When I Lie Cold in Death

When I lie cold in death,
Bury me where ye will,
Though if my living breath
May urge my wishes still,
When I shall breathe no more;
Let my last dwelling be,
Beneath a turf with wild flowers covered o'er,
Under a shady tree, —
A grave where winds may blow and sunshine fall,
And autumn leaves may drop in yearly funeral.

I care not for a tomb,
With sculptured cherubim,
Amid the solemn gloom
Of old cathedrals dim.
I care not for the pride
Of epitaphs well-meant,
Nor wish my name with any pomps allied,
When my last breath is spent;
Give me a grave beneath the fair green trees
And an abiding-place in good men's memories.

But wheresoe'er I sleep
I charge you, friends of mine,
With adjuration deep
And by your hopes divine;
Let no irreverent pen
For sake of paltry pay,
Expose my faults or follies unto men,
To desecrate my clay:
Let none but good men's tongues my story tell, —
Nor even they, — I'd sleep unvexed by any knell.

Why should the gaping crowd
Claim any right to know
How sped in shine or cloud
My pilgrimage below?
Why should the vulgar gaze
Be fixed upon my heart,
When I am dead, because in living days
I did my little part
To sing a music to the march of man —
A lark high carolling to armies in the van?

But still if crowds will claim
A moral, to be told,
From my unwilling name,
When slumbering in the mould,
I'll tell the tale myself —
A story ever new —
Yet old as Adam. — Oh, ye men of pelf,
Ye would not tell it true —
But I will tell it in my noon of life,
And wave the flag aloft ere I depart the strife.

I wasted-precious youth,
But learned before my prime
The majesty of Truth —
The priceless worth of Time;
I hoped, and was deceived —
I built without a base —
I err'd — I suffer'd — doubted — and believed —
I ran a breathless race,
And when half-way toward the wished-for goal,
Despised the bauble crown, for which I'd given my soul.

I thought that I was wise,
When folly was my rule,
But with late-open'd eyes
Confess'd myself a fool.
I strove in vain to flee
The penalty of sin;
I plucked the apple, Pleasure, from the tree,
And found it dust within.
I sow'd ill seed in spring-time of my years —
And reap'd the natural crop of agony and tears.

I never did a wrong
That brought not punishment,
In sufferings keen and long
By chastening mercy sent.
I never did the right
Without a sweet reward
Of inward music and celestial light
In beautiful accord.
I never scorn'd but with result of scorn,
Now loud

I think I loved my kind
And strove to serve it too,
And in my secret mind
Adored the good and true.
I know I never dipped
My pen in slime or gall,
Or wrote a sentence which the purest lipp'd
Would scruple to recall;
I think my lyre gave forth a manly tone —
I know I never preached opinions not my own.

I found, as man or boy,
Delight in wild woods green,
And reap'd perpetual joy
From every natural scene.
I nursed amid the crowd
My human sympathies;
To heart and brain they made appeal aloud,
With voice of mysteries.
And in the forest paths, or cities throng'd,
Nature was in my soul and to my soul belonged.

In all my life I felt
God's presence evermore,
And reverently knelt
To love and to adore;
Such let the record be —
I charge ye, friends of mine,
Add but a date to this life-history —
Th' obituary line, —
Say that I lived and died, and did my best,
But spare my secret heart, and let my follies rest.
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