The Grave By St. Columba's Cross
Now the storm is hush'd and over, past the fever's cruel pain,
Bear him gently, bear him kindly, O thou wildly rolling main.
From his wild home on the foreland to our sullen Northern shore,
On thine heart that beateth ever, bear the heart that beats no more.
There's a wailing on the waters, take him slowly from the boat,
Bear him up the rugged shingle, lift her anchor, let her float.
Harsh her keel grates on the sandbank, with a sound like human pain,
For that burden so belovèd she shall never bear again.
Bear him gently, bear him fondly, by the bay-indented shore,
'Neath the purple-shadow'd Errigle, from far and lone Gweedore;
By the black rock, and the sand-reach, wash'd brown with charging surf,
To the cross of St. Columba, lying dark along the turf.
They are foot-sore, they are weary, they must turn away at last,
Those poor hearts that loved him dearly, and whose dream of light is past.
All the high hopes and the cheering that one steadfast human heart,
In the strength of Christ's great mercy, can to other men impart—
They are over, for the pastor, for the friend is borne along,
Linger fondly o'er the coffin, sing again his chosen song.
Onward, onward, like the booming from a distant cannon borne,
Comes the roar of the Atlantic, rushing madly on the Horn;
And Muciksh, like a giant huge, all the dim horizon guards,
When the risen sun looks golden, on the winter woods of Ards.
Pause again, ye weary bearers, lay him down a little while,
Ye must wait the mourner's coming, in the lowly church's aisle;
Through the misty moon he cometh, let him clasp that coffin bare,
For he saw not the last anguish, for he heard not the last prayer:
Let him cling to that poor shadow, till beside the cross they part;
High words upon his trembling lip, grief's arrow in his heart.
Ah, often, in the glorious land of the cedar and the palm,
He shall draw that golden arrow out, and find it tipp'd with balm,—
It shall tell to him, who labours in the red heat of the sun,
Of the green land where he resteth, of the work so early done.
In the south, where suns are brighter, and the breeze more softly blows,
And calm lakes, like silver dewdrops in the bosom of a rose,
Lie alone in purple mountains, with the shadows of their crests,
In a hush of lonely grandeur, sleeping ever on their breasts,
There were three who went together, when the blessed Christmas broke,
Brought red berries from the holly, and green ivy from the oak;
That the types of life immortal for the feast of life might wave:
Now keep the three their Christmas Eve,—ah me! by an open grave.
They keep their tryste—but two of them with hearts by sorrow riven,
And those words that sink in anguish, though they come to raise to Heaven.
Hear the tender voice that trembles as the “Dust to dust” is said,
See the tears that with the earth fall on the beautiful young head:
And none—not love, not thrilling thoughts that tender memories lend,
Not the hot tears of his brother, not the sweet voice of his friend—
Can touch that heart, or link again that delicate chain of life,
That strain'd against the fever's grasp, and was shiver'd in the strife.
But whether now he strikes his harp, with the holy Seraphim,
Who sang in the fields at midnight the first great Christmas hymn,
Or whether, 'neath that awful shrine, where the weary saints find rest,
He meets the souls who dropp'd asleep before him on Jesus' breast,
He is safe, he is blest, where sin and sorrow can vex no more,
Where the works of the saints do follow them through the pearly door.
And if, in their high communion, our tears can his spirit move,
'Tis but with a wond'ring pity, born of sublimer love.
Now let him lie, the west'ring sun sinks into his ocean bed,
And the breeze that cannot reach him howls around his coffin'd head.
Leave him lying where he would be, in the shadow of the cross:
Hoarsely sighs the wind of even, and we see the breakers toss,
And the dark rocks about Torraighe look like battlements of gold;
O, the glory of that amber over waves of sapphire roll'd!
And O, that we were safe at last, in the golden city's street,
With the jasper walls above us, and the crystal at our feet!
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