The first rough month that ends the flowerless time
Has come, and in this worldly city of ours
The churches slowly peal their Lenten chime,
Till Easter-day shall deck their shrines with flowers;
But to the mourners these are leaden hours,
Sad, sad the hours that have no chime to tell
Of coming happiness, nor music hid
Behind the clangor of the wasting bell.
No priest bath bent above this coverlid,
No sacerdotal mercies have made light
The pangs of dying to this heart to-night;
Forlorn of flowers this wintry bier must be,
And yet will I be bold to lay thereon
A fading yellow daffodil that shone
In some far western orchard where the dead
Perchance has wandered in his infancy;
For he, too, who lies worn on that dim bed,
He, too, was once, like us, a lover true
Of flowers and verse and the springs wonders new,
Until the chilling shadow came between,
And all the sorrow that his eyes had seen,
Blanched to those eyes the tender heavens and blue.
No gift of ours is immortality;
We cannot bid the soul that dies to-day
Revive in all men's memories when we die.
The destiny that bids one fame decay,
Another flourish, we must all obey;
Disease, and disappointment, and the worm
Of benefits forgotten, like a deer
Hunted him down; the spirit of reform
Passed him upon his upward pathway drear.
Others more fortunate shall win their way
Into success, but let their strength revere
The shattered virtue that lies weak to-day.
Temperate he was and calm, whom the world judged
Most violent; loving the people best,
Some idle pleasures that the rich possessed
He, for their reckless pride and folly, grudged
Those whom of all men he was last to hate.
Early he learned, by bitter ways of toil -
Labor that teaches men to bear and wait -
That he who will not be the fool of fate,
Whirled in life's undistinguishable coil,
Must struggle with both hands and haply bleed.
In such a school Time sowed a hardy seed,
That overgrew the garden of the heart,
And bid its bearer choose no thornless part
In the world's warfare. It may be indeed
That, heavy with all the burden of all the pain
That wept around him, and the great wrongs borne
By men and women in the social strain,
He less than others of soft words was fain,
And knew the scathing power of sudden scorn.
Yet was he true and good, fed by desires
Pure as the dreams of some Utopian sage,
Who towards a visioned heaven on earth aspires.
Somewhat behind, in much before his age,
Honor be his, that when the tides ran high
Of rank with rank, inflamed with creed and lie,
He, suffering most, yet bravely strove to assuage
The sea of pain, and hush the gathering cry.
Songs there have been enough in lofty phrase
On men who all the heights of fame had scaled;
Let this one rhyme suffice to sing the praise
Of one who wrestled with his fate, and failed.