The Monument of GreeleyRead at the Unveiling of the Bust surmounting the Printers’ Monument to Horace Greeley, Greenwood Cemetery, December 4, 1876
Once more, dear mother Earth, we stand In reverence where thy bounty gave Our brother, yielded to thy hand, The sweet protection of the grave! Well hast thou soothed him through the years, The years our love and sorrow number,— And with thy smiles, and with thy tears, Made green and fair his place of slumber. Thine be the keeping of that trust; And ours this image, born of Art To shine above his hidden dust, What time the sunrise breezes part The trees, and with new life enwreathe Yon head,—until the lips are golden, And from them music seems to breathe As from the desert statue olden. Would it were so! that now we might Hear once his uttered voice again, Or hold him present to our sight, Nor reach with empty hands and vain! O that, from some far place, were heard One cadence of his speech returning,— A whispered tone, a single word, Sent back in answer to our yearning! It may not be? What then the spark, The essence which illumed the whole And made his living form its mark And outward likeness? What the soul That warmed the heart and poised the head, And spoke the thoughts we now inherit? Bright force of fire and ether bred,— Where art thou now, elusive Spirit? Where, now, the sunburst of a love Which blended still with sudden wrath To nerve the righteous hand that strove, And blaze in the oppressor's path? Fair Earth, our dust is thine indeed! Too soon he reached the voiceless portal,— That whither leads? Where lies the mead He gained, and knew himself immortal? Or, tell us, on what distant star, Where even as here are toil and wrong, With strength renewed he lifts afar A voice of aid, a war-cry strong? What fruit, this stern Olympiad past, Has that rich nature elsewhere yielded, What conquest gained and knowledge vast, What kindred beings loved and shielded! Why seek to know? he little sought, Himself, to lift the close-drawn veil, Nor for his own salvation wrought And pleaded, ay, and wore his mail; No selfish grasp of life, no fear, Won for mankind his ceaseless caring, But for themselves he held them dear,— Their birth and shrouded exit sharing. Not his the feverish will to live A sunnier life, a longer space, Save that the Eternal Law might give The boon in common to his race. Earth, 't was thy heaven he loved, and best Thy precious offspring, man and woman, And labor for them seemed but rest To him, whose nature was so human. Even here his spirit haply longed To stay, remembered by our kind, And where the haunts of men are thronged Move yet among them. Seek and find A presence, though his voice has ceased, Still, even where we dwell, remaining, With all its tenderest thrills increased And all it cared to ask obtaining. List, how the varied things that took The impress of his passion rare Make answer! To the roadways look, The watered vales, the hamlets fair. He walks unseen the living woods, The fields, the town, the shaded borough, And in the pastoral solitudes Delights to view the lengthening furrow. The faithful East that cradled him, Still, while she deems her nurseling sleeps, Sits by his couch with vision dim; The plenteous West his feast-day keeps; The wistful South recalls the ways Of one who in his love enwound her, And stayed her, in the evil days, With arms of comfort thrown around her. He lives wherever men to men In perilous hours his words repeat, Where clangs the forge, where glides the pen, Where toil and traffic crowd the street; And in whatever time or place Earth's purest souls their purpose strengthen, Down the broad pathway of his race The shadow of his name shall lengthen. "Still with us!" all the liegemen cry Who read his heart and held him dear; The hills declare "He shall not die!" The prairies answer "He is here!" Immortal thus, no dread of fate Be ours, no vain memento mori: Life, Life, not Death, we celebrate,— A lasting presence touched with glory. The star may vanish,—but a ray, Sent forth, what mandate can recall? The circling wave still keeps its way That marked a turret's seaward fall; The least of music's uttered strains Is part of Nature's voice forever; And aye beyond the grave remains The great, the good man's high endeavor! Well may the brooding Earth retake The form we knew, to be a part Of bloom and herbage, fern and brake, New lives that from her being start. Naught of the soul shall there remain: They came on void and darkness solely Who the veiled Spirit sought in vain Within the temple's shrine Most Holy. That, that, has found again the source From which itself to us was lent: The Power that, in perpetual course, Makes of the dust an instrument Supreme; the universal Soul; The current infinite and single Wherein, as ages onward roll, Life, Thought, and Will forever mingle. What more is left, to keep our hold On him who was so true and strong? This semblance, raised above the mould With offerings of word and song, That men may teach, in aftertime, Their sons how goodness marked the features Of one whose life was made sublime By service for his brother creatures. And last, and lordliest, his fame,— A station in the sacred line Of heroes that have left a name We conjure with,—a place divine, Since, in the world's eternal plan, Divinity itself is given, To him who lives or dies for Man And looks within his soul for Heaven.
Edmund Clarence Stedman’s other poems:
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