You are to die—I do not commiserate, I congratulate you,
Now ending well in death the splendid fever of thy deeds,
I bring no dirge for it or thee, I bring a glad triumphal sonnet.
The corpse you will leave will be but excrementitious,
You yourself will surely escape,
For living are the dead,
(Haply the only living, only real,
And I the apparition, I the spectre.)
I absolve you from all except yourself, spiritual, bodily—that is eternal—
How can the real body, not visible, ever die and be buried?
Your real body and any man’s or woman’s real body,
Item for item it will elude the hands of the corpse-cleaners and pass to fitting spheres.
(Strong thoughts fill you and confidence, you smile,
You forget you are sick, as I forget you are sick.)
I do not know your destination, but I know it is real and perfect,
A free entrance into the spiritual world;
For none more than you are the present and the past,
For none more than you is immortality.
Death has its tomorrow,
We must, will, can’t help, living again—
Death can’t have the last word.
I know I have arrived at this result more by what may be called feeling than formal reason,
But I believe it—yes, I know it,
I cannot prove it to you or anyone, but I know it is so—
Immortality, not as an intellection but as a pervading instinct.
Words are difficult, even impossible. No doubt anyone will recall ballads or songs or hymns, maybe instrumental performances, that have arous’d so curiously, yet definitely, the thought of death, the mystic, the after-realm—as no statement or sermon could—and brought it hovering near.
Thought: Of women gather’d together on deck,
A huge sob—a few bubbles—the white foam spirting up—and then the women gone.
Are souls drown’d and destroy’d so?
Is only matter triumphant?
If all came but to ashes of dung,
If maggots and rats ended us, then Alarum! for we are betray’d,
Then indeed suspicion of death.
Do you suspect death? if I were to suspect death I should die now,
Do you think I could walk pleasantly and well-suited toward annihilation?
Pleasantly and well-suited I walk,
I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a carpenter’s compass,
I know I shall not pass like a child’s carlacue cut with a burnt stick at night.
I am not prepared to admit fraud in the scheme of the universe,
Yet without immortality all would be sham and sport of the most tragic nature.
I remember what Epictetus said: “What is good enough for the universe is good enough for me!”
Immortality for the universe, immortality is good enough for me!
Whither I walk I cannot define,
I do not know what follows the death of my body,
I do not know what is waiting for me to be.
But I know it is good,
The whole universe indicates that it is good,
The past and the present indicate that it is good.
I know well that whatever it is, it is best for me,
I know that I shall be in great form and nature.
I believe in immortality, and by that I mean identity—
Even to this identity of yours or mine, the far more permanent is yet unseen, yet to come,
Like a long train of noble corridors and infinite halls and superb endless chambers, yet awaiting us.
Yes, indeed, in our Father’s house are many mansions.
The purpose and essence of the known life, the transient,
Is to form and decide identity for the unknown life, the permanent.
Life, life is the tillage, and death is the harvest according,
Somehow the entrance upon by far the greatest part of existence,
And something that life is at least as much for, as it is for itself—
What we thought death is but life brought to a firmer parturition.
How can there be immortality except through mortality?
Yet mortal life is most important with reference to the immortal,
The unknown, the spiritual, the only permanently real,
Which, as the ocean waits for and receives the rivers, waits for us each and all.
What is mortality but an exercise? with reference to results beyond—that pervading invisible fact,
So large a part, (is it not the largest part?) of life here, combining the rest,
And furnishing, for person or state, the only permanent and unitary meaning to all, consistently with the dignity of the universe.
O how plainly I see now that life cannot exhibit all to me—as the day cannot,
O I see that I am to wait for what will be exhibited by the superb vistas of death,
With cheerful face estimating death, not at all as the cessation, but as the exquisite transition;
Every fact serves, now or at any time each serves the transition,
All hold spiritual joys and afterwards loosen them.
As to you death, and you bitter hug of mortality, it is idle to try to alarm me,
And thou O grave, wait long and long,
I know I am deathless,
I know well that what is really me shall live just as much as before.
I have sung the songs of life and death,
And the songs of birth, and shown that there are many births, transmigrations,
My real body doubtless left to me for other spheres,
Carrying what has accrued to it from the moment of birth to the moment of death.
O the soul’s procession, passing through various experiences, perpetual transfers and promotions,
Continuous the journey, intimate the procession continuing forever,
Most of it through regions and experiences unknown—
And still from stage to stage, from orb to orb, from life to life,
Higher and higher, round and round we go, all of us, and ever come back thither.
No doubt I have died myself ten thousand times before.
The grave of rock multiplies what has been confided to it, or to any graves,
Corpses rise, gashes heal, fastenings roll from me,
I troop forth replenish’d with supreme power,
I receive now again of my many translations, from my avataras ascending,
While others doubtless await me.
Is it wonderful that I should be immortal? as every one is immortal.
I do not think seventy years is the time of a man or woman,
Nor that seventy millions of years is the time of a man or woman,
Nor that years will ever stop the existence of me, or anyone else—
Eternity has no time for death.
Lo! the pulsations in all matter, all spirit, throbbing forever,
The eternal beats, eternal systole and diastole of life in things,
I swear I think now that everything without exception has an eternal soul!
The trees have, rooted in the ground! the weeds of the sea have! the animals!
I swear I think there is nothing but immortality!
That the exquisite scheme is for it, and the nebulous float is for it, and the cohering is for it!
And all preparation is for it—and identity is for it—and life and materials are altogether for it!
Wherefrom I feel and know that death is not the ending, as was thought,
But rather the real beginning.
At the last, tenderly,
Set ope the doors O soul,
Let me glide noiselessly forth,
Tenderly—be not impatient,
(Strong is your hold O mortal flesh,
Strong is your hold O love.)
When the ties loosen,
All but the ties eternal, time and space,
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds bounding us,
Then we burst forth, we float,
In time and space O soul, prepared for them,
Equal, equipt at last, (O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil O soul.
Now land and life finalè and farewell,
Now voyager depart.
Often enough hast thou adventur’d o’er the seas,
Cautiously cruising, studying the charts,
Duly again to port and hawser’s tie returning.
But now obey thy cherish’d secret wish,
Embrace thy friends, leave all in order,
Depart, depart from solid earth,
Depart upon thy endless cruise old sailor—
No more returning to these shores,
To port and hawser’s tie no more returning.
I depart from materials,
I am as one disembodied, triumphant, dead,
Pleas’d to my soul at death I cry,
Joy, shipmate, joy!
The long, long anchorage we leave,
Put on the old ship all her power today!
The ship is clear at last, she leaps!
She swiftly courses from the shore.
I will not call it our concluding voyage,
But outset and sure entrance to the truest, best, maturest,
The real life, full of exultation, new scenes untellable—
Joy, shipmate, joy.
Flaunt out O sea your separate flags of nations!
But do you reserve especially for yourself and for the soul of man one flag above all the rest,
A spiritual woven signal for all nations, emblem of man elate above death,
A pennant universal, subtly waving all time, o’er all seas, all ships.
NEXT: SELF AND UNIVERSE