Monday, May 12, 2014

"The Old Churchyard" (1853)


When the urns shone on the belfry,

        O'er the sighing churchyard trees,

And the melancholy music

        Floated faintly down the breeze,

Did there flit across your spirit

        Any reveries like these?—

In the shadow of the spire,

        How the human tide waves roll—

Endless toil by endless quiet!

        And the bells more often toll

At the passing of life's sorrows

        Than the passing of the soul.

Who can tell what hope and passion

        In these churchyard spaces rest?

Swells the green grave now as gently

        As once swelled their heaving breast;

Deep as love burned in their bosom,

        Burns the sunset in the west.

Are the bells of twilight ringing

        Marriage music as of old?

Does the bride glide to the altar

        O'er the moonlight's gleam of gold?

Or is it for ghostly funerals

        That a solemn knell is tolled?

Ah, how vain our deepest longings

        To behold those spirits are!

Vain to strain our aching vision

        To the orb which shines afar;

We can only catch the outline

        And the brightness of the star.

In my heart are gravestones lying,

        That will ope their portals soon;

For the ghosts rise in that churchyard

        With the rising of the moon—

And as mournful is the music

        In December as in June.

Albany Evening Journal. December 17, 1853: 2 col 7.

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