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In Remembrance Of Joseph Sturge

In the fair land o'erwatched by Ischia's mountains,
Across the charmed bay
Whose blue waves keep with Capri's silver fountains
Perpetual holiday,

A king lies dead, his wafer duly eaten,
His gold-bought masses given;
And Rome's great altar smokes with gums to sweeten
Her foulest gift to Heaven.

And while all Naples thrills with mute thanksgiving,
The court of England's queen
For the dead monster so abhorred while living
In mourning garb is seen.

With a true sorrow God rebukes that feigning;
By lone Edgbaston's side
Stands a great city in the sky's sad raining,
Bareheaded and wet-eyed!

Silent for once the restless hive of labor,
Save the low funeral tread,
Or voice of craftsman whispering to his neighbor
The good deeds of the dead.

For him no minster's chant of the immortals
Rose from the lips of sin;
No mitred priest swung back the heavenly portals
To let the white soul in.

But Age and Sickness framed their tearful faces
In the low hovel's door,
And prayers went up from all the dark by-places
And Ghettos of the poor.

The pallid toiler and the negro chattel,
The vagrant of the street,
The human dice wherewith in games of battle
The lords of earth compete,

Touched with a grief that needs no outward draping,
All swelled the long lament,
Of grateful hearts, instead of marble, shaping
His viewless monument!

For never yet, with ritual pomp and splendor,
In the long heretofore,
A heart more loyal, warm, and true, and tender,
Has England's turf closed o'er.

And if there fell from out her grand old steeples
No crash of brazen wail,
The murmurous woe of kindreds, tongues, and peoples
Swept in on every gale.

It came from Holstein's birchen-belted meadows,
And from the tropic calms
Of Indian islands in the sunlit shadows
Of Occidental palms;

From the locked roadsteads of the Bothniaii peasants,
And harbors of the Finn,
Where war's worn victims saw his gentle presence
Come sailing, Christ-like, in,

To seek the lost, to build the old waste places,
To link the hostile shores
Of severing seas, and sow with England's daisies
The moss of Finland's moors.

Thanks for the good man's beautiful example,
Who in the vilest saw
Some sacred crypt or altar of a temple
Still vocal with God's law;

And heard with tender ear the spirit sighing
As from its prison cell,
Praying for pity, like the mournful crying
Of Jonah out of hell.

Not his the golden pen's or lip's persuasion,
But a fine sense of right,
And Truth's directness, meeting each occasion
Straight as a line of light.

His faith and works, like streams that intermingle,
In the same channel ran
The crystal clearness of an eye kept single
Shamed all the frauds of man.

The very gentlest of all human natures
He joined to courage strong,
And love outreaching unto all God's creatures
With sturdy hate of wrong.

Tender as woman, manliness and meekness
In him were so allied
That they who judged him by his strength or weakness
Saw but a single side.

Men failed, betrayed him, but his zeal seemed nourished
By failure and by fall;
Still a large faith in human-kind he cherished,
And in God's love for all.

And now he rests: his greatness and his sweetness
No more shall seem at strife,
And death has moulded into calm completeness
The statue of his life.

Where the dews glisten and the songbirds warble,
His dust to dust is laid,
In Nature's keeping, with no pomp of marble
To shame his modest shade.

The forges glow, the hammers all are ringing;
Beneath its smoky vale,
Hard by, the city of his love is swinging
Its clamorous iron flail.

But round his grave are quietude and beauty,
And the sweet heaven above,--
The fitting symbols of a life of duty
Transfigured into love!

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:20 min read
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John Greenleaf Whittier

John Greenleaf Whittier was an influential American Quaker poet and ardent advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States. more…

All John Greenleaf Whittier poems | John Greenleaf Whittier Books

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