Jonathan Swift |
His Grace! impossible! what dead!
Of old age too, and in his bed!
And could that mighty warrior fall?
And so inglorious, after all!
Well, since he's gone, no matter how,
The last loud trump must wake him now:
And, trust me, as the noise grows stronger,
He'd wish to sleep a little longer.
And could he be indeed so old
As by the newspapers we're told?
Threescore, I think, is pretty high;
'Twas time in conscience he should die.
This world he cumbered long enough;
He burnt his candle to the snuff;
And that's the reason, some folks think,
He left behind so great a s---k.
Behold his funeral appears,
Nor widow's sighs, nor orphan's tears,
Wont at such times each heart to pierce,
Attend the progress of his hearse.
But what of that, his friends may say,
He had those honors in his day.
True to his profit and his pride,
He made them weep before he died.
Come hither, all ye empty things,
Ye bubbles raised by breath of kings;
Who float upon the tide of state,
Come hither, and behold your fate.
Let pride be taught by this rebuke,
How very mean a thing's a Duke;
From all his ill-got honors flung,
Turned to that dirt from whence he sprung.
Edgar Lee Masters |
I went up and down the streets
Here and there by day and night,
Through all hours of the night caring for the poor who were sick.
Do you know why?
My wife hated me, my son went to the dogs.
And I turned to the people and poured out my love to them.
Sweet it was to see the crowds about the lawns on the day of my funeral,
And hear them murmur their love and sorrow.
But oh, dear God, my soul trembled, scarcely able
To hold to the railing of the new life
When I saw Em Stanton behind the oak tree
At the grave,
Hiding herself, and her grief!
Edgar Allan Poe |
Lo! 't is a gala night
Within the lonesome latter years!
An angel throng bewinged bedight
In veils and drowned in tears
Sit in a theatre to see
A play of hopes and fears
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
The music of the spheres.
Mimes in the form of God on high
Mutter and mumble low
And hither and thither fly -
Mere puppets they who come and go
At bidding of vast formless things
That shift the scenery to and fro
Flapping from out their Condor wings
That motley drama! - oh be sure
It shall not be forgot!
With its Phantom chased for evermore
By a crowd that seize it not
Through a circle that ever returneth in
To the self-same spot
And much of Madness and more of Sin
And Horror the soul of the plot.
But see amid the mimic rout
A crawling shape intrude!
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
The scenic solitude!
It writhes! - it writhes! - with mortal pangs
The mimes become its food
And the seraphs sob at vermin fangs
In human gore imbued.
Out - out are the lights - out all!
And over each quivering form
The curtain a funeral pall
Comes down with the rush of a storm
And the angels all pallid and wan
Uprising unveiling affirm
That the play is the tragedy "Man"
And its hero the Conqueror Worm.
More great poems below...
Emily Dickinson |
I felt a funeral in my brain,
And mourners, to and fro,
Kept treading, treading, till it seemed
That sense was breaking through.
And when they all were seated,
A service like a drum
Kept beating, beating, till I thought
My mind was going numb
And then I heard them lift a box,
And creak across my soul
With those same boots of lead, again.
Then space began to toll
As all the heavens were a bell,
And being, but an ear,
And I and Silence some strange Race
Wrecked, solitary, here.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow |
What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist
TELL me not in mournful numbers
Life is but an empty dream!¡ª
For the soul is dead that slumbers
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest! 5
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art to dust returnest
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment and not sorrow
Is our destined end or way; 10
But to act that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long and Time is fleeting
And our hearts though stout and brave
Still like muffled drums are beating 15
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world's broad field of battle
In the bivouac of Life
Be not like dumb driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife! 20
Trust no Future howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act ¡ªact in the living Present!
Heart within and God o'erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us 25
We can make our lives sublime
And departing leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints that perhaps another
Sailing o'er life's solemn main 30
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother
Seeing shall take heart again.
Let us then be up and doing
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving still pursuing 35
Learn to labor and to wait.
Sylvia Plath |
I ordered this, clean wood box
Square as a chair and almost too heavy to lift.
I would say it was the coffin of a midget
Or a square baby
Were there not such a din in it.
The box is locked, it is dangerous.
I have to live with it overnight
And I can't keep away from it.
There are no windows, so I can't see what is in there.
There is only a little grid, no exit.
I put my eye to the grid.
It is dark, dark,
With the swarmy feeling of African hands
Minute and shrunk for export,
Black on black, angrily clambering.
How can I let them out?
It is the noise that appalls me most of all,
The unintelligible syllables.
It is like a Roman mob,
Small, taken one by one, but my god, together!
I lay my ear to furious Latin.
I am not a Caesar.
I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.
They can be sent back.
They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner.
I wonder how hungry they are.
I wonder if they would forget me
If I just undid the locks and stood back and turned into a tree.
There is the laburnum, its blond colonnades,
And the petticoats of the cherry.
They might ignore me immediately
In my moon suit and funeral veil.
I am no source of honey
So why should they turn on me?
Tomorrow I will be sweet God, I will set them free.
The box is only temporary.
John Donne |
WHOEVER comes to shroud me do not harm
Nor question much
That subtle wreath of hair about mine arm;
The mystery the sign you must not touch
For 'tis my outward soul 5
Viceroy to that which unto heav'n being gone
Will leave this to control
And keep these limbs her provinces from dissolution.
For if the sinewy thread my brain lets fall
Through every part 10
Can tie those parts and make me one of all;
Those hairs which upward grew and strength and art
Have from a better brain
Can better do 't: except she meant that I
By this should know my pain 15
As prisoners then are manacled when they're condemn'd to die.
Whate'er she meant by 't bury it with me
For since I am
Love's martyr it might breed idolatry
If into other hands these reliques came.
As 'twas humility
T' afford to it all that a soul can do
So 'tis some bravery
That since you would have none of me I bury some of you.
William Cullen Bryant |
LET me move slowly through the street
Filled with an ever-shifting train
Amid the sound of steps that beat
The murmuring walks like autumn rain.
How fast the flitting figures come! 5
The mild the fierce the stony face;
Some bright with thoughtless smiles and some
Where secret tears have left their trace.
They pass¡ªto toil to strife to rest;
To halls in which the feast is spread; 10
To chambers where the funeral guest
In silence sits beside the dead.
And some to happy homes repair
Where children pressing cheek to cheek
With mute caresses shall declare 15
The tenderness they cannot speak.
And some who walk in calmness here
Shall shudder as they reach the door
Where one who made their dwelling dear
Its flower its light is seen no more.
Youth with pale cheek and slender frame
And dreams of greatness in thine eye!
Go'st thou to build an early name
Or early in the task to die?
Keen son of trade with eager brow! 25
Who is now fluttering in thy snare?
Thy golden fortunes tower they now
Or melt the glittering spires in air?
Who of this crowd to-night shall tread
The dance till daylight gleam again? 30
Who sorrow o'er the untimely dead?
Who writhe in throes of mortal pain?
Some famine-struck shall think how long
The cold dark hours how slow the light;
And some who flaunt amid the throng 35
Shall hide in dens of shame to-night.
Each where his tasks or pleasures call
They pass and heed each other not.
There is who heeds who holds them all
In His large love and boundless thought.
These struggling tides of life that seem
In wayward aimless course to tend
Are eddies of the mighty stream
That rolls to its appointed end.
Langston Hughes |
Where did they get
Them two fine cars?
Insurance man, he did not pay--
His insurance lapsed the other day--
Yet they got a satin box
for his head to lay.
Who was it sent
That wreath of flowers?
Them flowers came
from that poor boy's friends--
They'll want flowers, too,
When they meet their ends.
Who preached that
Black boy to his grave?
Old preacher man
Preached that boy away--
Charged Five Dollars
His girl friend had to pay.
When it was all over
And the lid shut on his head
and the organ had done played
and the last prayers been said
and six pallbearers
Carried him out for dead
And off down Lenox Avenue
That long black hearse done sped,
The street light
At his corner
Shined just like a tear--
That boy that they was mournin'
Was so dear, so dear
To them folks that brought the flowers,
To that girl who paid the preacher man--
It was all their tears that made
That poor boy's
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow |
In that desolate land and lone,
Where the Big Horn and Yellowstone
Roar down their mountain path,
By their fires the Sioux Chiefs
Muttered their woes and griefs
And the menace of their wrath.
"Revenge!" cried Rain-in-the-Face,
"Revenue upon all the race
Of the White Chief with yellow hair!"
And the mountains dark and high
From their crags re-echoed the cry
Of his anger and despair.
In the meadow, spreading wide
By woodland and riverside
The Indian village stood;
All was silent as a dream,
Save the rushing a of the stream
And the blue-jay in the wood.
In his war paint and his beads,
Like a bison among the reeds,
In ambush the Sitting Bull
Lay with three thousand braves
Crouched in the clefts and caves,
Into the fatal snare
The White Chief with yellow hair
And his three hundred men
Dashed headlong, sword in hand;
But of that gallant band
Not one returned again.
The sudden darkness of death
Overwhelmed them like the breath
And smoke of a furnace fire:
By the river's bank, and between
The rocks of the ravine,
They lay in their bloody attire.
But the foemen fled in the night,
And Rain-in-the-Face, in his flight
Uplifted high in air
As a ghastly trophy, bore
The brave heart, that beat no more,
Of the White Chief with yellow hair.
Whose was the right and the wrong?
Sing it, O funeral song,
With a voice that is full of tears,
And say that our broken faith
Wrought all this ruin and scathe,
In the Year of a Hundred Years.
Mark Strand |
For Sharon Horvath
From the shadow of domes in the city of domes,
A snowflake, a blizzard of one, weightless, entered your room
And made its way to the arm of the chair where you, looking up
From your book, saw it the moment it landed.
That's all There was to it.
No more than a solemn waking
To brevity, to the lifting and falling away of attention, swiftly,
A time between times, a flowerless funeral.
No more than that
Except for the feeling that this piece of the storm,
Which turned into nothing before your eyes, would come back,
That someone years hence, sitting as you are now, might say:
The air is ready.
The sky has an opening.
Andrew Barton Paterson |
It was shearing time at the Myall Lake,
And then rose the sound through the livelong day
Of the constant clash that the shear-blades make
When the fastest shearers are making play;
But there wasn't a man in the shearers' lines
That could shear a sheep with the two Devines.
They had rung the sheds of the east and west,
Had beaten the cracks of the Walgett side,
And the Cooma shearers had given them best --
When they saw them shear, they were satisfied.
From the southern slopes to the western pines
They were noted men, were the two Devines.
'Twas a wether flock that had come to hand,
Great struggling brutes, that shearers shirk,
For the fleece was filled with the grass and sand,
And seventy sheep was a big day's work.
"At a pound a hundred it's dashed hard lines
To shear such sheep," said the two Devines.
But the shearers knew that they's make a cheque
When they came to deal with the station ewes;
They were bare of belly and bare of neck
With a fleece as light as a kangaroo's.
"We will show the boss how a shear-blade shines
When we reach those ewes," said the two Devines.
But it chanced next day, when the stunted pines
Were swayed and stirred by the dawn-wind's breath,
That a message came for the two Devines
That their father lay at the point of death.
So away at speed through the whispering pines
Down the bridle-track rode the two Devines.
It was fifty miles to their father's hut,
And the dawn was bright when they rode away;
At the fall of night, when the shed was shut
And the men had rest from the toilsome day,
To the shed once more through the darkening pines
On their weary steeds came the two Devines.
"Well, you're back right sudden,"the super said;
"Is the old man dead and the funeral done?"
"Well, no sir, he ain't not exactly dead,
But as good as dead," said the eldest son --
"And we couldn't bear such a chance to lose,
So we came straight back to tackle the ewes.
They are shearing ewes at the Myall Lake,
And the shed is merry the livelong day
With the clashing sound that the shear-blades make
When the fastest shearers are making play;
And a couple of "hundred and ninety-nines"
Are the tallies made by the two Devines.
Henry Lawson |
Jack Denver died on Talbragar when Christmas Eve began,
And there was sorrow round the place, for Denver was a man;
Jack Denver's wife bowed down her head -- her daughter's grief was wild,
And big Ben Duggan by the bed stood sobbing like a child.
But big Ben Duggan saddled up, and galloped fast and far,
To raise the longest funeral ever seen on Talbragar.
By station home
And shearing shed
Ben Duggan cried, `Jack Denver's dead!
Roll up at Talbragar!'
He borrowed horses here and there, and rode all Christmas Eve,
And scarcely paused a moment's time the mournful news to leave;
He rode by lonely huts and farms, and when the day was done
He turned his panting horse's head and rode to Ross's Run.
No bushman in a single day had ridden half so far
Since Johnson brought the doctor to his wife at Talbragar.
By diggers' camps
Ben Duggan sped --
At each he cried, `Jack Denver's dead!
Roll up at Talbragar!'
That night he passed the humpies of the splitters on the ridge,
And roused the bullock-drivers camped at Belinfante's Bridge;
And as he climbed the ridge again the moon shone on the rise;
The soft white moonbeams glistened in the tears that filled his eyes;
He dashed the rebel drops away -- for blinding things they are --
But 'twas his best and truest friend who died on Talbragar.
At Blackman's Run
Before the dawn,
Ben Duggan cried, `Poor Denver's gone!
Roll up at Talbragar!'
At all the shanties round the place they'd heard his horse's tramp,
He took the track to Wilson's Luck, and told the diggers' camp;
But in the gorge by Deadman's Gap the mountain shades were black,
And there a newly-fallen tree was lying on the track --
He saw too late, and then he heard the swift hoof's sudden jar,
And big Ben Duggan ne'er again rode home to Talbragar.
`The wretch is drunk,
And Denver's dead --
A burning shame!' the people said
Next day at Talbragar.
For thirty miles round Talbragar the boys rolled up in strength,
And Denver had a funeral a good long mile in length;
Round Denver's grave that Christmas day rough bushmen's eyes were dim --
The western bushmen knew the way to bury dead like him;
But some returning homeward found, by light of moon and star,
Ben Duggan dying in the rocks, five miles from Talbragar.
They knelt around,
He raised his head
And faintly gasped, `Jack Denver's dead,
Roll up at Talbragar!'
But one short hour before he died he woke to understand,
They told him, when he asked them, that the funeral was `grand';
And then there came into his eyes a strange victorious light,
He smiled on them in triumph, and his great soul took its flight.
And still the careless bushmen tell by tent and shanty bar
How Duggan raised a funeral years back on Talbragar.
And far and wide
When Duggan died,
The bushmen of the western side
Rode in to Talbragar.
Randall Jarrell |
Moving from Cheer to Joy, from Joy to All,
I take a box
And add it to my wild rice, my Cornish game hens.
The slacked or shorted, basketed, identical
Are selves I overlook.
Wisdom, said William James,
Is learning what to overlook.
And I am wise
If that is wisdom.
Yet somehow, as I buy All from these shelves
And the boy takes it to my station wagon,
What I've become
Troubles me even if I shut my eyes.
When I was young and miserable and pretty
And poor, I'd wish
What all girls wish: to have a husband,
A house and children.
Now that I'm old, my wish
That the boy putting groceries in my car
It bewilders me he doesn't see me.
For so many years
I was good enough to eat: the world looked at me
And its mouth watered.
How often they have undressed me,
The eyes of strangers!
And, holding their flesh within my flesh, their vile
Imaginings within my imagining,
I too have taken
The chance of life.
Now the boy pats my dog
And we start home.
Now I am good.
The last mistaken,
Ecstatic, accidental bliss, the blind
Happiness that, bursting, leaves upon the palm
Some soap and water--
It was so long ago, back in some Gay
Twenties, Nineties, I don't know .
Today I miss
My lovely daughter
Away at school, my sons away at school,
My husband away at work--I wish for them.
The dog, the maid,
And I go through the sure unvarying days
At home in them.
As I look at my life,
I am afraid
Only that it will change, as I am changing:
I am afraid, this morning, of my face.
It looks at me
From the rear-view mirror, with the eyes I hate,
The smile I hate.
Its plain, lined look
Of gray discovery
Repeats to me: "You're old.
" That's all, I'm old.
And yet I'm afraid, as I was at the funeral
I went to yesterday.
My friend's cold made-up face, granite among its flowers,
Her undressed, operated-on, dressed body
Were my face and body.
As I think of her and I hear her telling me
How young I seem; I am exceptional;
I think of all I have.
But really no one is exceptional,
No one has anything, I'm anybody,
I stand beside my grave
Confused with my life, that is commonplace and solitary.
Ogden Nash |
In Baltimore there lived a boy.
He wasn't anybody's joy.
Although his name was Jabez Dawes,
His character was full of flaws.
In school he never led his classes,
He hid old ladies' reading glasses,
His mouth was open when he chewed,
And elbows to the table glued.
He stole the milk of hungry kittens,
And walked through doors marked NO ADMITTANCE.
He said he acted thus because
There wasn't any Santa Claus.
Another trick that tickled Jabez
Was crying 'Boo' at little babies.
He brushed his teeth, they said in town,
Sideways instead of up and down.
Yet people pardoned every sin,
And viewed his antics with a grin,
Till they were told by Jabez Dawes,
'There isn't any Santa Claus!'
Deploring how he did behave,
His parents swiftly sought their grave.
They hurried through the portals pearly,
And Jabez left the funeral early.
Like whooping cough, from child to child,
He sped to spread the rumor wild:
'Sure as my name is Jabez Dawes
There isn't any Santa Claus!'
Slunk like a weasel of a marten
Through nursery and kindergarten,
Whispering low to every tot,
'There isn't any, no there's not!'
The children wept all Christmas eve
And Jabez chortled up his sleeve.
No infant dared hang up his stocking
For fear of Jabez' ribald mocking.
He sprawled on his untidy bed,
Fresh malice dancing in his head,
When presently with scalp-a-tingling,
Jabez heard a distant jingling;
He heard the crunch of sleigh and hoof
Crisply alighting on the roof.
What good to rise and bar the door?
A shower of soot was on the floor.
What was beheld by Jabez Dawes?
The fireplace full of Santa Claus!
Then Jabez fell upon his knees
With cries of 'Don't,' and 'Pretty Please.
He howled, 'I don't know where you read it,
But anyhow, I never said it!'
'Jabez' replied the angry saint,
'It isn't I, it's you that ain't.
Although there is a Santa Claus,
There isn't any Jabez Dawes!'
Said Jabez then with impudent vim,
'Oh, yes there is, and I am him!
Your magic don't scare me, it doesn't'
And suddenly he found he wasn't!
From grimy feet to grimy locks,
Jabez became a Jack-in-the-box,
An ugly toy with springs unsprung,
Forever sticking out his tongue.
The neighbors heard his mournful squeal;
They searched for him, but not with zeal.
No trace was found of Jabez Dawes,
Which led to thunderous applause,
And people drank a loving cup
And went and hung their stockings up.
All you who sneer at Santa Claus,
Beware the fate of Jabez Dawes,
The saucy boy who mocked the saint.
Donner and Blitzen licked off his paint.