Never until the mankind making
Bird beast and flower
Fathering and all humbling darkness
Tells with silence the last light breaking
And the still hour
Is come of the sea tumbling in harness
And I must enter again the round
Zion of the water bead
And the synagogue of the ear of corn
Shall I let pray the shadow of a sound
Or sow my salt seed
In the least valley of sackcloth to mourn
The majesty and burning of the child’s death.
I shall not murder
The mankind of her going with a grave truth
Nor blaspheme down the stations of the breath
With any further
Elegy of innocence and youth.
Deep with the first dead lies London’s daughter,
Robed in the long friends,
The grains beyond age, the dark veins of her mother,
Secret by the unmourning water
Of the riding Thames.
After the first death, there is no other.
(Poem by Dylan Thomas)
Though Death to good men be the greatest boone,
I dare not think this Lady dyde so soone.
She should have livde for others: Poor mens want
Should make her stande, though she herselfe should faynt.
What though her vertuous deeds did make her seeme
Of equall age with old Methusalem?
Shee should have livde the more, and ere she fell
Have stretcht her little Span unto an Ell.
May wee not thinke her in a sleep or sowne,
Or that shee only tries her bedde of grounde?
Besides the life of Fame, is shee all deade?
As deade as Vertue, which together fledde:
As dead as men without it: and as cold
As Charity, that long ago grewe old.
Those eyes of pearle are under marble sett,
And now the Grave is made the Cabinett.
Tenne or an hundred doe not loose by this,
But all mankinde doth an Example misse.
A little earth cast upp betweene her sight
And us eclypseth all the world with night.
What ere Disease, to flatter greedy Death,
Hath stopt the organ of such harmlesse breath,
May it bee knowne by a more hatefull name
Then now the Plague: and for to quell the same
May all Physitians have an honest will:
May Pothecaries learne the Doctors skill:
May wandring Mountebanks, and which is worse
May an old womans medicine have the force
To vanquish it, and make it often flie,
Till Destiny on’s servant learne to die.
May death itselfe, and all its Armory
Bee overmatcht with one poore Recipe.
What need I curse it? for, ere Death will kill
Another such, so farre estrang’d from ill,
So fayre, so kinde, so wisely temperate,
Time will cutt off the very life of Fate.
To make a perfect Lady was espyde
No want in her of anything but Pride:
And as for wantonnesse, her modesty
Was still as coole as now her ashes bee.
Seldome hath any Daughter lesse than her
Favourde the stampe of Eve her grandmother.
Her soule was like her body; both so cleare
As that a brighter eye than mans must peere
To finde a Blott; nor can wee yet suspect
But only by her Death the least defect:
And were not that the wages due to Sinne
Wee might beleeve that spotlesse she had bin.
(Poem by William Strode)
Oh! could I hope the wise and pure in heart
Might hear my song without a frown, nor deem
My voice unworthy of the theme it tries,–
I would take up the hymn to Death, and say
To the grim power, The world hath slandered thee
And mocked thee. On thy dim and shadowy brow
They place an iron crown, and call thee king
Of terrors, and the spoiler of the world,
Deadly assassin, that strik’st down the fair,
The loved, the good–that breath’st upon the lights
Of virtue set along the vale of life,
And they go out in darkness. I am come,
Not with reproaches, not with cries and prayers,
Such as have stormed thy stern insensible ear
From the beginning. I am come to speak
Thy praises. True it is, that I have wept
Thy conquests, and may weep them yet again:
And thou from some I love wilt take a life
Dear to me as my own. Yet while the spell
Is on my spirit, and I talk with thee
In sight of all thy trophies, face to face,
Meet is it that my voice should utter forth
Thy nobler triumphs: I will teach the world
To thank thee.–Who are thine accusers?–Who?
The living!–they who never felt thy power,
And know thee not. The curses of the wretch
Whose crimes are ripe, his sufferings when thy hand
Is on him, and the hour he dreads is come,
Are writ among thy praises. But the good–
Does he whom thy kind hand dismissed to peace,
Upbraid the gentle violence that took off
His fetters, and unbarred his prison cell?
Raise then the Hymn to Death. Deliverer!
God hath anointed thee to free the oppressed
And crush the oppressor. When the armed chief,
The conqueror of nations, walks the world,
And it is changed beneath his feet, and all
Its kingdoms melt into one mighty realm–
Thou, while his head is loftiest, and his heart
Blasphemes, imagining his own right hand
Almighty, sett’st upon him thy stern grasp,
And the strong links of that tremendous chain
That bound mankind are crumbled; thou dost break
Sceptre and crown, and beat his throne to dust.
Then the earth shouts with gladness, and her tribes
Gather within their ancient bounds again.
Else had the mighty of the olden time,
Nimrod, Sesostris, or the youth who feigned
His birth from Lybian Ammon, smote even now
The nations with a rod of iron, and driven
Their chariot o’er our necks. Thou dost avenge,
In thy good time, the wrongs of those who know
No other friend. Nor dost thou interpose
Only to lay the sufferer asleep,
Where he who made him wretched troubles not
His rest–thou dost strike down his tyrant too.
Oh, there is joy when hands that held the scourge
Drop lifeless, and the pitiless heart is cold.
Thou too dost purge from earth its horrible
And old idolatries; from the proud fanes
Each to his grave their priests go out, till none
Is left to teach their worship; then the fires
Of sacrifice are chilled, and the green moss
O’ercreeps their altars; the fallen images
Cumber the weedy courts, and for loud hymns,
Chanted by kneeling crowds, the chiding winds
Shriek in the solitary aisles. When he
Who gives his life to guilt, and laughs at all
The laws that God or man has made, and round
Hedges his seat with power, and shines in wealth,–
Lifts up his atheist front to scoff at Heaven,
And celebrates his shame in open day,
Thou, in the pride of all his crimes, cutt’st off
The horrible example. Touched by thine,
The extortioner’s hard hand foregoes the gold
Wrong from the o’er-worn poor. The perjurer,
Whose tongue was lithe, e’en now, and voluble
Against his neighbour’s life, and he who laughed
And leaped for joy to see a spotless fame
Blasted before his own foul calumnies,
Are smit with deadly silence. He, who sold
His conscience to preserve a worthless life,
Even while he hugs himself on his escape,
Trembles, as, doubly terrible, at length,
Thy steps o’ertake him, and there is no time
For parley–nor will bribes unclench thy grasp.
Oft, too, dost thou reform thy victim, long
Ere his last hour. And when the reveller,
Mad in the chase of pleasure, stretches on,
And strains each nerve, and clears the path of life
Like wind, thou point’st him to the dreadful goal,
And shak’st thy hour-glass in his reeling eye,
And check’st him in mid course. Thy skeleton hand
Shows to the faint of spirit the right path,
And he is warned, and fears to step aside.
Thou sett’st between the ruffian and his crime
Thy ghastly countenance, and his slack hand
Drops the drawn knife. But, oh, most fearfully
Dost thou show forth Heaven’s justice, when thy shafts
Drink up the ebbing spirit–then the hard
Of heart and violent of hand restores
The treasure to the friendless wretch he wronged.
Then from the writhing bosom thou dost pluck
The guilty secret; lips, for ages sealed,
Are faithless to the dreadful trust at length,
And give it up; the felon’s latest breath
Absolves the innocent man who bears his crime;
The slanderer, horror smitten, and in tears,
Recalls the deadly obloquy he forged
To work his brother’s ruin. Thou dost make
Thy penitent victim utter to the air
The dark conspiracy that strikes at life,
And aims to whelm the laws; ere yet the hour
Is come, and the dread sign of murder given.
Thus, from the first of time, hast thou been found
On virtue’s side; the wicked, but for thee,
Had been too strong for the good; the great of earth
Had crushed the weak for ever. Schooled in guile
For ages, while each passing year had brought
Its baneful lesson, they had filled the world
With their abominations; while its tribes,
Trodden to earth, imbruted, and despoiled,
Had knelt to them in worship; sacrifice
Had smoked on many an altar, temple roofs
Had echoed with the blasphemous prayer and hymn:
But thou, the great reformer of the world,
Tak’st off the sons of violence and fraud
In their green pupilage, their lore half learned–
Ere guilt has quite o’errun the simple heart
God gave them at their birth, and blotted out
His image. Thou dost mark them, flushed with hope,
As on the threshold of their vast designs
Doubtful and loose they stand, and strik’st them down.
Alas, I little thought that the stern power
Whose fearful praise I sung, would try me thus
Before the strain was ended. It must cease–
For he is in his grave who taught my youth
The art of verse, and in the bud of life
Offered me to the muses. Oh, cut off
Untimely! when thy reason in its strength,
Ripened by years of toil and studious search
And watch of Nature’s silent lessons, taught
Thy hand to practise best the lenient art
To which thou gavest thy laborious days.
And, last, thy life. And, therefore, when the earth
Received thee, tears were in unyielding eyes
And on hard cheeks, and they who deemed thy skill
Delayed their death-hour, shuddered and turned pale
When thou wert gone. This faltering verse, which thou
Shalt not, as wont, o’erlook, is all I have
To offer at thy grave–this–and the hope
To copy thy example, and to leave
A name of which the wretched shall not think
As of an enemy’s, whom they forgive
As all forgive the dead. Rest, therefore, thou
Whose early guidance trained my infant steps–
Rest, in the bosom of God, till the brief sleep
Of death is over, and a happier life
Shall dawn to waken thine insensible dust.
Now thou art not–and yet the men whose guilt
Has wearied Heaven for vengeance–he who bears
False witness–he who takes the orphan’s bread,
And robs the widow–he who spreads abroad
Polluted hands in mockery of prayer,
Are left to cumber earth. Shuddering I look
On what is written, yet I blot not out
The desultory numbers–let them stand.
The record of an idle revery.
(Poem by William Cullen Bryant)
Weak but alive
dying yet still alive
round like golf balls
white as bones
Pus in orifices
teeth, white teeth
skull and bones.
Am sorry for life
Oh this pain deeper than
Only death can save
My friend, I am sorry
That you pain
When you sleep, wake
Damn anguish – no thoughts emerge
When engulfed by pain
Such heart is dead
Oh this life! A taboo
You will die so
In the garden of death.
The nurse is no artist
A greater artist has shown the nurse
An art of degeneration
A human form sculptured
By an ailment of our time
A thousand diseases in one.
And then these sufferings
There will be no heaven here…
Can’t eat – wounds in mouth
Cant pee – balls on fire
Weak and dizzy
As thin as bones – is bones
Skin and foul air
Do not pity-
There will be no heaven here
A body ravaged beyond …
When looking for hell
You will find it here.
(Poems by Godfrey Mutiso Gorry)
I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air—
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.
It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath—
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.
God knows ’twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where Love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear…
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.
(Poem by Alan Seeger)
The dark wings of night enfolded the city upon which Nature had spread a pure white garment of snow; and men deserted the streets for their houses in search of warmth, while the north wind probed in contemplation of laying waste the gardens. There in the suburb stood an old hut heavily laden with snow and on the verge of falling. In a dark recess of that hovel was a poor bed in which a dying youth was lying, staring at the dim light of his oil lamp, made to flicker by the entering winds. He a man in the spring of life who foresaw fully that the peaceful hour of freeing himself from the clutches of life was fast nearing. He was awaiting Death’s visit gratefully, and upon his pale face appeared the dawn of hope; and on his lops a sorrowful smile; and in his eyes forgiveness.
He was poet perishing from hunger in the city of living rich. He was placed in the earthly world to enliven the heart of man with his beautiful and profound sayings. He as noble soul, sent by the Goddess of Understanding to soothe and make gentle the human spirit. But alas! He gladly bade the cold earth farewell without receiving a smile from its strange occupants.
He was breathing his last and had no one at his bedside save the oil lamp, his only companion, and some parchments upon which he had inscribed his heart’s feeling. As he salvaged the remnants of his withering strength he lifted his hands heavenward; he moved his eyes hopelessly, as if wanting to penetrate the ceiling in order to see the stars from behind the veil clouds.
And he said, “Come, oh beautiful Death; my soul is longing for you. Come close to me and unfasten the irons life, for I am weary of dragging them. Come, oh sweet Death, and deliver me from my neighbors who looked upon me as a stranger because I interpret to them the language of the angels. Hurry, oh peaceful Death, and carry me from these multitudes who left me in the dark corner of oblivion because I do not bleed the weak as they do. Come, oh gentle Death, and enfold me under your white wings, for my fellowmen are not in want of me. Embrace me, oh Death, full of love and mercy; let your lips touch my lips which never tasted a mother’s kiss, not touched a sister’s cheeks, not caresses a sweetheart’s fingertips. Come and take me, by beloved Death.”
Then, at the bedside of the dying poet appeared an angel who possessed a supernatural and divine beauty, holding in her hand a wreath of lilies. She embraced him and closed his eyes so he could see no more, except with the eye of his spirit. She impressed a deep and long and gently withdrawn kiss that left and eternal smile of fulfillment upon his lips. Then the hovel became empty and nothing was lest save parchments and papers which the poet had strewn with bitter futility.
Hundreds of years later, when the people of the city arose from the diseases slumber of ignorance and saw the dawn of knowledge, they erected a monument in the most beautiful garden of the city and celebrated a feast every year in honor of that poet, whose writings had freed them. Oh, how cruel is man’s ignorance!
(Poem by Khalil Gibran)
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