Page:Highways and Byways in Sussex.djvu/322

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294
CHAP.
RICHARD REALF

friend of man, liberty and John Brown; he fought against slavery in the war, and helped the cause with some noble verses; and he died miserably by his own hand in 1878, leaving these lines beside his body:—

"De mortuis nil nisi bonum." When
  For me this end has come and I am dead,
And the little voluble, chattering daws of men
  Peck at me curiously, let it then be said
By some one brave enough to speak the truth:
  Here lies a great soul killed by cruel wrong.
Down all the balmy days of his fresh youth
  To his bleak, desolate noon, with sword and song,
And speech that rushed up hotly from the heart,
  He wrought for liberty, till his own wound
(He had been stabbed), concealed with painful art
  Through wasting years, mastered him, and he swooned,
And sank there where you see him lying now
With the word "Failure" written on his brow.

But say that he succeeded. If he missed
  World's honors, and world's plaudits, and the wage
Of the world's deft lacqueys, still his lips were kissed
  Daily by those high angels who assuage
The thirstings of the poets—for he was
  Born unto singing—and a burthen lay
Mightily on him, and he moaned because
  He could not rightly utter to the day
What God taught in the night. Sometimes, nathless,
  Power fell upon him, and bright tongues of flame,
And blessings reached him from poor souls in stress;
  And benedictions from black pits of shame,
And little children's love, and old men's prayers,
And a Great Hand that led him unawares.

So he died rich. And if his eyes were blurred
  With big films—silence! he is in his grave.
Greatly he suffered; greatly, too, he erred;
  Yet broke his heart in trying to be brave.
Nor did he wait till Freedom had become
  The popular shibboleth of courtier's lips;
He smote for her when God Himself seemed dumb
  And all His arching skies were in eclipse.