Great poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Blog,  English,  Poetry

Written after the death of Charles Lamb by William Wordsworth

To a good Man of most dear memory

This Stone is sacred. Here he lies apart

From the great city where he first drew breath,

Was reared and taught; and humbly earned his bread,

To the strict labours of the merchant’s desk

By duty chained. Not seldom did those tasks

Tease, and the thought of time so spent depress,

His spirit, but the recompense was high;

Firm Independence, Bounty’s rightful sire;

Affections, warm as sunshine, free as air;

And when the precious hours of leisure came,

Knowledge and wisdom, gained from converse sweet

With books, or while he ranged the crowded streets

With a keen eye, and overflowing heart:

So genius triumphed over seeming wrong,

And poured out truth in works by thoughtful love

Inspired works potent over smiles and tears.

And as round mountain-tops the lightning plays,

Thus innocently sported, breaking forth

As from a cloud of some grave sympathy,

Humour and wild instinctive wit, and all

The vivid flashes of his spoken words.

From the most gentle creature nursed in fields

Had been derived the name he bore a name,

Wherever Christian altars have been raised,

Hallowed to meekness and to innocence;

And if in him meekness at times gave way,

Provoked out of herself by troubles strange,

Many and strange, that hung about his life;

Still, at the centre of his being, lodged

A soul by resignation sanctified:

And if too often, self-reproached, he felt

That innocence belongs not to our kind,

A power that never ceased to abide in him,

Charity, ‘mid the multitude of sins

That she can cover, left not his exposed

To an unforgiving judgment from just Heaven.

Oh, he was good, if e’er a good Man lived!

From a reflecting mind and sorrowing heart

Those simple lines flowed with an earnest wish,

Though but a doubting hope, that they might serve

Fitly to guard the precious dust of him

Whose virtues called them forth. That aim is missed;

For much that truth most urgently required

Had from a faltering pen been asked in vain:

Yet, haply, on the printed page received,

The imperfect record, there, may stand unblamed

As long as verse of mine shall breathe the air

Of memory, or see the light of love.

Thou wert a scorner of the fields, my Friend,

But more in show than truth; and from the fields,

And from the mountains, to thy rural grave

Transported, my soothed spirit hovers o’er

Its green untrodden turf, and blowing flowers;

And taking up a voice shall speak (tho’ still

Awed by the theme’s peculiar sanctity

Which words less free presumed not even to touch)

Of that fraternal love, whose heaven-lit lamp

From infancy, through manhood, to the last

Of threescore years, and to thy latest hour,

Burnt on with ever-strengthening light, enshrined

Within thy bosom.

“Wonderful” hath been

The love established between man and man,

“Passing the love of women;” and between

Man and his help-mate in fast wedlock joined

Through God, is raised a spirit and soul of love

Without whose blissful influence Paradise

Had been no Paradise; and earth were now

A waste where creatures bearing human form,

Direst of savage beasts, would roam in fear,

Joyless and comfortless. Our days glide on;

And let him grieve who cannot choose but grieve

That he hath been an Elm without his Vine,

And her bright dower of clustering charities,

That, round his trunk and branches, might have clung

Enriching and adorning. Unto thee,

Not so enriched, not so adorned, to thee

Was given (say rather, thou of later birth

Wert given to her) a Sister ’tis a word

Timidly uttered, for she ‘lives’, the meek,

The self-restraining, and the ever-kind;

In whom thy reason and intelligent heart

Found for all interests, hopes, and tender cares,

All softening, humanising, hallowing powers,

Whether withheld, or for her sake unsought

More than sufficient recompense!

Her love

(What weakness prompts the voice to tell it here?)

Was as the love of mothers; and when years,

Lifting the boy to man’s estate, had called

The long-protected to assume the part

Of a protector, the first filial tie

Was undissolved; and, in or out of sight,

Remained imperishably interwoven

With life itself. Thus, ‘mid a shifting world,

Did they together testify of time

And season’s difference a double tree

With two collateral stems sprung from one root;

Such were they such thro’ life they ‘might’ have been

In union, in partition only such;

Otherwise wrought the will of the Most High;

Yet thro’ all visitations and all trials,

Still they were faithful; like two vessels launched

From the same beach one ocean to explore

With mutual help, and sailing to their league

True, as inexorable winds, or bars

Floating or fixed of polar ice, allow.

But turn we rather, let my spirit turn

With thine, O silent and invisible Friend!

To those dear intervals, nor rare nor brief,

When reunited, and by choice withdrawn

From miscellaneous converse, ye were taught

That the remembrance of foregone distress,

And the worse fear of future ill (which oft

Doth hang around it, as a sickly child

Upon its mother) may be both alike

Disarmed of power to unsettle present good

So prized, and things inward and outward held

In such an even balance, that the heart

Acknowledges God’s grace, his mercy feels,

And in its depth of gratitude is still.

O gift divine of quiet sequestration!

The hermit, exercised in prayer and praise,

And feeding daily on the hope of heaven,

Is happy in his vow, and fondly cleaves

To life-long singleness; but happier far

Was to your souls, and, to the thoughts of others,

A thousand times more beautiful appeared,

Your ‘dual’ loneliness. The sacred tie

Is broken; yet why grieve? for Time but holds

His moiety in trust, till Joy shall lead

To the blest world where parting is unknown.

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