A thought on death

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Alas! my thoughts, how faint they rise,
Their pinions clogg'd with dirt;
They cannot gain the distant skies,
But gravitate to earth.

No angel meets them on the way,
To guide them to new spheres;
And for to light them, not a ray
Of heavenly gace appears.

Return then to thy native ground,
And sink into the tombs;
There take a dismal journey round
The melancholy rooms:

There level'd equal king and swain,
The vicious and the just;
The turf ignoble limbs contain,
One rots beneath a bust.

What heaps of human bones appear
Pil'd up along the walls!
These are Death's trophies---furniture
Of his tremendous halls

The water oozing thro' the stones,
Still drops a mould'ring tear;
Rots the gilt coffin from the bones,
And lays the carcase bare.

This is Cleora---come, let's see
Once more the blooming fair;
Take off the lid---ah! 'tis not she,
A vile impostor there.

Is this the charmer poets sung,
And vainly deified,
The envy of the maiden throng?
(How humbling to our pride!)

Unhappy man, of transient breath,
Just born to view the day,
Drop in the grave---and after death
To filth and dust decay.

Methinks the vault, at ev'ry tread,
Sounds deeply in my ear,
'Thou too shalt join the silent dead,
'Thy final scene is here.'

Thy final scene! no, I retract,
Not till the clarion's sound
Demands the sleeping pris'ners back
From the refunding ground:

Not till that audit shall I hear
Th' immutable decree,
Decide the solemn question, where
I pass eternity.

Death is the conqueror of clay,
And can but clay detain;
The soul, superior, springs away,
And scorns his servile chain.

The just arise, and shrink no more
At graves, and shrouds, and worms,
Conscious they shall (when time is o'er)
Inhabit angel forms.

This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.