In Mortem Meditare.

A poem by Alfred Castner King


As Life's receding sunset fades
And night descends,
I calmly watch the gathering shades,
As darkness stealthily invades
And daylight ends.

Earth's span is drawing to its close,
With every breath;
My pain-racked brain no respite knows,
Yet shrinks it, from the grim repose
It feels in death.

The curtain falls on Life's last scene,
The end is neared;
At last I face death's somber screen,
The fleeting joys which intervene
Have disappeared.

And as a panoramic scroll
The past unreels;
The mocking past, beyond control,
Though buried, as a parchment roll,
Its tale reveals.

I stand before the dread, unknown,
Yet solemn fact;
I see the seeds of folly sown
In wayward years, maturely grown,
Nor can retract.

My weaknesses rise to my sight;
And now, too late,
I fain would former actions right,
Which years have buried in their flight;
Now sealed by fate.

My frailties and iniquities
I plainly see;
Committed acts accusive rise,
Omitted duties criticise
In mockery.

I feel I have offended oft,
E'en at my best
Have failed to guide my course aloft;
Perhaps in trival hour, have scoffed
With idle jest.

Prone to misgiving, prone to doubt,
And frail from birth;
More light and frivolous than devout;
With life's brief candle flickering out,
I speed from earth.

Can grief excuse indifference
With groan or tear?
Can deep remorse and penitence,
Or anguish mitigate offense
With pang sincere?

Ah! Tears can ne'er unlock the past
Which opens not;
And what is done is welded fast,
Through all eternity to last,
Nor change one jot.

Whate'er may lie beyond the veil
I calmly face,
And sink, as grievous tears bewail
My faults and imperfections frail,
In death's embrace.

And as I think the matter o'er,
Pensive and sad,
While its shortcomings I deplore,
The fruits which my existence bore
Were not all bad.

From all which can rejoice or grieve
I shortly go,
And now, in life's declining eve
I wonder, hope, try to believe--
Soon I shall know!

My spirit flees, as night enwraps,
To its reward;
The earth recedes, I feel it lapse;
I sink as dissolution snaps
The silver cord.

O, Thou whose presence I can feel
Each hour I live,
While passing through death's stern ordeal,
Wilt Thou Thy mercy still reveal,
And still forgive?

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