The Unconquered Air, and Other Poems (1912)/Deathless Death
IN MEMORY OF RICHARD WATSON GILDER
We who have seen the seed fall without sound
Into the lifeless ground,
Through wintry days are tempted to forget
How Spring will come with the first violet
In her dark hair,
Fresh and more fair
Than we remembered her, a glad surprise
In the veiled azure of her shadowy eyes.
Fear doth the heart deceive,
And still we grieve
Where we should lift the voice
In triumph, and rejoice
Amid our sorrow,
Because of what the past
Has given that is beauteous and shall last—
A heritage of blessing for the morrow.
Lo, in what perfect trust
Nature confides her darlings to the dust!
The rose, the crocus, the narcissus sweet,
She lays to rest, undoubting, at her feet
Who from the meadows bright
Was snatched away to rule in the sad light
Of Hades, and to learn
Its lessons stern.
For Nature's faith is deep
That, waking from the dark and dreamless sleep,
Her flowers toward the sun shall wistful yearn,
And in the fragrant breast of Proserpine return.
Ah, lover true of men,
Forgive, forgive us, then,
If choked by tears we falter in our praise,
Remembering that we no more again
Shall hold glad converse with thy spirit brave,
Nor from thy lips hear words that lift and save,
Through all the lengthening number of our days!
By the great Silence thou art set apart
From all the restless travail of the heart
That beats in us
So passionate and strong—
Art passed beyond the evening angelus
And Memnon's morning song.
Man's life on earth—how brief!
Yet we with Nature hold the high belief,
E'en when our hearts are breaking,
That death is but the vital way,
Darkness the shadow of the day,
And sleep the door to waking!
And shall we still with tears
Pay tribute sad to one whose soul endears
Even the dark, dark river it hath crossed?
Shall we in grief forget
The sweetness and the glory of our debt,
And that no good, once given, can be lost?
Distant thy dwelling seems,
Poet and patriot!—but, ah, thy dreams
Are living as the flame of sacrifice!
Therefore love's roses now
We lay amidst the laurel for thy brow,
Grateful that souls like thine our earth emparadise.