POEMS ON DEATH:

POEMS ON DEATH:

THE HARDEST LOT Poetry/Poem by John White Chadwick (1840-1904)

TO look upon the face of a dead friend
Is hard; but ’tis not more than we can bear
If, haply, we can see peace written there,–
Peace after pain, and welcome so the end,
Whate’er the past, whatever death may send.
Yea, and that face a gracious smile may wear,
If love till death was perfect, sweet, and fair;
But there is woe from which may God defend:
To look upon our friendship lying dead,
While we live on, and eat, and drink, and sleep–
Mere bodies from which all the soul has fled–
And that dead thing year after year to keep
Locked in cold silence in its dreamless bed:–
There must be hell while there is such a deep.

A GRAVESTONE Poetry/Poem by William Allingham (1824-1889)

Far from the churchyard dig his grave,
On some green mound beside the wave;
To westward, sea and sky alone,
And sunsets. Put a mossy stone,
With mortal name and date, a harp
And bunch of wild flowers, carven sharp;
Then leave it free to winds that blow,
And patient mosses creeping; slow,
And wandering wings, and footsteps rare
Of human creature pausing there.

EPITAPH ON THE LADY MARY VILLIERS Poetry/Poem by Thomas Carew (1595?-1639?)

THE Lady Mary Villiers lies
Under this stone; with weeping eyes
The parents that first gave her birth,
And their sad friends, laid her in earth.
If any of them, Reader, were
Known unto thee, shed a tear;
Or if thyself possess a gem
As dear to thee, as this to them,
Though a stranger to this place,
Bewail in theirs thine own hard case:
For thou perhaps at thy return
May’st find thy Darling in an urn.

EPITAPH ON AN INFANT Poetry/Poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)

ERE Sin could blight or Sorrow fade,
Death came with friendly care;
The opening bud to Heaven conveyed,
And bade it blossom there.

A DEATH-SCENE Poetry/Poem by Emily Brontë (1818-1848)

” O day! he cannot die
When thou so fair art shining!
O Sun, in such a glorious sky,
So tranquilly declining;

He cannot leave thee now,
While fresh west winds are blowing,
And all around his youthful brow
Thy cheerful light is glowing!

Edward, awake, awake–
The golden evening gleams
Warm and bright on Arden’s lake–
Arouse thee from thy dreams!

Beside thee, on my knee,
My dearest friend, I pray
That thou, to cross the eternal sea,
Wouldst yet one hour delay:

I hear its billows roar–
I see them foaming high;
But no glimpse of a further shore
Has blest my straining eye.

Believe not what they urge
Of Eden isles beyond;
Turn back, from that tempestuous surge,
To thy own native land.

It is not death, but pain
That struggles in thy breast–
Nay, rally, Edward, rouse again;
I cannot let thee rest!”

One long look, that sore reproved me
For the woe I could not bear–
One mute look of suffering moved me
To repent my useless prayer:

And, with sudden check, the heaving
Of distraction passed away;
Not a sign of further grieving
Stirred my soul that awful day.

Paled, at length, the sweet sun setting;
Sunk to peace the twilight breeze:
Summer dews fell softly, wetting
Glen, and glade, and silent trees.

Then his eyes began to weary,
Weighed beneath a mortal sleep;
And their orbs grew strangely dreary,
Clouded, even as they would weep.

But they wept not, but they changed not,
Never moved, and never closed;
Troubled still, and still they ranged not–
Wandered not, nor yet reposed!

So I knew that he was dying–
Stooped, and raised his languid head;
Felt no breath, and heard no sighing,
So I knew that he was dead.

A DEATH-BED Poetry/Poem by James Aldrich (1810-1856)

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.

DEATH, ALWAYS CRUEL Poetry/Poem by Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)

DEATH, always cruel, Pity’s foe in chief,
Mother who brought forth grief,
Merciless judgment and without appeal!
Since thou alone hast made my heart to feel
This sadness and unweal,
My tongue upbraideth thee without relief.

And now (for I must rid thy name of ruth)
Behoves me speak the truth
Touching thy cruelty and wickedness:
Not that they be not known; but ne’ertheless
I would give hate more stress
With them that feed on love in very sooth.

Out of this world thou hast driven courtesy,
And virtue, dearly prized in womanhood;
And out of youth’s gay mood
The lovely lightness is quite gone through thee.

Whom now I mourn, no man shall learn from me
Save by the measure of these praises given.
Whoso deserves not Heaven
May never hope to have her company.

THE BURIAL OF THE DANE Poetry/Poem by Henry Howard Brownell (1820-1872)

BLUE gulf all around us,
Blue sky overhead —
Muster all on the quarter,
We must bury the dead!

It is but a Danish sailor,
Rugged of front and form;
A common son of the forecastle,
Grizzled with sun and storm.

His name, and the strand he hailed from
We know, and there’s nothing more!
But perhaps his mother is waiting
In the lonely Island of Fohr.

Still, as he lay there dying,
Reason drifting awreck,
“‘T is my watch,” he would mutter,
“I must go upon deck!”

Aye, on deck, by the foremast!
But watch and lookout are done;
The Union Jack laid o’er him,
How quiet he lies in the sun!

Slow the ponderous engine,
Stay the hurrying shaft;
Let the roll of the ocean
Cradle our giant craft;
Gather around the grating,
Carry your messmate aft!

Stand in order, and listen
To the holiest page of prayer!
Let every foot be quiet,
Every head be bare —
The soft trade-wind is lifting
A hundred locks of hair.

Our captain reads the service,
(A little spray on his cheeks)
The grand old words of burial,
And the trust a true heart seeks: —
“We therefore commit his body
To the deep” — and, as he speaks,

Launched from the weather railing,
Swift as the eye can mark,
The ghastly, shotted hammock
Plunges away from the shark,
Down, a thousand fathoms,
Down into the dark!

A thousand summers and winters
The stormy Gulf shall roll
High o’er his canvas coffin;
But, silence to doubt and dole: —
There’s a quiet harbor somewhere
For the poor aweary soul.

Free the fettered engine,
Speed the tireless shaft,
Loose to’gallant and topsail,
The breeze is far abaft!

Blue sea all around us,
Blue sky bright o’erhead —
Every man to his duty,
We have buried our dead!

AND THOU ART DEAD, AS YOUNG AND FAIR Poetry/Poem by George Gordon (Lord) Byron (1788-1824)

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.

ON A VIRTUOUS YOUNG GENTLEWOMAN THAT DIED SUDDENLY Poetry/Poem by William Cartwright (1611-1643)

SHE who to Heaven more Heaven doth annex,
Whose lowest thought was above all our sex,
Accounted nothing death but t’ be reprieved,
And died as free from sickness as she lived.
Others are dragg’d away, or must be driven,
She only saw her time and stept to Heaven;
Where seraphims view all her glories o’er,
As one return’d that had been there before.
For while she did this lower world adorn,
Her body seem’d rather assumed than born;
So rarified, advanced, so pure and whole,
That body might have been another’s soul;
And equally a miracle it were
That she could die, or that she could live here.

O DEATH, ROCK ME ASLEEP Poetry/Poem by Anne Boleyn? (1507?-1536)

O DEATH, rock me asleep,
Bring me to quiet rest,
Let pass my weary guiltless ghost
Out of my careful breast.
Toll on, thou passing bell;
Ring out my doleful knell;
Let thy sound my death tell.
Death doth draw nigh;
There is no remedy.

My pains who can express?
Alas, they are so strong;
My dolour will not suffer strength
My life for to prolong.
Toll on, thou passing bell;
Ring out my doleful knell;
Let thy sound my death tell.
Death doth draw nigh;
There is no remedy.

Alone in prison strong
I wait my destiny.
Woe worth this cruel hap that I
Should taste this misery!
Toll on, thou passing bell;
Ring out my doleful knell;
Let thy sound my death tell.
Death doth draw nigh;
There is no remedy.

Farewell, my pleasures past,
Welcome, my present pain!
I feel my torments so increase
That life cannot remain.
Cease now, thou passing bell;
Rung is my doleful knell;
For the sound my death doth tell.
Death doth draw nigh;
There is no remedy.

NANINE Poetry/Poem by Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)

WE heard a song-bird trilling–
‘Twas but a day ago.
Such rapture he was rilling
As only we could know.

This morning he is flinging
His music from the tree,
But something in the singing
Is not the same to me.

His inspiration fails him,
Or he has lost his skill.
Nanine, Nanine, what ails him
That he should sing so ill?

Nanine is not replying–
She hears no earthly song.
The sun and bird are lying
And the night is, O, so long!

MY PLAYMATE Poetry/Poem by Alice Cary (1820-1871)

I LITTLE care to write her praise,
In truth, I little care that she
Should seem as pure in all her ways,
To others, as she seems to me.

At morn a sparrow’s note we heard,
His shadow fell across her bed,
She smiled and listened to the bird;
And when the evening twilight red
Fell with the dew, he came again,
And perching on the nearest bough,
Higher and wilder sang the strain–
She did not smile to hear him now.

Many and many years, the light
Thin moonbeams, sheets for her have spread;
And scented clovers, red and white,
Have made the fringes of her bed.

Small care for sitting in the sun
Have I–small care to war with fate:
The wine and wormwood are as one,
Since thou art dead, my pretty mate.

THE MURDERED TRAVELLER Poetry/Poem by William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878)

WHEN spring, to woods and wastes around,
Brought bloom and joy again,
The murdered traveller’s bones were found,
Far down a narrow glen.

The fragrant birch, above him, hung
Her tassels in the sky;
And many a vernal blossom sprung,
And nodded careless by.

The red-bird warbled, as he wrought
His hanging nest o’erhead,
And fearless, near the fatal spot,
Her young the partridge led.

But there was weeping far away,
And gentle eyes, for him,
With watching many an anxious day,
Were sorrowful and dim.

They little knew, who loved him so,
The fearful death he met,
When shouting o’er the desert snow,
Unarmed, and hard beset;–

Nor how, when round the frosty pole
The northern dawn was red,
The mountain wolf and wild-cat stole
To banquet on the dead;

Nor how, when strangers found his bones,
They dressed the hasty bier,
And marked his grave with nameless stones,
Unmoistened by a tear.

But long they looked, and feared, and wept,
Within his distant home;
And dreamed, and started as they slept,
For joy that he was come.

So long they looked–but never spied
His welcome step again,
Nor knew the fearful death he died
Far down that narrow glen.

MULBERRY HILL Poetry/Poem by Alice Cary (1820-1871)

OH, sweet was the eve when I came from the mill,
Adown the green windings of Mulberry hill:
My heart like a bird with his throat all in tune,
That sings in the beautiful bosom of June.

For there, at her spinning, beneath a broad tree,
By a rivulet shining and blue as the sea,
I first saw my Mary–her tiny feet bare,
And the buds of the sumach among her black hair.

They called me a bold enough youth, and I would
Have kept the name honestly earned, if I could;
But somehow, the song I had whistled was hushed,
And, spite of my manhood, I felt that I blushed.

I would tell you, but words cannot paint my delight,
When she gave the red buds for a garland of white,
When her cheeks with soft blushes–but no, ‘t is in vain!
Enough that I loved, and she loved me again.

Three summers have come and gone by with their charms,
And a cherub of purity smiles in my arms,
With lips like the rosebud and locks softly light
As the flax which my Mary was spinning that night.

And in the dark shadows of Mulberry hill,
By the grass–covered road where I came from the mill,
And the rivulet shining and blue as the sea,
My Mary lies sleeping beneath the broad tree.

MALARIA, translated into English by: Laurence Hope (1865-1904)

HE lurks among the reeds, beside the marsh,
Red oleanders twisted in His hair,
His eyes are haggard and His lips are harsh,
Upon His breast the bones show gaunt and bare.

The green and stagnant waters lick his feet,
And from their filmy, iridescent scum
Clouds of mosquitoes, gauzy in the heat,
Rise with His gifts: Death and Delirium.

His messengers: they bear the deadly taint
On spangled wings aloft and far away,
Making thin music, strident and yet faint,
From golden eve to silver break of day.

The baffled sleeper hears th’ incessant whine
Through his tormented dreams, and finds no rest.
The thirsty insects use his blood for wine,
Probe his blue veins and pasture on his breast.

While far away He in the marshes lies,
Staining the stagnant water with His breath,
An endless hunger burning in His eyes,
A famine unassuaged, whose food is Death.

He hides among the ghostly mists that float
Over the water, weird and white and chill,
And peasants, passing in their laden boat,
Shiver and feel a sense of coming ill.

A thousand burn and die; He takes no heed,
Their bones, unburied, strewn upon the plain,
Only increase the frenzy of His greed
To add more victims to th’ already slain.

He loves the haggard frame, the shattered mind,
Gloats with delight upon the glazing eye,
Yet, in one thing His cruelty is kind,
He sends them lovely dreams before they die;

Dreams that bestow on them their heart’s desire,
Visions that find them mad, and leave them blest,
To sink, forgetful of the fever’s fire,
Softly, as in a lover’s arms, to rest.

LITTLE PAUL Poetry/Poem by Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)

CHEERFUL voices by the sea-side
Echoed through the summer air,
Happy children, fresh and rosy,
Sang and sported freely there,
Often turning friendly glances,
Where, neglectful of them all,
On his bed among the gray rocks,
Mused the pale child, little Paul.

For he never joined their pastimes,
Never danced upon the sand,
Only smiled upon them kindly,
Only waved his wasted hand.
Many a treasured gift they bore him,
Best beloved among them all.
Many a childish heart grieved sadly,
Thinking of poor little Paul.

But while Florence was beside him,
While her face above him bent,
While her dear voice sounded near him,
He was happy and content;
Watching ever the great billows,
Listening to their ceaseless fall,
For they brought a pleasant music
To the ear of little Paul.

“Sister Floy,” the pale child whispered,
“What is that the blue waves say?
What strange message are they bringing
From that shore so far away?
Who is dwelling in that country
Whence a low voice seems to call
Softly, through the dash of waters,
‘Come away, my little Paul’?”

But sad Florence could not answer,
Though her dim eyes tenderly
Watched the wistful face, that ever
Gazed across the restless sea,
While the sunshine like a blessing
On his bright hair seemed to fall,
And the winds grew more caressing,
As they kissed frail little Paul.

Ere long, paler and more wasted,
On another bed he lay,
Where the city’s din and discord
Echoed round him day by day;
While the voice that to his spirit
By the sea-side seemed to call,
Sounded with its tender music
Very near to little Paul.

As the deep tones of the ocean
Linger in the frailest shell,
So the lonely sea-side musings
In his memory seemed to dwell.
And he talked of golden waters
Rippling on his chamber wall,
While their melody in fancy
Cheered the heart of little Paul.

Clinging fast to faithful Florence,
Murmuring faintly night and day,
Of the swift and darksome river
Bearing him so far away,
Toward a shore whose blessed sunshine
Seemed most radiantly to fall
On a beautiful mild spirit,
Waiting there for little Paul.

So the tide of life ebbed slowly,
Till the last wave died away,
And nothing but the fragile wreck
On the sister’s bosom lay.
And from out death’s solemn waters,
Lifted high above them all,
In her arms the spirit mother
Bore the soul of little Paul.

LITTLE NELL Poetry/Poem by Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)

GLEAMING through the silent church-yard,
Winter sunlight seemed to shed
Golden shadows like soft blessings
O’er a quiet little bed,

Where a pale face lay unheeding
Tender tears that o’er it fell;
No sorrow now could touch the heart
Of gentle little Nell.

Ah, with what silent patient strength
The frail form lying there
Had borne its heavy load of grief,
Of loneliness and care.

Now, earthly burdens were laid down,
And on the meek young face
There shone a holier loveliness
Than childhood’s simple grace.

Beset with sorrow, pain and fear,
Tempted by want and sin,
With none to guide or counsel her
But the brave child-heart within.

Strong in her fearless, faithful love,
Devoted to the last,
Unfaltering through gloom and gleam
The little wanderer passed.

Hand in hand they journeyed on
Through pathways strange and wild,
The gray-haired, feeble, sin-bowed man
Led by the noble child.

So through the world’s dark ways she passed,
Till o’er the church-yard sod,
To the quiet spot where they found rest,
Those little feet had trod.

To that last resting-place on earth
Kind voices bid her come,
There her long wanderings found an end,
And weary Nell a home.

A home whose light and joy she was,
Though on her spirit lay
A solemn sense of coming change,
That deepened day by day.

There in the church-yard, tenderly,
Through quiet summer hours,
Above the poor neglected graves
She planted fragrant flowers.

The dim aisles of the ruined church
Echoed the child’s light tread,
And flickering sunbeams thro’ the leaves
Shone on her as she read.

And here where a holy silence dwelt,
And golden shadows fell,
When Death’s mild face had looked on her,
They laid dear happy Nell.

Long had she wandered o’er the earth,
One hand to the old man given,
By the other angels led her on
Up a sunlit path to Heaven.

Oh! “patient, loving, noble Nell,”
Like light from sunset skies,
The beauty of thy sinless life
Upon the dark world lies.

On thy sad story, gentle child,
Dim eyes will often dwell,
And loving hearts will cherish long
The memory of Nell.

THE LETTER Poetry/Poem by Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836-1906)

I HELD his letter in my hand,
And even while I read
The lightning flashed across the land
The word that he was dead.

How strange it seemed! His living voice
Was speaking from the page
Those courteous phrases, tersely choice,
Light-hearted, witty, sage.

I wondered what it was that died!
The man himself was here,
His modesty, his scholar’s pride,
His soul serene and clear.

These neither death nor time shall dim,
Still this sad thing must be–
Henceforth I may not speak to him,
Though he can speak to me!

LAMENT FOR THE TWO BROTHERS SLAIN BY EACH OTHER’S HAND (from “The Seven Against Thebes” Poetry/Poem by Aeschylus

NOW do our eyes behold
The tidings which were told:
Twin fallen kings, twin perished hopes to mourn,
The slayer, the slain,
The entangled doom forlorn
And ruinous end of twain.
Say, is not sorrow, is not sorrow’s sum
On home and hearthstone come?
Oh, waft with sighs the sail from shore,
Oh, smite the bosom, cadencing the oar
That rows beyond the rueful stream for aye
To the far strand,
The ship of souls, the dark,
The unreturning bark
Whereon light never falls nor foot of Day,
Even to the bourne of all, to the unbeholden land.

INTERIOR Poetry/Poem by Mariano Brull (1891-1956)

HERE in her little room all still and lone
The things that made her life are greeting me.
It seems as though her body as it went
Had left a spirit footprint, mindfully.

‘Twould seem as in the mirror-moon were shown
The shadowy glimpse of what she used to be;–
And sing more sad her bird its caged lament,–
And through the room her absence whisper free–

Her gilt-edged book of prayers is lying there
Upon the table; and it says: “The care
Is small of worldlings, — Upon God, thine eye!”
I raise my glance, and in my grief I moan:–
Oh, had I but, that final hour, known
The anguished sweetness of her last goodbye!

–Translated by Roderick Gill

THE REMORSE OF THE DEAD Poetry/Poem by Charles Baudelaire

O SHADOWY Beauty mine, when thou shalt sleep
In the deep heart of a black marble tomb;
When thou for mansion and for bower shalt keep
Only one rainy cave of hollow gloom;

And when the stone upon thy trembling breast,
And on thy straight sweet body’s supple grace,
Crushes thy will and keeps thy heart at rest,
And holds those feet from their adventurous race;

Then the deep grave, who shares my reverie,
(For the deep grave is aye the poet’s friend)
During long nights when sleep is far from thee,

Shall whisper: “Ah, thou didst not comprehend
The dead wept thus, thou woman frail and weak”–
And like remorse the worm shall gnaw thy cheek.

REQUIESCAT Poetry/Poem by Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)

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.

THE SEA-KING’S BURIAL Poetry/Poem by Charles Mackay (1814-1889)

“MY strength is failing fast,”
Said the sea-king to his men;–
“I shall never sail the seas
Like a conqueror again.
But while yet a drop remains
Of the life-blood in my veins,
Raise, oh, raise me from the bed;
Put the crown upon my head;
Put my good sword in my hand;
And so lead me to the strand,
Where my ship at anchor rides
Steadily;
If I cannot end my life
In the bloody battle-strife,
Let me die as I have lived,
On the sea.”

They have raised King Balder up,
Put his crown upon his head;
They have sheathed his limbs in mail,
And the purple o’er him spread;
And amid the greeting rude
Of a gathering multitude,
Borne him slowly to the shore–
All the energy of yore
From his dim eyes flashing forth–
Old sea-lion of the north–
As he looked upon his ship
Riding free,
And on his forehead pale
Felt the cold refreshing gale,
And heard the welcome sound
Of the sea.

They have borne him to the ship
With a slow and solemn tread;
They have placed him on the deck
With his crown upon his head,
Where he sat as on a throne;
And have left him there alone,
With his anchor ready weighed,
And the snowy sails displayed
To the favoring wind, once more
Blowing freshly from the shore;
And have bidden him farewell
Tenderly,
Saying, “King of mighty men,
We shall meet thee yet again,
In Valhalla, with the monarchs
Of the sea.”

Underneath him in the hold
They have placed the lighted brand;
And the fire burning slow
As the vessel from the land,
Like a stag-hound from the slips,
Darted forth from out the ships.
There was music in her sail
As it swelled before the gale,
And a dashing at her prow
As it cleft the waves below,
And the good ship sped along,
Scudding free;
As on many a battle morn
In her time she had been borne,
To struggle, and to conquer
On the sea.

And the king with sudden strength
Started up, and paced the deck,
With his good sword for his staff,
And his robe around his neck:
Once alone, he raised his hand
To the people on the land;
And with shout and joyous cry
Once again they made reply,
Till the loud exulting cheer
Sounded faintly on his ear;
For the gale was o’er him blowing
Fresh and free;
And ere yet an hour had passed,
He was driven before the blast,
And a storm was on his path,
On the sea.

And still upon the deck,
While the storm about him rent,
King Balder paced about
Till his failing strength was spent.
Then he stopped awhile to rest–
Crossed his hands upon his breast,
And looked upward to the sky
With a dim but dauntless eye;
And heard the tall mast creak,
And the fitful tempest speak
Shrill and fierce, to the billows
Rushing free;
And within himself he said:
“I am coming, O ye dead!
To join you in Valhalla,
O’er the sea.

“So blow, ye tempests, blow,
And my spirit shall not quail;
I have fought with many a foe;
I have weathered many a gale;
And in this hour of death,
Ere I yield my fleeting breath–
Ere the fire now burning slow
Shall come rushing from below,
And this worn and wasted frame
Be devoted to the flame–
I will raise my voice in triumph,
Singing free;–
To the great All-Father’s home
I am driving through the foam,
I am sailing to Valhalla,
O’er the sea.

“So blow, ye stormy winds–
And ye flames ascend on high;–
In the easy, idle bed
Let the slave and coward die!
But give me the driving keel,
Clang of shields and flashing steel;–
Or my foot on foreign ground,
With my enemies around!
Happy, happy, thus I’d yield,
On the deck, or in the field,
My last breath, shouting ‘On
To victory.’
But since this has been denied,
They shall say that I have died
Without flinching, like a monarch
Of the sea.”

And Balder spoke no more,
And no sound escaped his lip;–
And he looked, yet scarcely saw
The destruction of his ship,
Nor the fleet sparks mounting high,
Nor the glare upon the sky;–
Scarcely felt the scorching heat
That was gathering at his feet,
Nor the fierce flames mounting o’er him
Greedily.
But the life was in him yet,
And the courage to forget
All his pain, in his triumph
On the sea.

Once alone a cry arose,
Half of anguish, half of pride,
As he sprang upon his feet,
With the flames on every side.
“I am coming!” said the king,
“Where the swords and bucklers ring–
Where the warrior lives again
With the souls of mighty men–
Where the weary find repose,
And the red wine ever flows;–
I am coming, great All-Father,
Unto thee!
Unto Odin, unto Thor,
And the strong, true hearts of yore–
I am coming to Valhalla,
O’er the sea.”

A REMINISCENCE Poetry/Poem by Anne Bronte (1820-1849)

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.

PROSPICE Poetry/Poem by Robert Browning (1812-1889)

FEAR death? — to feel the fog in my throat,
The mist in my face,
When the snows begin, and the blasts denote
I am nearing the place,
The power of the night, the press of the storm,
The post of the foe;
Where he stands, the Arch Fear in a visible form,
Yet the strong man must go:
For the journey is done and the summit attained,
And the barriers fall,
Though a battle’s to fight ere the guerdon be gained,
The reward of it all.
I was ever a fighter, so — one fight more,
The best and the last!
I would hate that death bandaged my eyes, and forbore,
And bade me creep past.
No! let me taste the whole of it, fare like my peers
The heroes of old,
Bear the brunt, in a minute pay glad life’s arrears
Of pain, darkness and cold.
For sudden the worst turns the best to the brave,
The black minute’s at end,
And the elements’ rage, the fiend-voices that rave,
Shall dwindle, shall blend,
Shall change, shall become first a peace out of pain,
Then a light, then thy breast,
O thou soul of my soul! I shall clasp thee again,
And with God be the rest!

PRESENTIMENT Poetry/Poem by Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855)

“SISTER, you’ve sat there all the day,
Come to the hearth awhile;
The wind so wildly sweeps away,
The clouds so darkly pile.
That open book has lain, unread,
For hours upon your knee;
You’ve never smiled nor turned your head;
What can you, sister, see?”

“Come hither, Jane, look down the field;
How dense a mist creeps on!
The path, the hedge, are both concealed,
Ev’n the white gate is gone
No landscape through the fog I trace,
No hill with pastures green;
All featureless is Nature’s face.
All masked in clouds her mien.

“Scarce is the rustle of a leaf
Heard in our garden now;
The year grows old, its days wax brief,
The tresses leave its brow.
The rain drives fast before the wind,
The sky is blank and grey;
O Jane, what sadness fills the mind
On such a dreary day!”

“You think too much, my sister dear;
You sit too long alone;
What though November days be drear?
Full soon will they be gone.
I’ve swept the hearth, and placed your chair,.
Come, Emma, sit by me;
Our own fireside is never drear,
Though late and wintry wane the year,
Though rough the night may be.”

“The peaceful glow of our fireside
Imparts no peace to me:
My thoughts would rather wander wide
Than rest, dear Jane, with thee.
I’m on a distant journey bound,
And if, about my heart,
Too closely kindred ties were bound,
‘Twould break when forced to part.

“‘Soon will November days be o’er:’
Well have you spoken, Jane:
My own forebodings tell me more–
For me, I know by presage sure,
They’ll ne’er return again.
Ere long, nor sun nor storm to me
Will bring or joy or gloom;
They reach not that Eternity
Which soon will be my home.”

Eight months are gone, the summer sun
Sets in a glorious sky;
A quiet field, all green and lone,
Receives its rosy dye.
Jane sits upon a shaded stile,
Alone she sits there now;
Her head rests on her hand the while,
And thought o’ercasts her brow.

She’s thinking of one winter’s day,
A few short months ago,
Then Emma’s bier was borne away
O’er wastes of frozen snow.
She’s thinking how that drifted snow
Dissolved in spring’s first gleam,
And how her sister’s memory now
Fades, even as fades a dream.

The snow will whiten earth again,
But Emma comes no more;
She left, ‘mid winter’s sleet and rain,
This world for Heaven’s far shore.
On Beulah’s hills she wanders now,
On Eden’s tranquil plain;
To her shall Jane hereafter go,
She ne’er shall come to Jane!

PRESENTIMENT Poetry/Poem by Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)

WITH saintly grace and reverent tread,
She walked among the graves with me;
Her every foot-fall seemed to be
A benediction on the dead.

The guardian spirit of the place
She seemed, and I some ghost forlorn
Surprised in the untimely morn
She made with her resplendent face.

Moved by some waywardness of will,
Three paces from the path apart
She stepped and stood — my prescient heart
Was stricken with a passing chill.

The folk-lore of the years agone
Remembering, I smiled and thought:
“Who shudders suddenly at naught,
His grave is being trod upon.”

But now I know that it was more
Than idle fancy. O, my sweet,
I did not think so little feet
Could make a buried heart so sore!

ON THE TOMB OF SAYID Poetry/Poem by Abd Almalec Alharithy

BLEST are the tenants of the tomb!
With envy I their lot survey;
For SAYID shares the solemn gloom,
And mingles with their mouldering clay.

Dear youth! I’m doom’d thy loss to mourn
When gathering ills around combine;
And whither now shall MALEC turn,
Where look for any help but thine?

At this dread moment when the foe
My life with rage insatiate seeks,
In vain I strive to ward the blow,
My buckler falls, my sabre breaks.

Upon thy grassy tomb I knelt,
And sought from pain a short relief–
Th’ attempt was vain — I only felt
Intenser pangs and livelier grief.

The bud of woe no more represt,
Fed by the tears that drench’d it there,
Shot forth and fill’d my labouring breast
Ready to blossom in despair.

But tho’ of SAYID I’m bereft,
From whom the stream of bounty came,
SAYID a nobler meed has left–
Th’ exhaustless heritage of fame.

Tho’ mute the lips on which I hung,
Their silence speaks more loud to me
Than any voice from mortal tongue,
“What SAYID was let MALEC be.”

ON THE DEATH OF CATARINA DE ATTAYDA Poetry/Poem by Luis Vas de Camões (1524-1580)

THOSE charming eyes within whose starry sphere
Love whilom sat, and smiled the hours away,–
Those braids of light, that shamed the beams of day,–
That hand benignant, and that heart sincere,–
Those virgin cheeks, which did so late appear
Like snow-banks scattered with the blooms of May,
Turned to a little cold and worthless clay,
Are gone, forever gone, and perished here,–
But not unbathed by Memory’s warmest tear!
Death thou hast torn, in one unpitying hour,
That fragrant plant, to which, while scarce a flower,
The mellower fruitage of its prime was given;
Love saw the deed, — and as he lingered near
Sighed o’er the ruin, and returned to heaven!
–Translated by R.F. Burton

ON THE BURIAL OF HIS BROTHER Poetry/Poem by Caius Valerius Catullus (87-57 B.C.)

BY ways remote and distant waters sped,
Brother, to thy sad graveside am I come,
That I may give the last gifts to the dead,
And vainly parley with thine ashes dumb;
Since She who now bestows and denies
Hath ta’en thee, hapless brother from mine eyes.
But lo! these gifts, the heirlooms of past years,
Are made sad things to grace thy coffin-shell;
Take them, all drenchèd with a brother’s tears,
And, brother, for all time, hail and farewell.

ON THE BRINK OF DEATH Poetry/Poem by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)

NOW hath my life across a stormy sea
Like a frail bark reached that wide port where all
Are bidden, ere the final reckoning fall
Of good and evil for eternity.
Now know I well how that fond phantasy
Which made my soul the worshiper and thrall
Of earthly art, is vain; how criminal
Is that which all men seek unwillingly.
Those amorous thoughts which were so lightly dressed,
What are they when the double death is nigh?
The one I know for sure, the other dread.
Painting nor sculpture now can lull to rest
My soul that turns to His great love on high,
Whose arms to clasp us on the cross were spread.

SOME DAY, SOME DAY Poetry/Poem by Cristóbal de Castillejo (1491-1556)

SOME day, some day
O troubled breast,
Shalt thou find rest.
If Love in thee
To grief give birth,
Six feet of earth
Can more than he;
There calm and free
And unoppressed
Shalt thou find rest.
The unattained
In life at last,
When life is passed
Shall all be gained;
And no more pained,
No more distressed,
Shalt thou find rest.
–Translated by H.W. Longfellow

SONG FROM ÆLLA Poetry/Poem by Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770)

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

Black his cryne [1] as the winter night,
White his rode [2] as the summer snow,
Red his face as the morning light,
Cole 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 he 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 brier’d 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;
Not 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 dent the briers
Round his holy corse to gre [3]:
Ouph [4] and 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 heartès 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.

THANATOPSIS Poetry/Poem by William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878)

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, ere 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 nourish’d 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-ribb’d 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, pour’d round all,
Old Ocean’s grey 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, pierce the Barcan wilderness,
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
In silence from 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 favourite 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 glides 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,
The speechless 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 which 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 by his dungeon; but, sustain’d 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.

TO VITTORIA COLONNA Poetry/Poem by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)

WHEN the prime mover of many sighs
Heaven took through death from out her earthly place,
Nature, that never made so fair a face,
Remained ashamed, and tears were in all eyes.
O fate, unheeding my impassioned cries!
O hopes fallacious! O thou spirit of grace,
Where art thou now? Earth holds in its embrace
Thy lovely limbs, thy holy thoughts the skies.
Vainly did cruel death attempt to stay
The rumor of thy virtuous renown,
That Lethe’s waters could not wash away!
A thousand leaves, since he hath stricken thee down,
Speak of thee, not to thee could Heaven convey,
Except through death, a refuge and a crown.

POEMS ON DEATH:

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