Page:Notes by the Way.djvu/308
��NOTES BY THE WAY.
��The poet suffers from
��His kindness to the last.
��" Dante's line is running in my mind,
E venni dal martirio a questa pace.
And what a martyrdom 1 Twelve weeks of pain and struggle for life at last are ended."
In the autumn of 1881 the poet suffered much from nervous prostration ; but he did not dread the coming winter, as the thought brought with it a sense of rest and seclusion. In wishing his friend Greene a merry Christmas, he wrote : " Mine, I am sorry to say, is not a merry one. I don't get strength yet, and con- sequently don't get well."
The new year opened without improvement, and he was forced to decline the public reception offered to him on his birthday by the authorities of Portland, his native city. The few friends who saw him at home on that day remarked how well and cheerful he appeared ; and he exchanged telegrams with the Historical Society of Maine, the members little thinking how soon they would be meeting to mourn his death.
On Saturday, the 18th of March, four schoolboys from Boston asked permission to visit him. Kind to the last, he showed them the objects of interest in his study and the view of the Charles from its windows, and wrote his name in their albums. That afternoon he went out and took a chill ; and in the afternoon of the following Friday, the 24th of March, 1882, he sank quietly in death, and the bells of Cambridge tolled the sorrowful news that the long, blameless life was ended, and the poet whom the nations loved had passed to his rest. Only nine days before had he laid down his pen with these three lines from ' The Bells of San Bias ' :
Out of the shadows of night The world rolls into light ; It is daybreak everywhere.
On the Sunday following the anniversary of that lovely momm g> forty-three years earlier, when he wrote his third Psalm of Life, that never-to-be-forgotten ' Footsteps of Angels ' the funeral service was held in the old home. Upon the coffin were placed those symbols of victory and the glory of suffering, a palm branch and a spray of passion flower. Then, amid the gently falling snow, the body was borne to Mount Auburn the God's Acre where so many of his loved ones were already resting. In his own words descriptive of the burial of his brother poet Richard Henry Dana :
The snow was falling, as if Heaven dropped down White flowers of Paradise to strew his pall ; The dead around him seemed to wake, and call
His name, as worthy of so white a crown.