing, in my quivering treble,
A song so soft and low,
Till the old man drops to slumber,
With his head upon his hand,
And I tell to myself the number
At home in the better land.

At home, where never a sorrow
Shall dim their eyes with tears!
Where the smile of God is on them
Through all the summer years!
I know,—yet my arms are empty,
That fondly folded seven,
And the mother heart within me
Is almost starved for heaven.

Sometimes, in the dusk of evening,
I only shut my eyes,
And the children are all about me,
A vision from the skies:
The babes whose dimpled fingers
Lost the way to my breast,
And the beautiful ones, the angels,
Passed to the world of the blest.

With never a cloud upon them,
I see their radiant brows;
My boys that I gave to freedom,—
The red sword sealed their vows!
In a tangled Southern forest,
Twin brothers bold and brave,
They fell; and the flag they died for,
Thank God! floats over their grave.

A breath, and the vision is lifted
Away on wings of light,
And again we two are together,
All alone in the night.
They tell me his mind is failing,
But I smile at idle fears;
He is only back with the children,
In the dear and peaceful years.

And still, as the summer sunset
Fades away in the west,
And the wee ones, tired of playing,
Go trooping home to rest,
My husband calls from his corner,
"Say, love, have the children come?"
And I answer, with eyes uplifted,
"Yes, dear! they are all at home."

Dirge

Edna St. Vincent Millay
 

Boys and girls that held her dear,
Do your weeping now;
All you loved of her lies here.

Brought to earth the arrogant brow,
And the withering tongue
Chastened; do your weeping now.

Sing whatever songs are sung,
Wind whatever wreath,
For a playmate perished young,

For a spirit spent in death.
Boys and girls that held her dear,
All you loved of her lies here.

The Dying Child

John Clare
 

He could not die when trees were green,
For he loved the time too well.
His little hands, when flowers were seen,
Were held for the bluebell,
As he was carried o'er the green.

His eye glanced at the white-nosed bee;
He knew those children of the spring:
When he was well and on the lea
He held one in his hands to sing,
Which filled his heart with glee.

Infants, the children of the spring!
How can an infant die
When butterflies are on the wing,
Green grass, and such a sky?
How can they die at spring?

He held his hands for daisies white,
And then for violets blue,
And took them all to bed at night
That in the green fields grew,
As childhood's sweet delight.

And then he shut his little eyes,
And flowers would notice not;
Birds' nests and eggs caused no surprise,
He now no blossoms got;
They met with plaintive sighs.

When winter came and blasts did sigh,
And bare were plain and tree,
As he for ease in bed did lie
His soul seemed with the free,
He died so quietly.

Epitaph: On her Son H.P. at St. Syth’s Church where her body also lies interred

Katherine Philips
 

What on Earth deserves our trust?
Youth and Beauty both are dust.
Long we gathering are with pain,
What one moment calls again.
Seven years childless marriage past,
A Son, a son is born at last:
So exactly lim’d and fair,
Full of good Spirits, Meen, and Air,
As a long life promised,
Yet, in less than six weeks dead.
Too promising, too great a mind
In so small room to be confined:
Therefore, as fit in Heaven to dwell,
He quickly broke the Prison shell.
So the subtle Alchemist,
Can’t with Hermes Seal resist
The powerful spirit’s subtler flight,
But t’will bid him long good night.
And so the Sun if it arise
Half so glorious as his Eyes,
Like this Infant, takes a shrowd,
Buried in a morning Cloud.

Epitaph on the Tombstone of a Child

Aphra Behn
 

This Little, Silent, Gloomy Monument,
Contains all that was sweet and innocent;
The softest pratler that e'er found a Tongue,
His Voice was Musick and his Words a Song;
Which now each List'ning Angel smiling hears,
Such pretty Harmonies compose the Spheres;
Wanton as unfledg'd Cupids, ere their Charms
Has learn'd the little arts of doing harms;
Fair as young Cherubins, as soft and kind,
And tho translated could not be refin'd;
The Seventh dear pledge the Nuptial Joys had given,
Toil'd here on Earth, retir'd to rest in Heaven;
Where they the shining Host of Angels fill,
Spread their gay wings before the Throne, and smile.

The First Snow-Fall

James Russell Lowell
 

The snow had begun in the gloaming,
And busily all the night
Had been heaping field and highway
With a silence deep and white.

Every pine and fir and hemlock
Wore ermine too dear for an earl,
And the poorest twig on the elm-tree
Was ridged inch deep with pearl.

From sheds new-roofed with Carrara
Came Chanticleer's muffled crow.
The stiff rails were softened to swan's-down,
And still fluttered down the snow.

I stood and watched by the window
The noiseless work of the sky,
And the sudden flurries of snow-birds,
Like brown leaves whirling by.

I thought of a mound in sweet Auburn
Where a little headstone stood;
How the flakes were folding it gently,
As did robins the babes in the wood.

Up spoke our own little Mabel,
Saying, "Father, who makes it snow?"
And I told of the good All-father
Who cares for us here below.

Again I looked at the snow-fall,
And thought of the leaden sky
That arched o'er our first great sorrow,
When that mound was heaped so high.

I remember the gradual patience
That fell from that cloud like snow,
Flake by flake, healing and hiding
The scar of our deep-plunged woe.

And again to the child I whispered,
"The snow that husheth all,
Darling, the merciful Father
Alone can make it fall!"

Then, with eyes that saw not, I kissed her;
And she, kissing back, could not know
That my kiss was given to her sister,
Folded close under deepening snow.

Home Burial

Robert Frost
 

He saw her from the bottom of the stairs
Before she saw him. She was starting down,
Looking back over her shoulder at some fear.
She took a doubtful step and then undid it
To raise herself and look again. He spoke
Advancing toward her: ‘What is it you see
From up there always—for I want to know.’
She turned and sank upon her skirts at that,
And her face changed from terrified to dull.
He said to gain time: ‘What is it you see,’
Mounting until she cowered under him.
‘I will find out now—you must tell me, dear.’
She, in her place, refused him any help
With the least stiffening of her neck and silence.
She let him look, sure that he wouldn’t see,
Blind creature; and awhile he didn’t see.
But at last he murmured, ‘Oh,’ and again, ‘Oh.’

‘What is it—what?’ she said.

‘Just that I see.’

‘You don’t,’ she challenged. ‘Tell me what it is.’

‘The wonder is I didn’t see at once.
I never noticed it from here before.
I must be wonted to it—that’s the reason.
The little graveyard where my people are!
So small the window frames the whole of it.
Not so much larger than a bedroom, is it?
There are three stones of slate and one of marble,
Broad-shouldered little slabs there in the sunlight
On the sidehill. We haven’t to mind those.
But I understand: it is not the stones,
But the child’s mound—’

‘Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t,’ she cried.

She withdrew shrinking from beneath his arm
That rested on the banister, and slid downstairs;
And turned on him with such a daunting look,
He said twice over before he knew himself:
‘Can’t a man speak of his own child he’s lost?’

‘Not you! Oh, where’s my hat? Oh, I don’t need it!
I must get out of here. I must get air.
I don’t know rightly whether any man can.’

‘Amy! Don’t go to someone else this time.
Listen to me. I won’t come down the stairs.’
He sat and fixed his chin between his fists.
‘There’s something I should like to ask you, dear.’

‘You don’t know how to ask it.’

‘Help me, then.’

Her fingers moved the latch for all reply.

‘My words are nearly always an offense.
I don’t know how to speak of anything
So as to please you. But I might be taught
I should suppose. I can’t say I see how.
A man must partly give up being a man
With women-folk. We could have some arrangement
By which I’d bind myself to keep hands off
Anything special you’re a-mind to name.
Though I don’t like such things ’twixt those that love.
Two that don’t love can’t live together without them.
But two that do can’t live together with them.’
She moved the latch a little. ‘Don’t—don’t go.
Don’t carry it to someone else this time.
Tell me about it if it’s something human.
Let me into your grief. I’m not so much
Unlike other folks as your standing there
Apart would make me out. Give me my chance.
I do think, though, you overdo it a little.
What was it brought you up to think it the thing
To take your mother-loss of a first child
So inconsolably—in the face of love.
You’d think his memory might be satisfied—’

‘There you go sneering now!’

‘I’m not, I’m not!

You make me angry. I’ll come down to you.
God, what a woman! And it’s come to this,
A man can’t speak of his own child that’s dead.’

‘You can’t because you don't know how to speak.
If you had any feelings, you that dug
With your own hand—how could you?—his little grave;
I saw you from that very window there,
Making the gravel leap and leap in air,
Leap up, like that, like that, and land so lightly
And roll back down the mound beside the hole.
I thought, Who is that man? I didn’t know you.
And I crept down the stairs and up the stairs
To look again, and still your spade kept lifting.
Then you came in. I heard your rumbling voice
Out in the kitchen, and I don’t know why,
But I went near to see with my own eyes.
You could sit there with the stains on your shoes
Of the fresh earth from your own baby’s grave
And talk about your everyday concerns.
You had stood the spade up against the wall
Outside there in the entry, for I saw it.’

‘I shall laugh the worst laugh I ever laughed.
I’m cursed. God, if I don’t believe I’m cursed.’

‘I can repeat the very words you were saying:
“Three foggy mornings and one rainy day
Will rot the best birch fence a man can build.”
Think of it, talk like that at such a time!
What had how long it takes a birch to rot
To do with what was in the darkened parlor?
You couldn’t care! The nearest friends can go
With anyone to death, comes so far short
They might as well not try to go at all.
No, from the time when one is sick to death,
One is alone, and he dies more alone.
Friends make pretense of following to the grave,
But before one is in it, their minds are turned
And making the best of their way back to life
And living people, and things they understand.
But the world’s evil. I won’t have grief so
If I can change it. Oh, I won’t, I won’t!’

‘There, you have said it all and you feel better.
You won’t go now. You’re crying. Close the door.
The heart’s gone out of it: why keep it up.
Amy! There’s someone coming down the road!’

‘You—oh, you think the talk is all. I must go—
Somewhere out of this house. How can I make you—’

‘If—you—do!’ She was opening the door wider.
‘Where do you mean to go? First tell me that.
I’ll follow and bring you back by force. I will!—’

I Found Her Out There

Thomas Hardy
 

I found her out there
On a slope few see,
That falls westwardly
To the salt-edged air,
Where the ocean breaks
On the purple strand,
And the hurricane shakes
The solid land.

I brought her here,
And have laid her to rest
In a noiseless nest
No sea beats near.
She will never be stirred
In her loamy cell
By the waves long heard
And loved so well.

So she does not sleep
By those haunted heights
The Atlantic smites
And the blind gales sweep,
Whence she often would gaze
At Dundagel’s famed head,
While the dipping blaze
Dyed her face fire-red;

And would sigh at the tale
Of sunk Lyonesse,
As a wind-tugged tress
Flapped her cheek like a flail
Or listen at whiles
With a thought-bound brow
To the murmuring miles
She is far from now.

Yet her shade, maybe,
Will creep underground
Till it catch the sound
Of that western sea
As it swells and sobs
Where she once domiciled,
And joy in its throbs
With the heart of a child.

The Little White Hearse

Ella Wheeler Wilcox
 

Somebody’s baby was buried to-day—
The empty white hearse from the grave rumbled back,
And the morning somehow seemed less smiling and gay
As I paused on the walk while it crossed on its way,
And a shadow seemed drawn o’er the sun’s golden track.
 
Somebody’s baby was laid out to rest,
White as a snowdrop, and fair to behold,
And the soft little hands were crossed over the breast,
And those hands and the lips and the eyelids were pressed
With kisses as hot as the eyelids were cold.
 
Somebody saw it go out of her sight,
Under the coffin lid—out through the door;
Somebody finds only darkness and blight
All through the glory of summer-sun light;
Somebody’s baby will waken no more.
 
Somebody’s sorrow is making me weep:
I know not her name, but I echo her cry,
For the dearly bought baby she longed so to keep,
The baby that rode to its long-lasting sleep
In the little white hearse that went rumbling by.
 
I know not her name, but her sorrow I know;
While I paused on the crossing I lived it once more,
And back to my heart surged that river of woe
That but in the breast of a mother can flow;
For the little white hearse has been, too, at my door.

The Morning Glory

Maria White Lowell
 

We wreathed about our darling's head
The morning-glory bright;
Her little face looked out beneath
So full of life and light,
So lit as with a sunrise,
That we could only say,
"She is the morning-glory true,
And her poor types are they."

So always from that happy time
We called her by their name,
And very fitting did it seem,—
For sure as morning came,
Behind her cradle bars she smiled
To catch the first faint ray,
As from the trellis smiles the flower
And opens to the day.

But not so beautiful they rear
Their airy cups of blue,
As turned her sweet eyes to the light,
Brimmed with sleep's tender dew;
And not so close their tendrils fine
Round their supports are thrown,
As those dear arms whose outstretched plea
Clasped all hearts to her own.

We used to think how she had come,
Even as comes the flower,
The last and perfect added gift
To crown Love's morning hour;
And how in her was imaged forth
The love we could not say,
As on the little dewdrops round
Shines back the heart of day.

We never could have thought, O God,
That she must wither up,
Almost before a day was flown,
Like the morning-glory's cup;
We never thought to see her droop
Her fair and noble head,
Till she lay stretched before our eyes,
Wilted, and cold, and dead!

The morning-glory's blossoming
Will soon be coming round,—
We see their rows of heart-shaped leaves
Upspringing from the ground;
The tender things the winter killed
Renew again their birth,
But the glory of our morning
Has passed away from earth.

Earth! in vain our aching eyes
Stretch over thy green plain!
Too harsh thy dews, too gross thine air,
Her spirit to sustain;
But up in groves of Paradise
Full surely we shall see
Our morning-glory beautiful
Twine round our dear Lord's knee.

On My First Son

Ben Jonson
 

Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy;
My sin was too much hope of thee, lov’d boy.
Seven years thou’wert lent to me, and I thee pay,
Exacted by thy fate, on the just day.
O, could I lose all father now! For why
Will man lament the state he should envy?
To have so soon ‘scap’d world’s and flesh’s rage,
And, if no other misery, yet age?
Rest in soft peace, and, ask’d, say here doth lie
Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry.
For whose sake, henceforth, all his vows be such,
As what he loves may never like too much. 

Niobe

Henrietta Cordelia Ray
 

O mother-heart! when fast the arrows flew,
Like blinding lightning, smiting as they fell,
One after one, one after one, what knell
Could fitly voice thy anguish! Sorrow grew
To throes intensest, when thy sad soul knew
Thy youngest, too, must go. Was it not well,
Avengers wroth, just one to spare? Ay, tell
The ages of soul-struggle sterner? Through
The flinty stone, O image of despair,
Sad Niobe, thy maddened grief did flow
In bitt’rest tears, when all thy wailing prayer
Was so denied. Alas! what weight of woe
Is prisoned in thy melancholy eyes!
What mother-love beneath the Stoic lies!

O Sleep, My Babe

Sara Coleridge 
 

O SLEEP, my babe, hear not the rippling wave,
Nor feel the breeze that round thee ling'ring strays
To drink thy balmy breath,
And sigh one long farewell.

Soon shall it mourn above thy wat'ry bed,
And whisper to me, on the wave-beat shore,
Deep murm'ring in reproach,
Thy sad untimely fate.

Ere those dear eyes had open'd on the light,
In vain to plead, thy coming life was sold,
O waken'd but to sleep,
Whence it can wake no more!

A thousand and a thousand silken leaves
The tufted beech unfolds in early spring,
All clad in tenderest green,
All of the self-same shape:

A thousand infant faces, soft and sweet,
Each year sends forth, yet every mother views
Her last not least beloved
Like its dear self alone.

No musing mind hath ever yet foreshaped
The face to-morrow's sun shall first reveal,
No heart hath e'er conceived
What love that face will bring.

O sleep, my babe, nor heed how mourns the gale
To part with thy soft locks and fragrant breath,
As when it deeply sighs
O'er autumn's latest bloom.

Rain on a Grave

Thomas Hardy
 

Clouds spout upon her
Their waters amain
In ruthless disdain, —
Her who but lately
Had shivered with pain
As at touch of dishonour
If there had lit on her
So coldly, so straightly
Such arrows of rain:
 
One who to shelter
Her delicate head
Would quicken and quicken
Each tentative tread
If drops chanced to pelt her
That summertime spills
In dust-paven rills
When thunder-clouds thicken
And birds close their bills.
 
Would that I lay there
And she were housed here!
Or better, together
Were folded away there
Exposed to one weather
We both, — who would stray there
When sunny the day there,
Or evening was clear
At the prime of the year.
 
Soon will be growing
Green blades from her mound,
And daisies be showing
Like stars on the ground,
Till she form part of them —
Ay — the sweet heart of them,
Loved beyond measure
With a child’s pleasure
All her life’s round.

The Stolen Child

W. B. Yeats
 

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Away with us he’s going,
The solemn-eyed:
He’ll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than he can understand.

To Theodore

George Marion McClellan
 

Such are the little memories of you;
They come and go, return and lie apart
From all main things of life; yet more than they,
With noiseless feet, they come and grip the heart.
Gay laughter leading quick and stormy tears,
Then smiles again and pulse of flying feet,
In breathless chase of fleeting gossamers,
Are memories so dear, so bitter-sweet.

No more are echoes of your flying feet.
Hard by, where Pike’s Peak rears its head in state,
The erstwhile rushing feet, with halting steps,
For health’s return in Denver watch and wait.
But love and memories of noiseless tread,
Where angels hovered once, all shining fair,
To tuck you in your little trundle bed,
Kneel nightly now in agony of prayer.

Poems About Brothers and Sisters

On the Death of Her Brother, Francis I

Marguerite de Valois, Queen of Navarre (translated by Louisa Stuart Costello)
 

'T is done! a father, mother, gone,
A sister, brother, torn away,
My hope is now in God alone,
Whom heaven and earth alike obey.
Above, beneath, to him is known,—
The world's wide compass is his own.

I love,—but in the world no more,
Nor in gay hall, or festal bower;
Not the fair forms I prized before,—
But him, all beauty, wisdom, power,
My Saviour, who has cast a chain
On sin and ill, and woe and pain!

I from my memory have effaced
All former joys, all kindred, friends;
All honors that my station graced
I hold but snares that fortune sends:
Hence! joys by Christ at distance cast,
That we may be his own at last!

Poems About Friends

Auld Lang Syne

Robert Burns
 

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

CHORUS:
For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint-stoup!
and surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak' a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We twa hae run about the braes,
and pou'd the gowans fine;
But we've wander'd mony a weary fit,
sin' auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We twa hae paidl'd in the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
sin' auld lang syne.

CHORUS

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak' a right gude-willie waught,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

Consolation

Robert Louis Stevenson
 

Though he, that ever kind and true,
Kept stoutly step by step with you,
Your whole long, gusty lifetime through,
Be gone a while before,
Be now a moment gone before,
Yet, doubt not, soon the seasons shall restore
Your friend to you.
 
He has but turned the corner — still
He pushes on with right good will,
Through mire and marsh, by heugh and hill,
That self-same arduous way —
That self-same upland, hopeful way,
That you and he through many a doubtful day
Attempted still.
 
He is not dead, this friend — not dead,
But in the path we mortals tread
Got some few, trifling steps ahead
And nearer to the end;
So that you too, once past the bend,
Shall meet again, as face to face, this friend
You fancy dead.
 
Push gaily on, strong heart! The while
You travel forward mile by mile,
He loiters with a backward smile
Till you can overtake,
And strains his eyes to search his wake,
Or whistling, as he sees you through the brake,
Waits on a stile.

My Heart And I

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
 

I.

Enough! we're tired, my heart and I.
We sit beside the headstone thus,
And wish that name were carved for us.
The moss reprints more tenderly
The hard types of the mason's knife,
As heaven's sweet life renews earth's life
With which we're tired, my heart and I.

II.

You see we're tired, my heart and I.
We dealt with books, we trusted men,
And in our own blood drenched the pen,
As if such colours could not fly.
We walked too straight for fortune's end,
We loved too true to keep a friend;
At last we're tired, my heart and I.

III.

How tired we feel, my heart and I!
We seem of no use in the world;
Our fancies hang grey and uncurled
About men's eyes indifferently;
Our voice which thrilled you so, will let
You sleep; our tears are only wet:
What do we here, my heart and I?

IV.

So tired, so tired, my heart and I!
It was not thus in that old time
When Ralph sat with me 'neath the lime
To watch the sunset from the sky.
Dear love, you're looking tired,' he said;
I, smiling at him, shook my head:
'Tis now we're tired, my heart and I.

V.

So tired, so tired, my heart and I!
Though now none takes me on his arm
To fold me close and kiss me warm
Till each quick breath end in a sigh
Of happy languor. Now, alone,
We lean upon this graveyard stone,
Uncheered, unkissed, my heart and I.

VI.

Tired out we are, my heart and I.
Suppose the world brought diadems
To tempt us, crusted with loose gems
Of powers and pleasures? Let it try.
We scarcely care to look at even
A pretty child, or God's blue heaven,
We feel so tired, my heart and I.

VII.

Yet who complains? My heart and I?
In this abundant earth no doubt
Is little room for things worn out:
Disdain them, break them, throw them by
And if before the days grew rough
We once were loved, used, well enough,
I think, we've fared, my heart and I.

The Old Familiar Faces

Charles Lamb
 

I have had playmates, I have had companions,
In my days of childhood, in my joyful school-days,
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.
 
I have been laughing, I have been carousing,
Drinking late, sitting late, with my bosom cronies,
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.
 
I loved a love once, fairest among women;
Closed are her doors on me, I must not see her —
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.
 
I have a friend, a kinder friend has no man;
Like an ingrate, I left my friend abruptly;
Left him, to muse on the old familiar faces.
 
Ghost-like, I paced round the haunts of my childhood.
Earth seemed a desert I was bound to traverse,
Seeking to find the old familiar faces.
 
Friend of my bosom, thou more than a brother,
Why wert not thou born in my father's dwelling?
So might we talk of the old familiar faces —
 
How some they have died, and some they have left me,
And some are taken from me; all are departed;
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

The Unillumined Verge

Robert Bridges
 

They tell you that Death's at the turn of the road,
That under the shade of a cypress you'll find him,
And, struggling on wearily, lashed by the goad
Of pain, you will enter the black mist behind him.

I can walk with you up to the ridge of the hill,
And we'll talk of the way we have come through the valley;
Down below there a bird breaks into a trill,
And a groaning slave bends to the oar of his galley.

You are up on the heights now, you pity the slave—
"Poor soul, how fate lashes him on at his rowing!
Yet it's joyful to live, and it's hard to be brave
When you watch the sun sink and the daylight is going."

We are almost there—our last walk on this height—
I must bid you good-bye at that cross on the mountain.
See the sun glowing red, and the pulsating light
Fill the valley, and rise like the flood in a fountain!

And it shines in your face and illumines your soul;
We are comrades as ever, right here at your going;
You may rest if you will within sight of the goal,
While I must return to my oar and the rowing.

We must part now? Well, here is the hand of a friend;
I will keep you in sight till the road makes its turning
Just over the ridge within reach of the end
Of your arduous toil,—the beginning of learning.

You will call to me once from the mist, on the verge,
"An revoir!" and "Good night!" while the twilight is creeping
Up luminous peaks, and the pale stars emerge?
Yes, I hear your faint voice: "This is rest, and like sleeping!"

Poems About Pets

Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat

Thomas Gray
 

Twas on a lofty vase’s side,
Where China’s gayest art had dyed
The azure flowers that blow;
Demurest of the tabby kind,
The pensive Selima, reclined,
Gazed on the lake below.

Her conscious tail her joy declared;
The fair round face, the snowy beard,
The velvet of her paws,
Her coat, that with the tortoise vies,
Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes,
She saw; and purred applause.

Still had she gazed; but ‘midst the tide
Two angel forms were seen to glide,
The genii of the stream:
Their scaly armor’s Tyrian hue
Through richest purple to the view
Betrayed a golden gleam.
The hapless nymph with wonder saw:
A whisker first and then a claw,
With many an ardent wish,
She stretched in vain to reach the prize.
What female heart can gold despise?
What cat’s averse to fish?

Presumptuous maid! with looks intent
Again she stretched, again she bent,
Nor knew the gulf between.
(Malignant Fate sat by and smiled)
The slippery verge her feet beguiled,
She tumbled headlong in.

Eight times emerging from the flood
She mewed to every watery god,
Some speedy aid to send.
No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred;
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard;
A favorite has no friend!

From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
Know, one false step is ne’er retrieved,
And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
Nor all that glisters, gold.

More Poetry About Life and Death

All the World's a Stage (“As You Like It” Act II, Scene VII)

William Shakespeare
 

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Appellate Jurisdiction

Marianne Moore
 

Fragments of sin are a part of me.
New brooms shall sweep clean the heart of me.
Shall they? Shall they?

When this light life shall have passed away,
God shall redeem me, a castaway.
Shall He? Shall He?

On Death (From “The Prophet”)

Kahlil Gibran
 

You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?
Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

Elegy Before Death

Edna St. Vincent Millay
 

There will be rose and rhododendron
When you are dead and under ground;
Still will be heard from white syringas
Heavy with bees, a sunny sound;

Still will the tamaracks be raining
After the rain has ceased, and still
Will there be robins in the stubble,
Brown sheep upon the warm green hill.

Spring will not ail nor autumn falter;
Nothing will know that you are gone,
Saving alone some sullen plough-land
None but yourself sets foot upon;

Saving the may-weed and the pig-weed
Nothing will know that you are dead,—
These, and perhaps a useless wagon
Standing beside some tumbled shed.

Oh, there will pass with your great passing
Little of beauty not your own,—
Only the light from common water,
Only the grace from simple stone!

Epitaph on Elizabeth, L. H.

Ben Jonson
 

Wouldst thou hear what man can say
In a little? Reader, stay.
Underneath this stone doth lie
As much beauty as could die;
Which in life did harbour give
To more virtue than doth live.
If at all she had a fault,
Leave it buried in this vault.
One name was Elizabeth,
Th' other let it sleep with death:
Fitter, where it died to tell,
Than that it liv'd at all. Farewell.

Experience

Edith Wharton
 

I

Like Crusoe with the bootless gold we stand
Upon the desert verge of death, and say:
“What shall avail the woes of yesterday
To buy to-morrow’s wisdom, in the land
Whose currency is strange unto our hand?
In life’s small market they had served to pay
Some late-found rapture, could we but delay
Till Time hath matched our means to our demand.”

But otherwise Fate wills it, for, behold,
Our gathered strength of individual pain,
When Time’s long alchemy hath made it gold,
Dies with us—hoarded all these years in vain,
Since those that might be heir to it the mould
Renew, and coin themselves new griefs again.

II

O Death, we come full-handed to thy gate,
Rich with strange burden of the mingled years,
Gains and renunciations, mirth and tears,
And love’s oblivion, and remembering hate,
Nor know we what compulsion laid such freight
Upon our souls—and shall our hopes and fears
Buy nothing of thee, Death? Behold our wares,
And sell us the one joy for which we wait.
Had we lived longer, life had such for sale,
With the last coin of sorrow purchased cheap,
But now we stand before thy shadowy pale,
And all our longings lie within thy keep—
Death, can it be the years shall naught avail?

“Not so,” Death answered, “they shall purchase sleep.”

Farewell, Life

Thomas Hood
 

Farewell, life! my senses swim.
And the world is growing dim;
Thronging shadows cloud the light,
Like the advent of the night,—
Colder, colder, colder still,
Upward steals a vapor chill;
Strong the earthly odor grows,—
I smell the mold above the rose!

Welcome, life! the spirit strives!
Strength returns and hope revives;
Cloudy fears and shapes forlorn
Fly like shadows at the morn,—
O'er the earth there comes a bloom;
Sunny light for sullen gloom,
Warm perfume for vapor cold,—
I smell the rose above the mold!

The Grave of Shelley

Oscar Wilde
 

Like burnt-out torches by a sick man’s bed
Gaunt cypress-trees stand round the sun-bleached stone;
Here doth the little night-owl make her throne,
And the slight lizard show his jewelled head.
And, where the chaliced poppies flame to red,
In the still chamber of yon pyramid
Surely some Old-World Sphinx lurks darkly hid,
Grim warder of this pleasaunce of the dead.

Ah! sweet indeed to rest within the womb
Of Earth, great mother of eternal sleep,
But sweeter far for thee a restless tomb
In the blue cavern of an echoing deep,
Or where the tall ships founder in the gloom
Against the rocks of some wave-shattered steep.

ROME.

Habeas Corpus

Helen Hunt Jackson
 

My body, eh? Friend Death, how now?
Why all this tedious pomp of writ?
Thou hast reclaimed it sure and slow
For half a century, bit by bit.

In faith thou knowest more to-day
Than I do, where it can be found!
This shrivelled lump of suffering clay,
To which I now am chained and bound,

Has not of kith or kin a trace
To the good body once I bore;
Look at this shrunken, ghastly face:
Didst ever see that face before?

Ah, well, friend Death, good friend thou art;
Thy only fault thy lagging gait,
Mistaken pity in thy heart
For timorous ones that bid thee wait.

Do quickly all thou hast to do,
Nor I nor mine will hindrance make;
I shall be free when thou art through;
I grudge thee naught that thou must take!

Stay! I have lied: I grudge thee one,
Yes, two I grudge thee at this last,—
Two members which have faithful done
My will and bidding in the past.

I grudge thee this right hand of mine;
I grudge thee this quick-beating heart;
They never gave me coward sign,
Nor played me once a traitor's part.

I see now why in olden days
Men in barbaric love or hate
Nailed enemies' hands at wild crossways,
Shrined leaders' hearts in costly state:

The symbol, sign, and instrument
Of each soul's purpose, passion, strife,
Of fires in which are poured and spent
Their all of love, their all of life.

O feeble, mighty human hand!
O fragile, dauntless human heart!
The universe holds nothing planned
With such sublime, transcendent art!

Yes, Death, I own I grudge thee mine
Poor little hand, so feeble now;
Its wrinkled palm, its altered line,
Its veins so pallid and so slow—

(Unfinished here.)

Ah, well, friend Death, good friend thou art:
I shall be free when thou art through.
Take all there is—take hand and heart:
There must be somewhere work to do.

The Hour of Death

Felicia Dorothea Hemans
 

Leaves have their time to fall,
And flowers to wither at the north-wind's breath,
And stars to set—but all,
Thou hast all seasons for thine own, oh! Death.

Day is for mortal care,
Eve for glad meetings round the joyous hearth,
Night for the dreams of sleep, the voice of prayer—
But all for thee, thou mightiest of the earth.

The banquet hath its hour,
Its feverish hour of mirth, and song, and wine;
There comes a day of griefs overwhelming power,
A time for softer tears—but all are thine.

Youth and the opening rose
May look like things too glorious for decay,
And smile at thee—but thou art not of those
That wait the ripened bloom to seize their prey.

Leaves have their time to fall,
And flowers to wither at the north-wind's breath,
And stars to set—but all,
Thou hast all seasons for thine own, oh! Death.

We know when moons shall wane,
When summer-birds from far shall cross the sea,
When autumn's hue shall tinge the golden grain—
But who shall teach us when to look for thee?

Is it when Spring's first gale
Comes forth to whisper where the violets lie?
Is it when roses in our paths grow pale?
They have one season—all are ours to die!

Thou art where billows foam,
Thou art where music melts upon the air;
Thou art around us in our peaceful home,
And the world calls us forth—and thou art there.

Thou art where friend meets friend,
Beneath the shadow of the elm to rest—
Thou art where foe meets foe, and trumpets rend
The skies, and swords beat down the princely crest.

Leaves have their time to fall,
And flowers to wither at the north-wind's breath,
And stars to set—but all.
Thou hast all seasons for thine own, oh! Death.

The House of Life: 73. The Choice, III

Dante Gabriel Rossetti
 

Think thou and act; to-morrow thou shalt die
Outstretch'd in the sun's warmth upon the shore,
Thou say'st: "Man's measur'd path is all gone o'er:
Up all his years, steeply, with strain and sigh,
Man clomb until he touch'd the truth; and I,
Even I, am he whom it was destin'd for."
How should this be? Art thou then so much more
Than they who sow'd, that thou shouldst reap thereby?
 
Nay, come up hither. From this wave-wash'd mound
Unto the furthest flood-brim look with me;
Then reach on with thy thought till it be drown'd.
Miles and miles distant though the last line be,
And though thy soul sail leagues and leagues beyond,—
Still, leagues beyond those leagues, there is more sea.

Humdrum

Carl Sandburg
 

If I had a million lives to live
and a million deaths to die
in a million humdrum worlds,
 
I’d like to change my name
and have a new house number to go by
each and every time I died
and started life all over again.
 
I wouldn’t want the same name every time
and the same old house number always,
dying a million deaths,
dying one by one a million times:
—would you?
or you?
or you?

If I Should Die To-Night

Belle E. Smith 
 

If I should die to-night,
My friends would look upon my quiet face
Before they laid it in its resting-place,
And deem that death had left it almost fair;
And, laying snow-white flowers against my hair.
Would smooth it down with tearful tenderness,
And fold my hands with lingering caress—
Poor hands, so empty and so cold to-night!

If I should die to-night,
My friends would call to mind, with loving thought,
Some kindly deed the icy hands had wrought;
Some gentle word the frozen lips had said;
Errands on which the willing feet had sped;
The memory of my selfishness and pride,
My hasty words, would all be put aside,
And so I should be loved and mourned to-night.

If I should die to-night,
Even hearts estranged would turn once more to me,
Recalling other days remorsefully;
The eyes that chill me with averted glance
Would look upon me as of yore, perchance,
And soften, in the old familiar way;
For who could war with dumb, unconscious clay?
So I might rest, forgiven of all, to-night.

Oh, friends, I pray to-night,
Keep not your kisses for my dead, cold brow—
The way is lonely; let me feel them now.
Think gently of me; I am travel-worn;
My faltering feet are pierced with many a thorn.
Forgive, oh, hearts estranged, forgive, I plead!
When dreamless rest is mine I shall not need
The tenderness for which I long to-night.

In the Days When We Are Dead

Henry Lawson
 

Listen! The end draws nearer,
Nearer the morning, or night, 
And I see with a vision clearer
That the beginning was right!
These shall be words to remember
When all has been done and said,
And my fame is a dying ember
In the days when I am dead.

Listen! We wrote in sorrow,
And we wrote by candle light;
We took no heed of the morrow,
And I think that we were right, 
(To-morrow, but not the day after,
And I think that we were right).

We wrote of a world that was human
And we wrote of blood that was red,
For a child, or a man, or a woman, 
Remember when we are dead.

Listen! We wrote not for money,
And listen! We wrote not for fame, 
We wrote for the milk and the honey
Of Kindness, and not for a name.

We paused not, nor faltered for any,
Though many fell back where we led;
We wrote of the few for the many, 
Remember when we are dead.

We suffered as few men suffer,
Yet laughed as few men laugh;
We grin as the road grows rougher,
And a bitterer cup we quaff.

We lived for Right and for Laughter,
And we fought for a Nation ahead, 
Remember it, friends, hereafter,
In the years when I am dead, 
For to-morrow and not the day after,
For ourselves, and a Nation ahead.

In Memoriam A. H. H. (selections)

Alfred, Lord Tennyson
 

Forgive my grief for one removed,
Thy creature, whom I found so fair.
I trust he lives in thee, and there
I find him worthier to be loved.
 
Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Confusions of a wasted youth;
Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in thy wisdom make me wise.
 
I
I held it truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.
 
But who shall so forecast the years
And find in loss a gain to match?
Or reach a hand thro’ time to catch
The far-off interest of tears?
 
Let Love clasp Grief lest both be drown’d,
Let darkness keep her raven gloss:
Ah, sweeter to be drunk with loss,
To dance with death, to beat the ground,
 
Than that the victor Hours should scorn
The long result of love, and boast,
‘Behold the man that loved and lost,
But all he was is overworn.’
 
II
Old Yew, which graspest at the stones
That name the under-lying dead,
Thy fibres net the dreamless head,
Thy roots are wrapt about the bones.
 
The seasons bring the flower again,
And bring the firstling to the flock;
And in the dusk of thee, the clock
Beats out the little lives of men.
 
O, not for thee the glow, the bloom,
Who changest not in any gale,
Nor branding summer suns avail
To touch thy thousand years of gloom:
 
And gazing on thee, sullen tree,
Sick for thy stubborn hardihood,
I seem to fail from out my blood
And grow incorporate into thee.
 
III
O Sorrow, cruel fellowship,
O Priestess in the vaults of Death,
O sweet and bitter in a breath,
What whispers from thy lying lip?
 
‘The stars,’ she whispers, ‘blindly run;
A web is wov'n across the sky;
From out waste places comes a cry,
And murmurs from the dying sun:
 
‘And all the phantom, Nature, stands—
With all the music in her tone,
A hollow echo of my own,—
A hollow form with empty hands.’
 
And shall I take a thing so blind,
Embrace her as my natural good;
Or crush her, like a vice of blood,
Upon the threshold of the mind?
 
IV
To Sleep I give my powers away;
My will is bondsman to the dark;
I sit within a helmless bark,
And with my heart I muse and say:
 
O heart, how fares it with thee now,
That thou should’st fail from thy desire,
Who scarcely darest to inquire,
‘What is it makes me beat so low?’
 
Something it is which thou hast lost,
Some pleasure from thine early years.
Break, thou deep vase of chilling tears,
That grief hath shaken into frost!
 
Such clouds of nameless trouble cross
All night below the darken’d eyes;
With morning wakes the will, and cries, 
‘Thou shalt not be the fool of loss.’
 
V
I sometimes hold it half a sin
To put in words the grief I feel;
For words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within.
 
But, for the unquiet heart and brain,
A use in measured language lies;
The sad mechanic exercise,
Like dull narcotics, numbing pain.
 
In words, like weeds, I’ll wrap me o’er,
Like coarsest clothes against the cold:
But that large grief which these enfold
Is given in outline and no more.
 
VI
One writes, that ‘Other friends remain,’
That ‘Loss is common to the race’—
And common is the commonplace,
And vacant chaff well meant for grain.
 
That loss is common would not make
My own less bitter, rather more:
Too common! Never morning wore
To evening, but some heart did break.
...
 
VII
Dark house, by which once more I stand
Here in the long unlovely street,
Doors, where my heart was used to beat
So quickly, waiting for a hand,
 
A hand that can be clasp’d no more—
Behold me, for I cannot sleep,
And like a guilty thing I creep
At earliest morning to the door.
 
He is not here; but far away
The noise of life begins again,
And ghastly thro’ the drizzling rain
On the bald street breaks the blank day.
 
XI
Calm is the morn without a sound,
Calm as to suit a calmer grief,
And only thro’ the faded leaf
The chestnut pattering to the ground:
 
Calm and deep peace on this high world,
And on these dews that drench the furze,
And all the silvery gossamers
That twinkle into green and gold:
 
Calm and still light on yon great plain
That sweeps with all its autumn bowers,
And crowded farms and lessening towers,
To mingle with the bounding main:
 
Calm and deep peace in this wide air,
These leaves that redden to the fall;
And in my heart, if calm at all,
If any calm, a calm despair:
 
Calm on the seas, and silver sleep,
And waves that sway themselves in rest,
And dead calm in that noble breast
Which heaves but with the heaving deep.

XIII
Tears of the widower, when he sees
A late-lost form that sleep reveals,
And moves his doubtful arms, and feels
Her place is empty, fall like these;
 
Which weep a loss for ever new,
A void where heart on heart reposed;
And, where warm hands have prest and closed,
Silence, till I be silent too.
 
Which weep the comrade of my choice,
An awful thought, a life removed,
The human-hearted man I loved,
A Spirit, not a breathing voice.
 
Come, Time, and teach me, many years,
I do not suffer in a dream;
For now so strange do these things seem,
Mine eyes have leisure for their tears;
 
My fancies time to rise on wing,
And glance about the approaching sails,
As tho’ they brought but merchants’ bales,
And not the burthen that they bring.

XVII
Thou comest, much wept for: such a breeze
Compell’d thy canvas, and my prayer
Was as the whisper of an air
To breathe thee over lonely seas.
 
For I in spirit saw thee move
Thro’ circles of the bounding sky,
Week after week: the days go by:
Come quick, thou bringest all I love.
 
Henceforth, wherever thou may’st roam,
My blessing, like a line of light,
Is on the waters day and night,
And like a beacon guards thee home.
 
So may whatever tempest mars
Mid-ocean, spare thee, sacred bark;
And balmy drops in summer dark
Slide from the bosom of the stars.
 
So kind an office hath been done,
Such precious relics brought by thee;
The dust of him I shall not see
Till all my widow’d race be run.
 
XVIII
‘Tis well; ‘tis something; we may stand
Where he in English earth is laid,
And from his ashes may be made
The violet of his native land.
 
‘Tis little; but it looks in truth
As if the quiet bones were blest
Among familiar names to rest
And in the places of his youth.
 
Come then, pure hands, and bear the head
That sleeps or wears the mask of sleep,
And come, whatever loves to weep,
And hear the ritual of the dead.
 
Ah yet, ev’n yet, if this might be,
I, falling on his faithful heart,
Would breathing thro’ his lips impart
The life that almost dies in me;
 
That dies not, but endures with pain,
And slowly forms the firmer mind,
Treasuring the look it cannot find,
The words that are not heard again.

XX
The lesser griefs that may be said,
That breathe a thousand tender vows,
Are but as servants in a house
Where lies the master newly dead;
 
Who speak their feeling as it is,
And weep the fulness from the mind:
‘It will be hard,’ they say, ‘to find
Another service such as this.’
 
My lighter moods are like to these,
That out of words a comfort win;
But there are other griefs within,
And tears that at their fountain freeze;
 
For by the hearth the children sit
Cold in that atmosphere of Death,
And scarce endure to draw the breath,
Or like to noiseless phantoms flit;
 
But open converse is there none,
So much the vital spirits sink
To see the vacant chair, and think,
‘How good! how kind! and he is gone.’
 
XXI
I sing to him that rests below,
And, since the grasses round me wave,
I take the grasses of the grave,
And make them pipes whereon to blow.
 
The traveller hears me now and then,
And sometimes harshly will he speak:
‘This fellow would make weakness weak,
And melt the waxen hearts of men.’
 
Another answers, ‘Let him be,
He loves to make parade of pain
That with his piping he may gain
The praise that comes to constancy.’
 
A third is wroth: ‘Is this an hour
For private sorrow’s barren song,
When more and more the people throng
The chairs and thrones of civil power?
 
‘A time to sicken and to swoon,
When Science reaches forth her arms
To feel from world to world, and charms
Her secret from the latest moon?’
 
Behold, ye speak an idle thing:
Ye never knew the sacred dust:
I do but sing because I must,
And pipe but as the linnets sing:
 
And one is glad; her note is gay,
For now her little ones have ranged;
And one is sad; her note is changed,
Because her brood is stol’n away.
 
XXII
The path by which we twain did go,
Which led by tracts that pleased us well,
Thro’ four sweet years arose and fell,
From flower to flower, from snow to snow:
 
And we with singing cheer’d the way,
And, crown’d with all the season lent,
From April on to April went,
And glad at heart from May to May:
 
But where the path we walk’d began
To slant the fifth autumnal slope,
As we descended following Hope,
There sat the Shadow fear’d of man;
 
Who broke our fair companionship,
And spread his mantle dark and cold,
And wrapt thee formless in the fold,
And dull’d the murmur on thy lip,
 
And bore thee where I could not see
Nor follow, tho’ I walk in haste,
And think, that somewhere in the waste
The Shadow sits and waits for me.
 
XXIV
And was the day of my delight
As pure and perfect as I say?
The very source and fount of Day
Is dash’d with wandering isles of night.
 
If all was good and fair we met,
This earth had been the Paradise
It never look’d to human eyes
Since our first Sun arose and set.
 
And is it that the haze of grief
Makes former gladness loom so great?
The lowness of the present state,
That sets the past in this relief?
 
Or that the past will always win
A glory from its being far;
And orb into the perfect star
We saw not, when we moved therein?
 
XXV
I know that this was Life,—the track
Whereon with equal feet we fared;
And then, as now, the day prepared
The daily burden for the back.
 
But this it was that made me move
As light as carrier-birds in air;
I loved the weight I had to bear,
Because it needed help of Love:
 
Nor could I weary, heart or limb,
When mighty Love would cleave in twain
The lading of a single pain,
And part it, giving half to him.
 
XXVI
Still onward winds the dreary way;
I with it; for I long to prove
No lapse of moons can canker Love,
Whatever fickle tongues may say.
 
And if that eye which watches guilt
And goodness, and hath power to see
Within the green the moulder’d tree,
And towers fall’n as soon as built—
 
Oh, if indeed that eye foresee
Or see (in Him is no before)
In more of life true life no more
And Love the indifference to be,
 
Then might I find, ere yet the morn
Breaks hither over Indian seas,
That Shadow waiting with the keys,
To shroud me from my proper scorn.
 
XXVII
I envy not in any moods
The captive void of noble rage,
The linnet born within the cage,
That never knew the summer woods:
 
I envy not the beast that takes
His license in the field of time,
Unfetter’d by the sense of crime,
To whom a conscience never wakes;
 
Nor, what may count itself as blest,
The heart that never plighted troth
But stagnates in the weeds of sloth;
Nor any want-begotten rest.
 
I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

In Memory of Anyone Unknown to Me

Elizabeth Jennings
 

At this particular time I have no one
Particular person to grieve for, though there must
Be many, many unknown ones going to dust
Slowly, not remembered for what they have done
Or left undone. For these, then, I will grieve
Being impartial, unable to deceive.

How they lived, or died, is quite unknown,
And, by that fact gives my grief purity,
An important person quite apart from me
Or one obscure who drifted down alone.
Both or all I remember, have a place.
For these I never encountered face to face.

Sentiment will creep in. I cast it out
Wishing to give these classical repose,
No epitaph, no poppy and no rose
From me, and certainly no wish to learn about
The way they lived or died. In earth or fire
They are gone. Simply because they were human, I admire.

Journey

Edna St. Vincent Millay
 

Ah, could I lay me down in this long grass
And close my eyes, and let the quiet wind
Blow over me—I am so tired, so tired
Of passing pleasant places!  All my life,
Following Care along the dusty road,
Have I looked back at loveliness and sighed;
Yet at my hand an unrelenting hand
Tugged ever, and I passed.  All my life long
Over my shoulder have I looked at peace;
And now I fain would lie in this long grass
And close my eyes.
Yet onward!
Cat birds call
Through the long afternoon, and creeks at dusk
Are guttural.  Whip-poor-wills wake and cry,
Drawing the twilight close about their throats.
Only my heart makes answer.  Eager vines
Go up the rocks and wait; flushed apple-trees
Pause in their dance and break the ring for me;
Dim, shady wood-roads, redolent of fern
And bayberry, that through sweet bevies thread
Of round-faced roses, pink and petulant,
Look back and beckon ere they disappear.
Only my heart, only my heart responds.
Yet, ah, my path is sweet on either side
All through the dragging day,—sharp underfoot
And hot, and like dead mist the dry dust hangs—
But far, oh, far as passionate eye can reach,
And long, ah, long as rapturous eye can cling,
The world is mine: blue hill, still silver lake,
Broad field, bright flower, and the long white road
A gateless garden, and an open path:
My feet to follow, and my heart to hold.

The Lost Dancer

Jean Toomer
 

Spatial depths of being survive
The birth to death recurrences
Of feet dancing on earth of sand; 
Vibrations of the dance survive
The sand; the sand, elect, survives
The dancer. He can find no source
Of magic adequate to bind
The sand upon his feet, his feet
Upon his dance, his dance upon
The diamond body of his being.

Nothing Will Die

Alfred, Lord Tennyson
 

When will the stream be aweary of flowing
Under my eye?
When will the wind be aweary of blowing
Over the sky?

When will the clouds be aweary of fleeting?
When will the heart be aweary of beating?
And nature die?
Never, O, never, nothing will die;

The stream flows,
The wind blows,
The cloud fleets,
The heart beats,
Nothing will die.

Nothing will die;
All things will change
Thro’ eternity.
’Tis the world’s winter;
Autumn and summer
Are gone long ago;
Earth is dry to the centre,
But spring, a new comer,
A spring rich and strange,
Shall make the winds blow
Round and round,
Thro’ and thro’,
Here and there,
Till the air
And the ground
Shall be fill’d with life anew.

The world was never made;
It will change, but it will not fade.
So let the wind range;
For even and morn
Ever will be
Thro’ eternity.
Nothing was born;
Nothing will die;
All things will change. 

The Oak

Alfred, Lord Tennyson
 

Live thy Life,
Young and old,
Like yon oak,
Bright in spring,
Living gold;

Summer-rich
Then; and then
Autumn-changed
Soberer-hued
Gold again.

All his leaves
Fall'n at length,
Look, he stands,
Trunk and bough
Naked strength.

Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood

William Wordsworth
 

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;—
Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

The rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the rose;
The moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare;
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.

Now, while the birds thus sing a joyous song,
And while the young lambs bound
As to the tabor’s sound,
To me alone there came a thought of grief:
A timely utterance gave that thought relief,
And I again am strong.
The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep,—
No more shall grief of mine the season wrong:
I hear the echoes through the mountains throng.
The winds come to me from the fields of sleep,
And all the earth is gay;
Land and sea
Give themselves up to jollity,
And with the heart of May
Doth every beast keep holiday;—
Thou child of joy,
Shout round me, let me hear thy shouts, thou happy
Shepherd-boy!

Ye blesséd Creatures, I have heard the call
Ye to each other make; I see
The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;
My heart is at your festival,
My head hath its coronal,
The fulness of your bliss, I feel—I feel it all.
O evil day! if I were sullen
While Earth herself is adorning
This sweet May-morning;
And the children are culling
On every side
In a thousand valleys far and wide
Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm,
And the babe leaps up on his mother’s arm:—
I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!
—But there’s a tree, of many, one,
A single field which I have look’d upon,
Both of them speak of something that is gone:
The pansy at my feet
Doth the same tale repeat:
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature’s priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.

Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own;
Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind,
And, even with something of a mother’s mind,
And no unworthy aim,
The homely nurse doth all she can
To make her foster-child, her inmate, Man,
Forget the glories he hath known,
And that imperial palace whence he came.

Behold the Child among his new-born blisses,
A six years’ darling of a pigmy size!
See, where ‘mid work of his own hand he lies,
Fretted by sallies of his mother’s kisses,
With light upon him from his father's eyes!
See, at his feet, some little plan or chart,
Some fragment from his dream of human life,
Shaped by himself with newly-learned art;
A wedding or a festival,
A mourning or a funeral;
And this hath now his heart,
And unto this he frames his song:
Then will he fit his tongue
To dialogues of business, love, or strife;
But it will not be long
Ere this be thrown aside,
And with new joy and pride
The little actor cons another part;
Filling from time to time his ‘humorous stage’
With all the Persons, down to palsied Age,
That life brings with her in her equipage;
As if his whole vocation
Were endless imitation.

Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie
Thy soul’s immensity;
Thou best philosopher, who yet dost keep
Thy heritage, thou eye among the blind,
That, deaf and silent, read’st the eternal deep,
Haunted for ever by the eternal Mind,—
Mighty Prophet! Seer blest!
On whom those truths rest
Which we are toiling all our lives to find,
In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave;
Thou, over whom thy Immortality
Broods like the day, a master o’er a slave,
A Presence which is not to be put by;
To whom the grave
Is but a lonely bed, without the sense of sight
Of day or the warm light,
A place of thoughts where we in waiting lie;
Thou little child, yet glorious in the might
Of heaven-born freedom on thy being’s height,
Why with such earnest pains dost thou provoke
The years to bring the inevitable yoke,
Thus blindly with thy blessedness at strife?
Full soon thy soul shall have her earthly freight,
And custom lie upon thee with a weight
Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life!
0 joy! that in our embers
Is something that doth live,
That Nature yet remembers
What was so fugitive!
The thought of our past years in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction: not indeed
For that which is most worthy to be blest,
Delight and liberty, the simple creed
Of Childhood, whether busy or at rest,
With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast:—
—Not for these I raise
The song of thanks and praise;
But for those obstinate questionings
Of sense and outward things,
Fallings from us, vanishings,
Blank misgivings of a creature
Moving about in worlds not realized,
High instincts, before which our mortal nature
Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised:
But for those first affections,
Those shadowy recollections,
Which, be they what they may,
Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,
Are yet a master-light of all our seeing;
Uphold us—cherish—and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,
To perish never;
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,
Nor man nor boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy!
Hence, in a season of calm weather
Though inland far we be,
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither;
Can in a moment travel thither—
And see the children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.

Then, sing, ye birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
And let the young lambs bound
As to the tabor’s sound!
We, in thought, will join your throng,
Ye that pipe and ye that play,
Ye that through your hearts to-day
Feel the gladness of the May!
What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.

And 0, ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves,
Forebode not any severing of our loves!
Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might;
I only have relinquish’d one delight
To live beneath your more habitual sway;
I love the brooks which down their channels fret
Even more than when I tripp’d lightly as they;
The innocent brightness of a new-born day
Is lovely yet;
The clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober coloring from an eye
That hath kept watch o’er man’s mortality;
Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

Poppies On Ludlow Castle

Willa Cather
 

THROUGH halls of vanished pleasure,
And hold of vanished power,
And crypt of faith forgotten,
A came to Ludlow tower.
 
A-top of arch and stairway,
Of crypt and donjan cell,
Of council hall, and chamber,
Of wall, and ditch, and well,
 
High over grated turrets
Where clinging ivies run,
A thousand scarlet poppies
Enticed the rising sun,
 
Upon the topmost turret,
With death and damp below,--
Three hundred years of spoilage,--
The crimson poppies grow.
 
This hall it was that bred him,
These hills that knew him brave,
The gentlest English singer
That fills an English grave.
 
How have they heart to blossom
So cruel and gay and red,
When beauty so hath perished
And valour so hath sped?
 
When knights so fair are rotten,
And captains true asleep,
And singing lips are dust-stopped
Six English earth-feet deep?
 
When ages old remind me
How much hath gone for naught,
What wretched ghost remaineth
Of all that flesh hath wrought;
 
Of love and song and warring,
Of adventure and play,
Of art and comely building,
Of faith and form and fray--
 
I'll mind the flowers of pleasure,
Of short-lived youth and sleep,
That drunk the sunny weather
A-top of Ludlow keep.

Reluctance

Robert Frost
 

Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world, and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.
 
The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.
 
And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question ‘Whither?’
 
Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?

Sonnet

Lady Lindsay
 

Yea, Love is strong as life; he casts out fear,
And wrath, and hate, and all our envious foes;
He stands upon the threshold, quick to close
The gate of happiness ere should appear
Death's dreaded presence—ay, but Death draws near,
And large and gray the towering outline grows,
Whose face is veiled and hid; and yet Love knows
Full well, too well, alas! that Death is here.
Death tramples on the roses; Death comes in,
Though Love, with outstretched arms and wings outspread,
Would bar the way—poor Love, whose wings begin
To droop, half-torn as are the roses dead
Already at his feet—but Death must win,
And Love grows faint beneath that ponderous tread!

Soon They Have to Die

Matsuo Basho
 

Soon they have to die,
but there is no sign of it
in cicadas’ cries.

Thanatopsis

William Cullen Bryant
 

To him who in the love of Nature holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language; for his gayer hours
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides
Into his darker musings, with a mild
And healing sympathy, that steals away
Their sharpness, e're he is aware. When thoughts
Of the last bitter hour come like a blight
Over thy spirit, and sad images
Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,
And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,
Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart;—
Go forth, under the open sky, and list
To Nature's teachings, while from all around—
Earth and her waters, and the depths of air,—
Comes a still voice—Yet a few days, and thee
The all-beholding sun shall see no more
In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground,
Where thy pale form was laid, with many tears,
Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist
Thy image. Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim
Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,
And, lost each human trace, surrendering up
Thine individual being, shalt thou go
To mix for ever with the elements,
To be a brother to the insensible rock
And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain
Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak
Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould.

Yet not to thine eternal resting-place
Shalt thou retire alone—nor couldst thou wish
Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down
With patriarchs of the infant world—with kings,
The powerful of the earth—the wise, the good,
Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past,
All in one mighty sepulchre.—The hills
Rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun,—the vales
Stretching in pensive quietness between;
The venerable woods—rivers that move
In majesty, and the complaining brooks
That make the meadows green; and, poured round all,
Old ocean's gray and melancholy waste,—
Are but the solemn decorations all
Of the great tomb of man. The golden sun,
The planets, all the infinite host of heaven,
Are shining on the sad abodes of death,
Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread
The globe are but a handful to the tribes
That slumber in its bosom.—Take the wings
Of morning—and the Barcan desert pierce,
Or lose thyself in the continuous woods
Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound,
Save his own dashings—yet—the dead are there:
And millions in those solitudes, since first
The flight of years began, have laid them down
In their last sleep—the dead reign there alone.
So shalt thou rest— and what, if thou withdraw
Unheeded by the living, and no friend
Take note of thy departure? All that breathe
Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh
When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care
Plod on, and each one as before will chase
His favorite phantom; yet all these shall leave
Their mirth and their employments, and shall come,
And make their bed with thee. As the long train
Of ages glide away, the sons of men,
The youth in life's green spring, and he who goes
In the full strength of years, matron, and maid,
And the sweet babe, and the gray-headed man,—
Shall one by one be gathered to thy side,
By those, who in their turn shall follow them.

So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, that moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

The Term of Death

Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt
 

Between the falling leaf and rose-bud's breath;
The bird's forsaken nest and her new song
(And this is all the time there is for Death);
The worm and butterfly—it is not long!

The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
 

The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveller hastens toward the town,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveller to the shore,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.

To Think of Time (selections)

Walt Whitman
 

1

To think of time—of all that retrospection!   
To think of to-day, and the ages continued henceforward!   
   
Have you guess'd you yourself would not continue?   
Have you dreaded these earth-beetles?   
Have you fear'd the future would be nothing to you?
   
Is to-day nothing? Is the beginningless past nothing?   
If the future is nothing, they are just as surely nothing.   
   
To think that the sun rose in the east! that men and women were flexible, real, alive! that everything was alive!   
To think that you and I did not see, feel, think, nor bear our part!   
To think that we are now here, and bear our part!

10

Pleasantly and well-suited I walk,
Whither I walk I cannot define, but I know it is good,   
The whole universe indicates that it is good,   
The past and the present indicate that it is good.   
   
How beautiful and perfect are the animals!   
How perfect the earth, and the minutest thing upon it!
   
What is called good is perfect, and what is called bad is just as perfect,   
The vegetables and minerals are all perfect, and the imponderable fluids are perfect;   
Slowly and surely they have pass'd on to this, and slowly and surely they yet pass on.   
   
11

I swear I think now that everything without exception has an eternal Soul!   
The trees have, rooted in the ground! the weeds of the sea have! the animals!
   
I swear I think there is nothing but immortality!   
That the exquisite scheme is for it, and the nebulous float is for it, and the cohering is for it;   
And all preparation is for it! and identity is for it! and life and materials are altogether for it!

Winter Sleep

Edith Matilda Thomas
 

I know it must be winter (though I sleep)—
I know it must be winter, for I dream
I dip my bare feet in the running stream,
And flowers are many, and the grass grows deep.
  
I know I must be old (how age deceives!)
I know I must be old, for, all unseen,
My heart grows young, as autumn fields grow green
When late rains patter on the falling sheaves.
  
I know I must be tired (and tired souls err)—
I know I must be tired, for all my soul
To deeds of daring beats a glad, faint roll,
As storms the riven pine to music stir.
  
I know I must be dying (Death draws near)—
I know I must be dying, for I crave
Life—life, strong life, and think not of the grave,
And turf-bound silence, in the frosty year.

Wishes

Dora Sigerson Shorter
 

I wish we could live as the flowers live,
To breathe and to bloom in the summer and sun;
To slumber and sway in the heart of the night,
And to die when our glory had done.

I wish we could love as the bees love,
To rest or to roam without sorrow or sigh;
With laughter, when, after the wooer had won,
Love flew with a whispered good-bye.

I wish we could die as the birds die,
To fly and to fall when our beauty was best:
No trammels of time on the years of our face;
And to leave but an empty nest.


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