"O Life, O Beyond,
Thou art strange, thou art sweet!"
Dread phantom, with pale finger on thy lips,
Who dost unclose the awful doors for each,
That ope but once, and are unclosed no more,
Turn the key gently in the mystic ward,
And silently unloose the silver cord;
Lay thy chill seal of silence upon speech,
And mutely beckon through the soundless door
To endless night, and silence and eclipse.
Even now the soul unfettered may explore
On its swift wing beyond the gates of morn,
(Unravelled all the weary round of years)
And stand, unfenced of time and crowding space,
With love's fond instinct in that primal place,
The distant northern isle where she was born;
She sees the bay, the waves' deep voice she hears,
And babbles of the forms that are no more.
They are the dead, long laid in foreign graves,
One with his sword upon his loyal breast,
And one in tropic lands beneath the palm;
The sea rolls dark between those hemispheres,
And all the long procession of the years,
Since last those warm young hands she fondly pressed,
And heard through mute farewells the funeral psalm,
The "nevermore" of the dividing waves.
The record of a life is writ between;
The new world's story supplements the old;
The heathery hills, the rapture of the morn,
The fishers' huts, the chieftain's castle gray,
And the smooth crescent of the land-locked bay,--
These, the long hunger of the heart outworn,
New scenes replace, and the once strange and cold,
Become like those kept in the memory green.
But thou hast found already that dread place,
And thy lost loved ones in that unknown goal,
Ere thou hast quite put off the scrip and shell,
And gathered up thy feet into the bed,
And closed thine eyes, the last prayers being said,
Thy lips move dumbly, thy delaying soul
Passes in salutation, not farewell,
To join the heroes of thine ancient race.
Unoutlined shadow, angel of release,
Whose cool hand stills the fever in the veins,
And all the tumult of life's crowding cares--
Ambition, envy, love and fear and hate,
Hope's eager prophecies fulfilled too late,
And fierce desires, and sorrows, and despairs--
Thou wav'st thy mystic wand, and there remain
Sleep and forgetfulness, and utter peace.
Why should we fear thy shadow at the door,
Oh thou mysterious Death?--art thou not sweet
To the worn pilgrim of life's toilsome day,
Who com'st at evening time, and show'st instead
Of pilgrim tent, and pilgrim pallet spread,
The doors of that vast caravansera
Where all the pilgrims of the ages meet,
And rest together, and return no more?