Ode on Death

Toll for the brave!
He whom we saw afar,
First in the ranks of war,
Sleeps in the grave;
No flags or pennons o'er the hero wave;
Ne'er shall the cannon's roar, the trumpet's breath,
The drum's loud tumult, wake the sleep of death,
No shout of triumph animate the brave;
No burnished eagle glitters o'er his head,—
High from his tomb the bird has ta'en her flight,
While sable yews o'ershadow Honor's bed,
And coldly fall the chilling dews of night,
Steeping the wintry turf that hides the mighty dead.

Toll for the just!
That eye of tempered fire,
Which shunned each wrong desire,
Fades in the dust;
Hushed is that eloquence so nobly bold;
The heart that felt for suffering is cold;
Affliction mourns above his honored bust,—
Her tears, slow-stealing o'er its marble cheek,
Tell of his soul of majesty and love,
His eye, that ever glanced on things above,
At once in justice firm, in kind compassion meek:
Goodness must fade;—the equal hand of death
Quenches the villain's and the just man's breath.

Toll for the fair!
Go, seek the lonely tomb,
Go, wander through its gloom,
She slumbers there:
Her angel look, that melted every soul,
Her eye, that rolled its glance of tenderness,
Her form encircled round with every grace,
Now moulder 'neath corruption's sable stole;
The worm is cradled on her forehead fair,
And wantons 'mid the ringlets of her hair,—
Each tint of faded beauty charms no more;
The fragrance of her lip, its living rose,
No more in Heaven's own purest crimson glows,—
'Tis livid as the stream that laves th' Avernian shore.

A fleeting day
The cheek of beauty glows,
The voice of music flows,
Then melts away;
Fluttering amid the summer's transient ray,
The gaudy fop expands his shining wing;
In bounding step the merry dancers spring,
Like insects sportive, like the rainbow gay:
Soon o'er this smiling scene the wintry storm
Of dark affliction sheds its lurid gloom,
Wafting upon its blast Destruction's form,
Who calls, with voice of thunder, to the tomb;
Like lightning flashing o'er the sleeper's head,
He wakes them from their dream, then hides them with the dead.

We all must die!
Each form, that proudly soars
Where war's confusion roars,
Must lowly lie;
The bard must hush his voice, and close his eye;
His clay-cold hand must rest upon his lyre,
No more to wake its hallowed soul of fire,
No more to swell the heart or steal the sigh:
Low in the humid dust, the noisome grave,
We rest our wearied limbs, we end our toils;
There fade the short-lived laurels of the brave,
There melt away the statesman's causeless broils,
There wastes the corpse to dust,—'t is all we know
Of man, the tenant of a world of woe.

How dark the tomb!
Doubt shades that dreary cave,
And curtains round the grave
With formless gloom.
O, what a spectre issues from its womb!
How dark his swarthy eye, its lurid glare
Like flames that in the dreary midnight flare!
With what a hollow voice he speaks our doom!
Impervious darkness on its raven wing
Hangs o'er the bed of death; the sceptic eye
Sees no fair realm beyond this being lie,
While wan despair and ghastly terror fling
Their horrors o'er the couch, where helpless mortals die.

Is there a ray
Whose brightness can illume
The grave, and bid the gloom
Disperse away?
Is there a twinkling star amid this storm,
Where all is cold and cheerless, all despair?
Reveals it to the sight an angel form,
Whose pinions, floating on the murky air,
Scatter the tempest-clouds, and o'er the sky
Unveil a morning tint of rosy hue,
And clothe the noontide vault with lovely blue,
While through the vale light airs and balmy zephyrs fly?

There is a form,
Whose brightly beaming eye
Disperses from the sky
Life's gloomy storm:
Around her brow celestial radiance plays,
Her candid vestments shine with dazzling light,
A thousand twinkling gems, like stars of night,
In virtue's ægis, on her bosom blaze;
She speaks,—and tones of heavenly harmony
Flow through the air and tremble on the gale;
The mourner raises her desponding eye,
And the heart-broken maid remits her wail;—
'T is Hope, who, bending from her native skies,
Bids through Death's dreary vale delicious beauties rise.
Rate this poem: 


No reviews yet.