Posts Tagged ‘mourning’

There was a Boy; ye knew him well, ye cliffs
And islands of Winander! many a time,
At evening, when the earliest stars began
To move along the edges of the hills,
Rising or setting, would he stand alone,
Beneath the trees, or by the glimmering lake;
And there, with fingers interwoven, both hands
Pressed closely palm to palm and to his mouth
Uplifted, he, as through an instrument,
Blew mimic hootings to the silent owls
That they might answer him – And they would shout
Across the watery vale, and shout again,
Responsive to his call,  – with quivering peals,
And long halloos, and screams, and echoes loud
Redoubled and redoubled; concourse wild
Of jocund din! And, when there came a pause
Of silence such as baffled his best skill:
Then, sometimes, in that silence, while he hung
Listening, a gentle shock of mild surprise
Has carried far into his heart the voice
Of mountain-torrents; or the visible scene
Would enter unawares into his mind
With all its solemn imagery, its rocks,
Its woods, and that uncertain heaven received
Into the bosom of the steady lake.

This boy was taken from his mates, and died
In childhood, ere he was full twelve years old.
Pre-eminent in beauty is the vale
Where he was born and bred: the churchyard hangs
Upon a slope above the village-school;
And through that churchyard when my way has led
On summer-evenings, I believe that there
A long half-hour together I have stood
Mute – looking at the grave in which he lies!


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The wind flapped loose, the wind was still,
Shaken out dead from tree and hill:
I had walked on at the wind’s will, –
I saw now, for the wind was still.

Between my knees my forehead was, –
My lips, drawn in, said not Alas!
My hair was over in the grass,
My naked ears heard the day pass.

My eyes, wide open, had the run
Of some ten weeds to fix upon;
Among those few, out of the sun,
The woodspurge flowered, three cups in one.

From perfect grief there need not be
Wisdom or even memory:
One thing then learnt remains to me, –
The woodspurge has a cup of three.






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“The wind doth blow today, my love,
And a few small drops of rain;
I never had but one true-love,
In cold grave she was lain.

I’ll do as much for my true-love
As any young man may;
I’ll sit and mourn all at her grave
For a twelvemonth and a day.”

The twelvemonth and a day being up,
The dead began to speak:
“Oh who sits weeping on my grave,
And will not let me sleep?”

“‘Tis, I, my love, sits on your grave,
And I will not let you sleep;
For I crave one kiss of your clay-cold lips,
And that is all I seek.”

“You crave one kiss of my clay-cold lips;
But my breath smells earthy strong;
If you have one kiss of my clay-cold lips,
Your time will not be long.

‘Tis down in yonder garden green,
Love, where we used to walk,
The finest flower that ere was seen
Is withered to a stalk.

The stalk is withered dry, my love,
So will our hearts decay;
So make yourself content, my love,
Till God calls you away.”

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She will not smile;
She will not stir;
I marvel while
I look on her.
……The lips are chilly
……And will not speak;
The ghost of a lily
……In either cheek.

Her hair – ah me!
Her hair – her hair!
How helplessly
My hands go there!
……But my caresses
……Meet not hers,
O golden tresses
……That thread my tears!

I kiss the eyes
On either lid,
Where her love lies
Forever hid.
……I cease my weeping
……And smile and say:
I will be sleeping
……Thus, some day!

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At Chancellorsville, the light was all but lost,
Except the stars that peered out o’er the dead
Who had no twinkle left; their holocaust
A battlefield which was, this night, their bed. 

The General rode out into the night
To scout himself the land before his men.
Returning, friendly fire from blinded fright
Stung thrice the Bull Run Battle’s paladin. 

He could not walk the way because he bled
His strength from shoulder and a useless arm.
A stretcher manned by friendly men instead
Moved him, but one drop caused his ribs some harm.

The arm went first; that seemed to be enough –
A sacrifice acceptable to Death.
But Death said no, in voice grim and gruff,
And Jackson’s light was lost in his last breath. 

Though Chancellorsville was its great victory,
Black draped the Gray in mourning o’er the cost
That none more keenly felt than Robert Lee
Who knew that for his own eyes light was lost. 

And like the life of Jackson ebbed away
So, too, did Southern hopes begin to fade.
And at the end, the General and the Gray
Less life and cause, were in a grave both laid.



© Dennis Lange and thebardonthehill.wordpress.com, 2016.



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Afternoon In February

The day is ending,
The night is descending;
The marsh is frozen,
The river dead. 

Through clouds like ashes
The red sun flashes
On village windows
That glimmer red. 

The snow recommences;
The buried fences
Mark no longer
The road o’er the plain; 

While through the meadows,
Like fearful shadows
Slowly passes
A funeral train. 

The bell is pealing,
And every feeling
Within me responds
To the dismal knell; 

Shadows are trailing,
My heart is bewailing
And tolling within
Like a funeral bell.

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            The Latter Date

A mourner walks among the stones
    That mark where loved ones lie –
At least their bodies – empty shells
    They no more occupy. 

He makes occas’nal pilgrimage
   To this quiet meeting place,
Where only wind dares make a sound,
   As leaves blow o’er its face. 

He stands; he stares; he stoops beside
   The plot, and there he lays
Small token of lamenting love,
   Heart-broken death bouquets. 

He gazes on the lettering,
    Life written as a dash,
And rues the latter date he sees;
    Upon his heart a gash. 

His hands reach down to touch the stone,
    Words that are written there;
His fingers softly trace the name,
   As if a cheek that’s fair. 

He stands at last, surveys the scene;
   Looks down once more and sighs;
He toes the dirt; kicks, wistful, twice –
   There’s nothing but goodbyes, 

What draws him here where nothing dwells
   What links him to this place?
The dash is in his memory
    And in the grave – the trace.


© Dennis Lange and thebardonthehill.wordpress.com, 2013.


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