After the Curfew

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After the Curfew  (1889) 
by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

The Play is over. While the light
  Yet lingers in the darkening hall,
I come to say a last Good-night
  Before the final Exeunt all.

We gathered once, a joyous throng;
  The jovial toasts went gaily round;
With jest, and laugh, and shout, and song,
  We made the floors and walls resound.

We come with feeble steps and slow,
  A little band of four or five,
Left from the wrecks of long ago,
  Still pleased to find ourselves alive.

Alive! How living, too, are they
  Whose memories it is ours to share!
Spread the long table's full array,—
  There sits a ghost in every chair!

One breathing form no more, alas!
  Amid our slender group we see;
With him we still remained "The Class,"—
  Without his presence what are we?

The hand we ever loved to clasp,—
  That tireless hand which knew no rest,—
Loosed from affection's clinging grasp,
  Lies nerveless on the peaceful breast.

The beaming eye, the cheering voice,
  That lent to life a generous glow,
Whose every meaning said, "Rejoice,"
  We see, we hear, no more below.

The air seems darkened by his loss,
  Earth's shadowed features look less fair,
And heavier weights the daily cross
  His willing shoulders helped us bear.

Why mourn that we, the favored few
  Whom grasping Time so long has spared
Life's sweet illusions to pursue,
  The common lot of age have shared?

In every pulse of Friendship's heart
  There breeds unfelt a throb of pain,—
One hour must rend its links apart,
  Though years on years have forged the chain.

So ends "The Boys," — a lifelong play.
  We too must hear the Prompter's call
To fairer scenes and brighter day:
  Farewell! I let the curtain fall.

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