A Ballad of Heaven

He wrought at one great work for years;

The world passed by with lofty look:

Sometimes his eyes were dashed with tears;

Sometimes his lips with laughter shook.

His wife and child went clothed in rags,

And in a windy garret starved:

He trod his measures on the flags,

And high on heaven his music carved.

Wistful he grew but never feared;

For always on the midnight skies

His rich orchestral score appeared

In stars and zones and galaxies.

He thought to copy down his score:

The moonlight was his lamp: he said,

" Listen, my love;" but on the floor

His wife and child were lying dead.

Her hollow eyes were open wide;

He deemed she heard with special zest:

Her death's-head infant coldly eyed

The desert of her shrunken breast.

" Listen, my love: my work is done;

I tremble as I touch the page

To sign the sentence of the sun

And crown the great eternal age.

" The slow adagio begins;

The winding-sheets are ravelled out

That swathe the minds of men, the sins

That wrap their rotting souls about.

" The dead are heralded along;

With silver trumps and golden drums,

And flutes and oboes, keen and strong,

My brave andante singing comes.

" Then like a python's sumptuous dress

The frame of things is cast away,

And out of Time's obscure distress,

The thundering scherzo crashes Day.

" For three great orchestras I hope

My mighty music shall be scored:

On three high hills they shall have scope

With heaven's vault for a sounding-board.

" Sleep well, love; let your eyelids fall;

Cover the child; goodnight, and if . . .

What? Speak . . . the traitorous end of all!

Both . . . cold and hungry . . . cold and stiff!

" But no, God means us well, I trust:

Dear ones, be happy, hope is nigh:

We are too young to fall to dust,

And too unsatisfied to die."

He lifted up against his breast

The woman's body stark and wan;

And to her withered bosom pressed

The little skin-clad skeleton.

" You see you are alive," he cried.

He rocked them gently to and fro.

" No, no, my love, you have not died;

Nor you, my little fellow; no."

Long in his arms he strained his dead

And crooned an antique lullaby;

Then laid them on the lowly bed,

And broke down with a doleful cry.

" The love, the hope, the blood, the brain,

Of her and me, the budding life,

And my great music — all in vain!

My unscored work, my child, my wife!

" We drop into oblivion,

And nourish some suburban sod:

My work, this woman, this my son,

Are now no more: there is no God.

" The world's a dustbin; we are due,

And death's cart waits: be life accurst!"

He stumbled down beside the two,

And clasping them, his great heart burst.

Straightway he stood at heaven's gate,

Abashed and trembling for his sin:

I trow he had not long to wait,

For God came out and led him in.

And then there ran a radiant pair,

Ruddy with haste and eager-eyed

To meet him first upon the stair —

His wife and child beatified.

They clad him in a robe of light,

And gave him heavenly food to eat;

Great seraphs praised him to the height,

Archangels sat about his feet.

God, smiling, took him by the hand,

And led him to the brink of heaven:

He saw where systems whirling stand,

Where galaxies like snow are driven.

Dead silence reigned; a shudder ran

Through space; Time furled his wearied wings;

A slow adagio then began

Sweetly resolving troubled things.

The dead were heralded along:

As if with drums and trumps of flame,

And flutes and oboes keen and strong,

A brave andante singing came.

Then like a python's sumptuous dress

The frame of things was cast away,

And out of Time's obscure distress

The conquering scherzo thundered Day.

He doubted; but God said " Even so;

Nothing is lost that's wrought with tears:

The music that you made below

Is now the music of the spheres."

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