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Part II, Section 4:
Let down the bars, O Death!
The tired flocks come in
Whose bleating ceases to repeat,
Whose wandering is done.5
Thine is the stillest night,
Thine the securest fold;
Too near thou art for seeking thee,
Too tender to be told.
Going to heaven!
I don't know when,
Pray do not ask me how,—
Indeed, I 'm too astonished
To think of answering you!15
Going to heaven!—
How dim it sounds!
And yet it will be done
As sure as flocks go home at night
Unto the shepherd's arm!20
Perhaps you 're going too!
Who knows?
If you should get there first,
Save just a little place for me
Close to the two I lost!25
The smallest "robe" will fit me,
And just a bit of "crown;"
For you know we do not mind our dress
When we are going home.
I 'm glad I don't believe it,30
For it would stop my breath,
And I 'd like to look a little more
At such a curious earth!
I am glad they did believe it
Whom I have never found35
Since the mighty autumn afternoon
I left them in the ground.
At least to pray is left, is left.
O Jesus! in the air40
I know not which thy chamber is,—
I 'm knocking everywhere.
Thou stirrest earthquake in the South,
And maelstrom in the sea;
Say, Jesus Christ of Nazareth,45
Hast thou no arm for me?
Step lightly on this narrow spot!
The broadest land that grows50
Is not so ample as the breast
These emerald seams enclose.
Step lofty; for this name is told
As far as cannon dwell,
Or flag subsist, or fame export55
Her deathless syllable.
Morns like these we parted;
Noons like these she rose,
Fluttering first, then firmer,60
To her fair repose.
Never did she lisp it,
And 't was not for me;
She was mute from transport,
I, from agony!65
Till the evening, nearing,
One the shutters drew—
Quick! a sharper rustling!
And this linnet flew!
A death-blow is a life-blow to some
Who, till they died, did not alive become;
Who, had they lived, had died, but when
They died, vitality begun.
I read my sentence steadily,
Reviewed it with my eyes,
To see that I made no mistake
In its extremest clause,—
The date, and manner of the shame;80
And then the pious form
That "God have mercy" on the soul
The jury voted him.
I made my soul familiar
With her extremity,85
That at the last it should not be
A novel agony,
But she and Death, acquainted,
Meet tranquilly as friends,
Salute and pass without a hint—90
And there the matter ends.
I have not told my garden yet,
Lest that should conquer me;
I have not quite the strength now95
To break it to the bee.
I will not name it in the street,
For shops would stare, that I,
So shy, so very ignorant,
Should have the face to die.100
The hillsides must not know it,
Where I have rambled so,
Nor tell the loving forests
The day that I shall go,
Nor lisp it at the table,105
Nor heedless by the way
Hint that within the riddle
One will walk to-day!
They dropped like flakes, they dropped like stars,
Like petals from a rose,
When suddenly across the June
A wind with fingers goes.
They perished in the seamless grass,—115
No eye could find the place;
But God on his repealless list
Can summon every face.
The only ghost I ever saw120
Was dressed in mechlin,—so;
He wore no sandal on his foot,
And stepped like flakes of snow.
His gait was soundless, like the bird,
But rapid, like the roe;125
His fashions quaint, mosaic,
Or, haply, mistletoe.
His conversation seldom,
His laughter like the breeze
That dies away in dimples130
Among the pensive trees.
Our interview was transient,—
Of me, himself was shy;
And God forbid I look behind
Since that appalling day!135
Some, too fragile for winter winds,
The thoughtful grave encloses,—
Tenderly tucking them in from frost
Before their feet are cold.140
Never the treasures in her nest
The cautious grave exposes,
Building where schoolboy dare not look
And sportsman is not bold.
This covert have all the children145
Early aged, and often cold,—
Sparrows unnoticed by the Father;
Lambs for whom time had not a fold.
As by the dead we love to sit,150
Become so wondrous dear,
As for the lost we grapple,
Though all the rest are here,—
In broken mathematics
We estimate our prize,155
Vast, in its fading ratio,
To our penurious eyes!
Death sets a thing significant160
The eye had hurried by,
Except a perished creature
Entreat us tenderly
To ponder little workmanships
In crayon or in wool,165
With "This was last her fingers did,"
Industrious until
The thimble weighed too heavy,
The stitches stopped themselves,
And then 't was put among the dust170
Upon the closet shelves.
A book I have, a friend gave,
Whose pencil, here and there,
Had notched the place that pleased him,—
At rest his fingers are.175
Now, when I read, I read not,
For interrupting tears
Obliterate the etchings
Too costly for repairs.
I went to heaven,—
'T was a small town,
Lit with a ruby,
Lathed with down.
Stiller than the fields185
At the full dew,
Beautiful as pictures
No man drew.
People like the moth,
Of mechlin, frames,190
Duties of gossamer,
And eider names.
Almost contented
I could be
'Mong such unique195
Their height in heaven comforts not,
Their glory nought to me;
'T was best imperfect, as it was;200
I 'm finite, I can't see.
The house of supposition,
The glimmering frontier
That skirts the acres of perhaps,
To me shows insecure.205
The wealth I had contented me;
If 't was a meaner size,
Then I had counted it until
It pleased my narrow eyes
Better than larger values,210
However true their show;
This timid life of evidence
Keeps pleading, "I don't know."
There is a shame of nobleness215
Confronting sudden pelf,—
A finer shame of ecstasy
Convicted of itself.
A best disgrace a brave man feels,
Acknowledged of the brave,—220
One more "Ye Blessed" to be told;
But this involves the grave.
Triumph may be of several kinds.225
There 's triumph in the room
When that old imperator, Death,
By faith is overcome.
There 's triumph of the finer mind
When truth, affronted long,230
Advances calm to her supreme,
Her God her only throng.
A triumph when temptation's bribe
Is slowly handed back,
One eye upon the heaven renounced235
And one upon the rack.
Severer triumph, by himself
Experienced, who can pass
Acquitted from that naked bar,
Jehovah's countenance!240
Pompless no life can pass away;
The lowliest career
To the same pageant wends its way
As that exalted here.245
How cordial is the mystery!
The hospitable pall
A "this way" beckons spaciously,—
A miracle for all!
I noticed people disappeared,
When but a little child,—
Supposed they visited remote,
Or settled regions wild.
Now know I they both visited255
And settled regions wild,
But did because they died,—a fact
Withheld the little child!
I had no cause to be awake,
My best was gone to sleep,
And morn a new politeness took,
And failed to wake them up,
But called the others clear,265
And passed their curtains by.
Sweet morning, when I over-sleep,
Knock, recollect, for me!
I looked at sunrise once,
And then I looked at them,270
And wishfulness in me arose
For circumstance the same.
'T was such an ample peace,
It could not hold a sigh,—
'T was Sabbath with the bells divorced,275
'T was sunset all the day.
So choosing but a gown
And taking but a prayer,
The only raiment I should need,
I struggled, and was there.280
If anybody's friend be dead,
It 's sharpest of the theme
The thinking how they walked alive,
At such and such a time.285
Their costume, of a Sunday,
Some manner of the hair,—
A prank nobody knew but them,
Lost, in the sepulchre.
How warm they were on such a day:290
You almost feel the date,
So short way off it seems; and now,
They 're centuries from that.
How pleased they were at what you said;
You try to touch the smile,295
And dip your fingers in the frost:
When was it, can you tell,
You asked the company to tea,
Acquaintance, just a few,
And chatted close with this grand thing300
That don't remember you?
Past bows and invitations,
Past interview, and vow,
Past what ourselves can estimate,—
That makes the quick of woe!305
Our journey had advanced;
Our feet were almost come
To that odd fork in Being's road,310
Eternity by term.
Our pace took sudden awe,
Our feet reluctant led.
Before were cities, but between,
The forest of the dead.315
Retreat was out of hope,—
Behind, a sealed route,
Eternity's white flag before,
And God at every gate.
Ample make this bed.
Make this bed with awe;
In it wait till judgment break
Excellent and fair.325
Be its mattress straight,
Be its pillow round;
Let no sunrise' yellow noise
Interrupt this ground.
On such a night, or such a night,
Would anybody care
If such a little figure
Slipped quiet from its chair,335
So quiet, oh, how quiet!
That nobody might know
But that the little figure
Rocked softer, to and fro?
On such a dawn, or such a dawn,340
Would anybody sigh
That such a little figure
Too sound asleep did lie
For chanticleer to wake it,—
Or stirring house below,345
Or giddy bird in orchard,
Or early task to do?
There was a little figure plump
For every little knoll,
Busy needles, and spools of thread,350
And trudging feet from school.
Playmates, and holidays, and nuts,
And visions vast and small.
Strange that the feet so precious charged
Should reach so small a goal!355
Essential oils are wrung:
The attar from the rose
Is not expressed by suns alone,
It is the gift of screws.360
The general rose decays;
But this, in lady's drawer,
Makes summer when the lady lies
In ceaseless rosemary.
I lived on dread; to those who know
The stimulus there is
In danger, other impetus
Is numb and vital-less.
As 't were a spur upon the soul,370
A fear will urge it where
To go without the spectre's aid
Were challenging despair.
If I should die,375
And you should live,
And time should gurgle on,
And morn should beam,
And noon should burn,
As it has usual done;380
If birds should build as early,
And bees as bustling go,—
One might depart at option
From enterprise below!
'T is sweet to know that stocks will stand385
When we with daisies lie,
That commerce will continue,
And trades as briskly fly.
It makes the parting tranquil
And keeps the soul serene,390
That gentlemen so sprightly
Conduct the pleasing scene!
Her final summer was it,395
And yet we guessed it not;
If tenderer industriousness
Pervaded her, we thought
A further force of life
Developed from within,—400
When Death lit all the shortness up,
And made the hurry plain.
We wondered at our blindness,—
When nothing was to see
But her Carrara guide-post,—405
At our stupidity,
When, duller than our dulness,
The busy darling lay,
So busy was she, finishing,
So leisurely were we!410
One need not be a chamber to be haunted,
One need not be a house;
The brain has corridors surpassing415
Material place.
Far safer, of a midnight meeting
External ghost,
Than an interior confronting
That whiter host.420
Far safer through an Abbey gallop,
The stones achase,
Than, moonless, one's own self encounter
In lonesome place.
Ourself, behind ourself concealed,425
Should startle most;
Assassin, hid in our apartment,
Be horror's least.
The prudent carries a revolver,
He bolts the door,430
O'erlooking a superior spectre
More near.
She died,—this was the way she died;435
And when her breath was done,
Took up her simple wardrobe
And started for the sun.
Her little figure at the gate
The angels must have spied,440
Since I could never find her
Upon the mortal side.
Wait till the majesty of Death445
Invests so mean a brow!
Almost a powdered footman
Might dare to touch it now!
Wait till in everlasting robes
This democrat is dressed,450
Then prate about "preferment"
And "station" and the rest!
Around this quiet courtier
Obsequious angels wait!
Full royal is his retinue,455
Full purple is his state!
A lord might dare to lift the hat
To such a modest clay,
Since that my Lord, "the Lord of lords"
Receives unblushingly!460
Went up a year this evening!
I recollect it well!
Amid no bells nor bravos465
The bystanders will tell!
Cheerful, as to the village,
Tranquil, as to repose,
Chastened, as to the chapel,
This humble tourist rose.470
Did not talk of returning,
Alluded to no time
When, were the gales propitious,
We might look for him;
Was grateful for the roses475
In life's diverse bouquet,
Talked softly of new species
To pick another day.
Beguiling thus the wonder,
The wondrous nearer drew;480
Hands bustled at the moorings—
The crowd respectful grew.
Ascended from our vision
To countenances new!
A difference, a daisy,485
Is all the rest I knew!
Taken from men this morning,
Carried by men to-day,490
Met by the gods with banners
Who marshalled her away.
One little maid from playmates,
One little mind from school,—
There must be guests in Eden;495
All the rooms are full.
Far as the east from even,
Dim as the border star,—
Courtiers quaint, in kingdoms,
Our departed are.500
What inn is this
Where for the night
Peculiar traveller comes?
Who is the landlord?505
Where the maids?
Behold, what curious rooms!
No ruddy fires on the hearth,
No brimming tankards flow.
Necromancer, landlord,510
Who are these below?
It was not death, for I stood up,
And all the dead lie down;
It was not night, for all the bells515
Put out their tongues, for noon.
It was not frost, for on my flesh
I felt siroccos crawl,—
Nor fire, for just my marble feet
Could keep a chancel cool.520
And yet it tasted like them all;
The figures I have seen
Set orderly, for burial,
Reminded me of mine,
As if my life were shaven525
And fitted to a frame,
And could not breathe without a key;
And 't was like midnight, some,
When everything that ticked has stopped,
And space stares, all around,530
Or grisly frosts, first autumn morns,
Repeal the beating ground.
But most like chaos,—stopless, cool,—
Without a chance or spar,
Or even a report of land535
To justify despair.
I should not dare to leave my friend,
Because—because if he should die540
While I was gone, and I—too late—
Should reach the heart that wanted me;
If I should disappoint the eyes
That hunted, hunted so, to see,
And could not bear to shut until545
They "noticed" me—they noticed me;
If I should stab the patient faith
So sure I 'd come—so sure I 'd come,
It listening, listening, went to sleep
Telling my tardy name,—550
My heart would wish it broke before,
Since breaking then, since breaking then,
Were useless as next morning's sun,
Where midnight frosts had lain!
Great streets of silence led away
To neighborhoods of pause;
Here was no notice, no dissent,
No universe, no laws.560
By clocks 't was morning, and for night
The bells at distance called;
But epoch had no basis here,
For period exhaled.
A throe upon the features
A hurry in the breath,
An ecstasy of parting
Denominated "Death,"—
An anguish at the mention,570
Which, when to patience grown,
I 've known permission given
To rejoin its own.
Of tribulation these are they
Denoted by the white;
The spangled gowns, a lesser rank
Of victors designate.
All these did conquer; but the ones580
Who overcame most times
Wear nothing commoner than snow,
No ornament but palms.
Surrender is a sort unknown
On this superior soil;585
Defeat, an outgrown anguish,
Remembered as the mile
Our panting ankle barely gained
When night devoured the road;
But we stood whispering in the house,590
And all we said was "Saved"!
I think just how my shape will rise
When I shall be forgiven,
Till hair and eyes and timid head595
Are out of sight, in heaven.
I think just how my lips will weigh
With shapeless, quivering prayer
That you, so late, consider me,
The sparrow of your care.600
I mind me that of anguish sent,
Some drifts were moved away
Before my simple bosom broke,—
And why not this, if they?
And so, until delirious borne605
I con that thing,—"forgiven,"—
Till with long fright and longer trust
I drop my heart, unshriven!
After a hundred years
Nobody knows the place,—
Agony, that enacted there,
Motionless as peace.
Weeds triumphant ranged,615
Strangers strolled and spelled
At the lone orthography
Of the elder dead.
Winds of summer fields
Recollect the way,—620
Instinct picking up the key
Dropped by memory.
Lay this laurel on the one
Too intrinsic for renown.625
Laurel! veil your deathless tree,—
Him you chasten, that is he!
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