To anyone dying, thither I speed and twist the knob of the door,
Turn the bed-clothes toward the foot of the bed.
Let the physician and the priest go home,
I seize the descending man and raise him with resistless will—
O despairer, here is my neck,
By God, you shall not go down! hang your whole weight upon me,
I dilate you with tremendous breath, I buoy you up,
Every room of the house do I fill with an arm’d force,
Lovers of me, bafflers of graves.
Sleep—I and they keep guard all night,
And when you rise in the morning you will find what I tell you is so.
I sing of life, yet mind me well of death;
I am not sure but the last enclosing sublimation of human race or poem is what it thinks of death.
After the rest has been comprehended and said, even the grandest, and the pervading fact of visible existence is rounded and apparently completed, it still remains to be really completed by suffusing through the whole that other pervading invisible fact.
Life and death, the two old, simple problems ever intertwined—
Unfulfilled aspirations, ideal dreams, the mysteries and failures and broken hopes of life, and then death the common fate of all, and the impenetrable uncertainty of the afterwards—
The grappled mystery of all earth’s ages old or new,
Elusive, present, baffled, by each successive age insoluble, pass’d on,
To ours today—and we pass on the same.
I do not understand the least reality of life—
How then can I understand the realities of death?
Great is death—I do not understand the realities of death, but I know they are great—
O mystery of death, I pant for the time when I shall solve you!
To think the thought of death merged in the thought of materials,
Life’s ever-modern rapids soon, soon to blend with the old streams of death;
Life is the whole law and incessant effort of the visible universe, and death only the other or invisible side of the same.
The all-engrossing thought and fact of death is admitted not for itself so much as a powerful factor in the adjustments of life,
And portals: what are those of life but for death?
Lives and works, what are they all at last, except the roads to faith and death?
Slow-moving and black lines creep over the whole earth—they never cease—they are the burial lines,
Sooner or later inevitably wending to the exit door—vanishing to sight and ear—and never materializing on this earth’s stage again!
Yea, death, we bow our faces, veil our eyes to thee.
We mourn the young untimely drawn to thee,
The fair, the strong, the good, the capable,
The gather’d thousands to their funeral mounds, and thousands never found or gather’d.
We mourn the old—
The blank in life and heart left by the death of my mother will never to me be filled,
It is the great cloud to temper the rest of my life,
Mother, buried and gone, yet buried not, gone not from me,
(I see again the calm benignant face, fresh and beautiful still,
I sit by the form in the coffin,
I kiss and kiss convulsively again the sweet old lips, the cheeks, the closed eyes in the coffin.)
The death of Mrs. Gilchrist is indeed a gloomy fact,
Seems to me mortality never enclosed a more beautiful spirit,
Nothing now remains but a sweet and rich memory.
While I sat in the day and look’d forth,
The infinite separate houses, how they all went on, each with its meals and minutia of daily usages,
And the streets how their throbbings throbb’d, and the voices of children and women,
And the cities pent—lo, then and there,
Falling upon them all and among them all, enveloping me with the rest,
Appear’d the cloud, appear’d the long black trail,
And I knew death, its thought, and the sacred knowledge of death.
With the knowledge of death as walking one side of me,
And the thought of death close-walking the other side of me,
And I in the middle as with companions, and as holding the hands of companions,
I dream’d I wander’d searching among burial-places,
And I found that every place was a burial-place;
The houses full of life were equally full of death, (this house is now,)
The streets, the shipping, the places of amusement, were fuller, O vastly fuller of the dead than of the living.
And now I am willing to disregard burial-places and dispense with them,
And if the memorials of the dead were put up indifferently everywhere, even in the room where I eat or sleep, I should be satisfied.
Give me your tone therefore, O death, that I may accord with it,
Give me yourself, for I see that you belong to me now above all,
For now it is convey’d to me that you are the purports essential,
That behind the mask of materials you patiently wait, no matter how long,
That you hide in these shifting forms of life, for reasons, and that they are mainly for you,
That you will perhaps dissipate this entire show of appearance,
That maybe you are what it is all for, but it does not last so very long,
But you will last very long.