In Memory of Edward Butler

A poem by Henry Kendall

A voice of grave, deep emphasis
Is in the woods to-night;
No sound of radiant day is this,
No cadence of the light.
Here in the fall and flights of leaves
Against grey widths of sea,
The spirit of the forests grieves
For lost Persephone.

The fair divinity that roves
Where many waters sing
Doth miss her daughter of the groves
The golden-headed Spring.
She cannot find the shining hand
That once the rose caressed;
There is no blossom on the land,
No bird in last year’s nest.

Here, where this strange Demeter weeps
This large, sad life unseen
Where July’s strong, wild torrent leaps
The wet hill-heads between,
I sit and listen to the grief,
The high, supreme distress,
Which sobs above the fallen leaf
Like human tenderness!

Where sighs the sedge and moans the marsh,
The hermit plover calls;
The voice of straitened streams is harsh
By windy mountain walls;
There is no gleam upon the hills
Of last October’s wings;
The shining lady of the rills
Is with forgotten things.

Now where the land’s worn face is grey
And storm is on the wave,
What flower is left to bear away
To Edward Butler’s grave?
What tender rose of song is here
That I may pluck and send
Across the hills and seas austere
To my lamented friend?

There is no blossom left at all;
But this white winter leaf,
Whose glad green life is past recall,
Is token of my grief.
Where love is tending growths of grace,
The first-born of the Spring,
Perhaps there may be found a place
For my pale offering.

For this heroic Irish heart
We miss so much to-day,
Whose life was of our lives a part,
What words have I to say?
Because I know the noble woe
That shrinks beneath the touch
The pain of brothers stricken low
I will not say too much.

But often in the lonely space
When night is on the land,
I dream of a departed face
A gracious, vanished hand.
And when the solemn waters roll
Against the outer steep,
I see a great, benignant soul
Beside me in my sleep.

Yea, while the frost is on the ways
With barren banks austere,
The friend I knew in other days
Is often very near.
I do not hear a single tone;
But where this brother gleams,
The elders of the seasons flown
Are with me in my dreams.

The saintly face of Stenhouse turns
His kind old eyes I see;
And Pell and Ridley from their urns
Arise and look at me.
By Butler’s side the lights reveal
The father of his fold,
I start from sleep in tears, and feel
That I am growing old.

Where Edward Butler sleeps, the wave
Is hardly ever heard;
But now the leaves above his grave
By August’s songs are stirred.
The slope beyond is green and still,
And in my dreams I dream
The hill is like an Irish hill
Beside an Irish stream.

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