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An Autograph

by
 I write my name as one, 
On sands by waves o'errun 
Or winter's frosted pane, 
Traces a record vain.
Oblivion's blankness claims Wiser and better names, And well my own may pass As from the strand or glass.
Wash on, O waves of time! Melt, noons, the frosty rime! Welcome the shadow vast, The silence that shall last! When I and all who know And love me vanish so, What harm to them or me Will the lost memory be? If any words of mine, Through right of life divine, Remain, what matters it Whose hand the message writ? Why should the "crowner's quest" Sit on my worst or best? Why should the showman claim The poor ghost of my name? Yet, as when dies a sound Its spectre lingers round, Haply my spent life will Leave some faint echo still.
A whisper giving breath Of praise or blame to death, Soothing or saddening such As loved the living much.
Therefore with yearnings vain And fond I still would fain A kindly judgment seek, A tender thought bespeak.
And, while my words are read, Let this at least be said: "Whate'er his life's defeatures, He loved his fellow-creatures.
"If, of the Law's stone table, To hold he scarce was able The first great precept fast, He kept for man the last.
"Through mortal lapse and dulness What lacks the Eternal Fulness, If still our weakness can Love Him in loving man? "Age brought him no despairing Of the world's future faring; In human nature still He found more good than ill.
"To all who dumbly suffered, His tongue and pen he offered; His life was not his own, Nor lived for self alone.
"Hater of din and riot He lived in days unquiet; And, lover of all beauty, Trod the hard ways of duty.
"He meant no wrong to any He sought the good of many, Yet knew both sin and folly, -- May God forgive him wholly!"

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