Saturday, November 19, 2016

DEATHLESS DEATH, a poem

Richard Watson Gilder
1844-1909

IN MEMORY OF RICHARD WATSON GILDER

WE who have seen the seed fall without sound
          Into the lifeless ground,
Through wintry days are tempted to forget
How Spring will come with the first violet
          In her dark hair,
          Fresh and more fair
Than we remembered her, a glad surprise
In the veiled azure of her shadowy eyes.

     Fear doth the heart deceive,
          And still we grieve
     Where we should lift the voice
     In triumph, and rejoice
          Amid our sorrow,
     Because of what the past
Has given that is beauteous and shall last—
A heritage of blessing for the morrow.

     Lo, in what perfect trust
Nature confides her darlings to the dust!
The rose, the crocus, the narcissus sweet,
She lays to rest, undoubting, at her feet
     Who from the meadows bright
Was snatched away to rule in the sad light
     Of Hades, and to learn
          Its lessons stern.
     For Nature's faith is deep
That, waking from the dark and dreamless sleep,
Her flowers toward the sun shall wistful yearn,
And in the fragrant breast of Proserpine return.

     Ah, lover true of men,
     Forgive, forgive us, then,
If choked by tears we falter in our praise,
Remembering that we no more again
Shall hold glad converse with your spirit brave,
Nor from your lips hear words that lift and save,
Through all the lengthening number of our days!

By the great Silence you are set apart
From all the restless travail of the heart
          That beats in us
     So passionate and strong—
Are passed beyond the evening angelus
     And Memnon's morning song.
     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •
Man's life on earth—how brief!
Yet we with Nature hold the high belief,
     E'en when our hearts are breaking,
That death is but the vital way,
Darkness the shadow of the day,
     And sleep the door to waking!

     And shall we still with tears
Pay tribute sad to one whose soul endears
Even the dark, dark river it hath crossed?
     Shall we in grief forget
The sweetness and the glory of our debt,
And that no good, once given, can be lost?

     Distant your dwelling seems,
Poet and patriot!—but, ah, your dreams
Are living as the flame of sacrifice!
     Therefore love's roses now
We lay amidst the laurel for thy brow,
Grateful that souls like yours our earth emparadise.
"Deathless Death" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Outlook (1 January 1910), The Unconquered Air (1912) and Poems (1916) Volume I.

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