Saturday, June 25, 2011

Death: A Poem

Life's loving brother, indefatigable Death,
Keeps Life alert and young.
Without him, Life's sweet breath,
Hank and unbreathable through healthy lung,
Would sicken Life himself, that, pale
As frighted sky in an eclipse,
His eyes grow blear, his spirits fail,
Smiles vanish from his leaden lips,
And, shuddering in a dull despair,
To see matter's unchecked increase,
Would shriek towards Heaven a piteous prayer
That he might quick decease,
Ere he be suffocated by
His offspring.
They, up piled in monstrous mounds,
Now that they cannot die, —
No longer know or beauty, grace, or bounds;
In unproportioned crowds of lurid life
Pressing each other for more room,
Wrangle in unavailing strife,
Faith and Hope waning in the gloom
Exuded from usurping matter;
The watchful angel no more there to shatter
Its tightening fetters, hopeless age
Wailing in swarms of slow decrepitude,
Impotent to die, and thus elude
The shocks of helpless rage
At its imprisonment on earth, —
Earth in soiled ragged gray enwrapt,
Of its dear greenery unsapt,
Grown to a gross material Hell,
Where never more is heard the knell
Of a new liberating birth;
Boyhood outnumbering childhood, manhood both,
While age, more numerous than all the three,
Gasps in imbecile sloth,
Cursing its heavenly privilege to be.
Banish good Death, and all things soon
In agony would pray
For his recall, to lift them out of swoon,
To free them from deathless decay.
Aye, Heaven's brave minister is he,
The world's unwearied cleanser,
Divine in his ubiquity,
Of freshness and of sweetness the dispenser,
Unresting key that is forever
Opening the bridal bloom of spring!
Triumphant spirit, that dost seem to sever
The body thou renew'st and dost re-wing.
Gross earthy thoughts have made the scythe
Thy symbol, with grim skeleton, and skull
Grinning in mockery of life. A blithe
Ethereal figure, beautiful
As a May-dawn, or peeping pink
Of the first rose, or maiden's blush,
Or boreal joy's ecstatic flush, —
These were fit symbols for earth's beautifier,
Man's lifter to th' angelic choir;
For thou, thou art the link
Twixt life and life. Dear Death! loud hail to thee!
Thou holy handmaid of eternity!
All nature keeps itself alive by dying, —
Seeming to die; bodies even die not,
They do but change; for spirit is ever plying
Creative power; and so from rankest rot
Of matter life upsprings,
Exulting in fresh wings,
Breathing with a new breath
Inbreathed from high beneficence: There Is No Death.
-- George H. Calvert

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