Elegy On The Death Of Dr. Channing

A poem by James Russell Lowell

I do not come to weep above thy pall,
And mourn the dying-out of noble powers,
The poet's clearer eye should see, in all
Earth's seeming woe, seed of immortal flowers.

Truth needs no champions: in the infinite deep
Of everlasting Soul her strength abides,
From Nature's heart her mighty pulses leap,
Through Nature's veins her strength, undying, tides.

Peace is more strong than war, and gentleness,
Where force were vain, makes conquest o'er the wave;
And love lives on and hath a power to bless,
When they who loved are hidden in the grave.

The sculptured marble brags of deathstrewn fields,
And Glory's epitaph is writ in blood;
But Alexander now to Plato yields,
Clarkson will stand where Wellington hath stood.

I watch the circle of the eternal years,
And read forever in the storied page
One lengthened roll of blood, and wrong, and tears,
One onward step of Truth from age to age.

The poor are crushed: the tyrants link their chain;
The poet sings through narrow dungeon-grates;
Man's hope lies quenched; and, lo! with steadfast gain
Freedom doth forge her mail of adverse fates.

Men slay the prophets; fagot, rack, and cross
Make up the groaning record of the past;
But Evil's triumphs are her endless loss,
And sovereign Beauty wins the soul at last.

No power can die that ever wrought for Truth;
Thereby a law of Nature it became,
And lives unwithered in its blithesome youth,
When he who called it forth is but a name.

Therefore I cannot think thee wholly gone;
The better part of thee is with us still;
Thy soul its hampering clay aside hath thrown,
And only freer wrestles with the ill.

Thou livest in the life of all good things;
What words thou spak'st for Freedom shall not die;
Thou sleepest not, for now thy Love hath wings
To soar where hence thy Hope could hardly fly.

And often, from that other world, on this
Some gleams from great souls gone before may shine,
To shed on struggling hearts a clearer bliss,
And clothe the Right with lustre more divine.

Thou art not idle: in thy higher sphere
Thy spirit bends itself to loving tasks,
And strength to perfect what it dreamed of here
Is all the crown and glory that it asks.

For sure, in Heaven's wide chambers, there is room
For love and pity, and for helpful deeds;
Else were our summons thither but a doom
To life more vain than this in clayey weeds.

From off the starry mountain-peak of song,
Thy spirit shows me, in the coming time,
An earth unwithered by the foot of wrong,
A race revering its own soul sublime.

What wars, what martyrdoms, what crimes, may come,
Thou knowest not, nor I; but God will lead
The prodigal soul from want and sorrow home,
And Eden ope her gates to Adam's seed.

Farewell! good man, good angel now! this hand
Soon, like thine own, shall lose its cunning too;
Soon shall this soul, like thine, bewildered stand,
Then leap to thread the free, unfathomed blue:

When that day comes, oh, may this hand grow cold,
Busy, like thine, for Freedom and the Right;
Oh, may this soul, like thine, be ever bold
To face dark Slavery's encroaching blight!

This laurel-leaf I cast upon thy bier;
Let worthier hands than these thy wreath intwine;
Upon thy hearse I shed no useless tear,--
For us weep rather thou in calm divine!

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