In Memory Of John Leach Craig

A poem by Nora Pembroke

In the midst of Life we are in Death.


What is it that has stilled the usual hurry,
Checking the eager tread of rapid feet?
Why does the business face look sad and sorry
Within the place where merchants choose to meet?
A something not unusual or strange,
One face is missing on the Corn Exchange.

Alas! they say he had uncommon merit,
High the esteem and confidence he won;
He brought to business life a joyous spirit,
And mixed commercial tact with boyish fun.
We miss his breezy laugh, his pleasant face,
The skill that marked him for the foremost place.

There is a ship steaming across the billow,
That should have brought him to his mother's knee;
Did warning dreams hover around her pillow,
Of the dear face she never more shall see?
She sits at home deeming that all is well,
Who shall the tale of her bereavement tell?

She waited for him in the bright May morning,
When the spring buds were blooming in their prime,
And the green earth was crowned with their adorning,
To greet his coming with the summer time.
The mists have fallen and her eyes are dim,
Looking across death's valley after him.

The good ship sailed upon the day of sailing,
And furled her sails in port the voyage o'er;
But in his home waiting is changed to wailing,
For he will come to them on earth no more.
The Master called--he answered speedily,
And sailed away across the "silent sea."

They praise him in the land of his adoption,
Say what he was, and what he might have been,
Speak of the honours that were at his option,
Since he came here a fair lad of nineteen.
That upward has his path been ever since,
To sit among the first a merchant prince.

The "never more" chills through the friendly praises,
Never to see his face, his coming form;
Never his foot shall stand on Antrim daisies,
Or tread again the Parks of old Galgorm;
Nor sleep among his fathers, silent, still,
Beneath the sycamores in fair Grace Hill.

His mother in her island home is weeping,
For what her eyes desired she shall not see;
The fair young wife her widowed vigil keeping
Among her babes on this side of the sea--
One in their sorrow which is all too deep
For comfort--theirs to sit apart and weep.

Mother and wife one in their poignant grieving,
One in their anguish over lifeless clay;
One in the consolation of believing
That he was worthy who has passed away.
By sorrow consecrate and set apart,
To ponder all the past within their heart.

The mother, with her heartstrings quivering after
The Master's stroke, sits underneath the cross;
The sad wife stilling all the childish laughter
Of his sweet babes, too young to feel their loss.
Who wonder in the quiet, darkened home,
Why their glad-voiced papa will never come.

So in his home beside the terraced mountain,
They sit within the shadow of his death;
So they who were the tardy moments counting,
Till he would come to them with summer's breath.
His kith and kin by the Maine water's side,
Weep very sore for love of him that died.

Oh Death is ever coming, loved ones going,
Hearts rent with sorrow because one is not;
The waves of trouble ever swelling, flowing,
Past the tall castle, past the sheltered cot!
"I am bereaved!" is the unceasing moan,
Rising forever to our Father's throne.

O Christ Thou dost remember earthly weeping,
When the bereaved at Thy dear feet have cried,
Beside the grave where the much loved lay sleeping,
"Lord if Thou hadst been here he had not died."
Comfort the mourning friends, the sorrowing wife,
O Thou the Resurrection and the life!

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