Theme:

Death

Browse poems about

Death

This Living Hand

This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou would wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calm’d–see here it is–
I hold it towards you.

This Living Hand
When I Have Fears

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen’d grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love;–then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

When I Have Fears
Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Funeral Blues
The First Snowfall

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 remembered 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.

The First Snowfall
The Death of Lincoln

Oh, slow to smite and swift to spare,

Gentle and merciful and just!

Who, in the fear of God, didst bear

The sword of power, a nation’s trust!

In sorrow by thy bier we stand,

Amid the awe that hushes all,

And speak the anguish of a land

That shook with horror at thy fall.

Thy task is done; the bond are free:

We bear thee to an honored grave,

Whose proudest monument shall be

The broken fetters of the slave.

Pure was thy life; its bloody close

Hath placed thee with the sons of light,

Among the noble host of those

Who perished in the cause of Right.

The Death of Lincoln
The Coliseum

And here the buzz of eager nations ran,

In murmur’d pity, or loud-roar’d applause,

As man was slaughter’d by his fellow-man.

And wherefore slaughter’d? wherefore, but because

Such were the bloody Circus’ genial laws,

And the imperial pleasure.—Wherefore not?

What matters where we fall to fill the maws

Of worms—on battle-plains or listed spot?

Both are but theatres where the chief actors rot.

I see before me the Gladiator lie:

He leans upon his hand—his manly brow

Consents to death, but conquers agony,

And his droop’d head sinks gradually low—

And through his side the last drops, ebbing slow

From the red gash, fall heavy, one by one,

Like the first of a thunder-shower; and now

The arena swims around him—he is gone,

Ere ceased the inhuman shout which hail’d the wretch who won.

He heard it, but he heeded not—his eyes

Were with his heart, and that was far away:

He reck’d not of the life he lost nor prize,

But where his rude hut by the Danube lay,

There were his young barbarians all at play,

There was their Dacian mother—he, their sire,

Butcher’d to make a Roman holiday—

All this rush’d with his blood—Shall he expire

And unavenged?—Arise! ye Goths, and glut your ire!

But here, where Murder breathed her bloody steam;

And here, where buzzing nations choked the ways,

And roar’d or murmur’d like a mountain stream

Dashing or winding as its torrent strays;

Here, where the Roman millions’ blame or praise

Was death or life, the playthings of a crowd,

My voice sounds much—and fall the stars’ faint rays

On the arena void-seats crush’d—walls bow’d—

And galleries, where my steps seem echoes strangely loud.

A ruin—yet what ruin! from its mass

Walls, palaces, half-cities, have been rear’d;

Yet oft the enormous skeleton ye pass,

And marvel where the spoil could have appear’d.

Hath it indeed been plunder’d, or but clear’d?

Alas! developed, opens the decay,

When the colossal fabric’s form is near’d:

It will not bear the brightness of the day,

Which streams too much on all years, man, have reft away.

But when the rising moon begins to climb

Its topmost arch, and gently pauses there;

When the stars twinkle through the loops of time,

And the low night-breeze waves along the air

The garland forest, which the gray walls wear,

Like laurels on the bald first Cæsar’s head;

When the light shines serene but doth not glare,

Then in this magic circle raise the dead:

Heroes have trod this spot—’tis on their dust ye tread.

“While stands the Coliseum, Rome shall stand;

When falls the Coliseum, Rome shall fall;

And when Rome falls—the World.” From our own land

Thus spake the pilgrims o’er this mighty wall

In Saxon times, which we are wont to call

Ancient; and these three mortal things are still

On their foundations, and unalter’d all;

Rome and her Ruin past Redemption’s skill,

The World, the same wide den—of thieves, or what ye will.

The Coliseum
Yussouf

A stranger came one night to Yussouf’s tent,

Saying, “Behold one outcast and in dread,

Against whose life the bow of power is bent,

Who flies, and hath not where to lay his head;

I come to thee for shelter and for food,

To Yussouf, called through all our tribes ‘The Good.’”

“This tent is mine,” said Yussouf, “but no more

Than it is God’s; come in, and be at peace;

Freely shalt thou partake of all my store

As I of his who buildeth over these

Our tents his glorious roof of night and day,

And at whose door none ever yet heard Nay.”

So Yussouf entertained his guest that night,

And, waking him ere day, said: “Here is gold,

My swiftest horse is saddled for thy flight,

Depart before the prying day grow bold.”

As one lamp lights another, nor grows less,

So nobleness enkindleth nobleness.

That inward light the stranger’s face made grand,

Which shines from all self-conquest; kneeling low,

He bowed his forehead upon Yussouf’s hand,

Sobbing: “O Sheik, I cannot leave thee so;

I will repay thee; all this thou hast done

Unto that Ibrahim who slew thy son!”

“Take thrice the gold,” said Yussouf, “for with thee

Into the desert, never to return,

My one black thought shall ride away from me;

First-born, for whom by day and night I yearn,

Balanced and just are all of God’s decrees;

Thou art avenged, my first-born, sleep in peace!”

Yussouf
In Flanders Field

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.

In Flanders Field
The Future Life

How shall I know thee in the sphere which keeps

The disembodied spirits of the dead,

When all of thee that time could wither sleeps

And perishes among the dust we tread?

For I shall feel the sting of ceaseless pain

If there I meet thy gentle presence not;

Nor hear the voice I love, nor read again

In thy serenest eyes the tender thought.

Will not thy own meek heart demand me there?

That heart whose fondest throbs to me were given;

My name on earth was ever in thy prayer,

And wilt thou never utter it in heaven?

In meadows fanned by heaven’s life-breathing wind,

In the resplendence of that glorious sphere,

And larger movements of the unfettered mind,

Wilt thou forget the love that joined us here?

The love that lived through all the stormy past,

And meekly with my harsher nature bore,

And deeper grew, and tenderer to the last.

Shall it expire with life, and be no more?

A happier lot than mine, and larger light,

Await thee there; for thou hast bowed thy will

In cheerful homage to the rule of right,

And lovest all, and renderest good for ill.

For me, the sordid cares in which I dwell,

Shrink and consume my heart, as heat the scroll;

And wrath has left its scar—that fire of hell

Has left its frightful scar upon my soul.

Yet though thou wear’st the glory of the sky,

Wilt thou not keep the same belovèd name,

The same fair thoughtful brow, and gentle eye,

Lovelier in heaven’s sweet climate, yet the same?

Shalt thou not teach me, in that calmer home,

The wisdom that I learned so ill in this—

The wisdom which is love—till I become

Thy fit companion in that land of bliss?

The Future Life
Bereavement

Nay, weep not, dearest, though the child be dead;

He lives again in Heaven’s unclouded life,

With other angels that have early fled

From these dark scenes of sorrow, sin, and strife.

Nay, weep not, dearest, though thy yearning love

Would fondly keep for earth its fairest flowers,

And e’en deny to brighter realms above

The few that deck this dreary world of ours:

Though much it seems a wonder and a woe

That one so loved should be so early lost,

And hallowed tears may unforbidden flow

To mourn the blossom that we cherished most,

Yet all is well; God’s good design I see,

That where our treasure is, our hearts may be!

Bereavement