From the Book of Valentines

by Bliss Carman


 

A MAN'S LAST WORD


 

Death said to me,
"Three things I ask of thee;
And thy reply
Shall make thee or undo thee presently."

I said, "Say on, 

5

Lord Death, thy will be done. 
One answers now, 
To bribe and fear indifferent as thou."

He said, "Behold, 
My power is from of old. 

10

The drunken sea 
Is but a henchman and a serf to me.

"Hunger and war 
My tireless sleuth-hounds are. 
Before my nod 

15

The quailing nations have no help but God.

"What hast thou found, 
In one life's little round, 
Stronger than these?" 
I said, "One little hand-touch of Marie's."

20

He said, "Again:
Of all brave sights to men—
The glittering rain,
A towering city in an autumn plain,

"An eagle's flight,

25

A beacon-fire at night,
The harvest moon,
The burnish of a marching host at noon— 

"What hast thou seen 
In one life's small demesne, 

30

Fairer than these?"
I said, "That supple body of Marie's."

He said, "Once more:
Of all men labour for,
Battle and yearn,

35

And spend their blessed days without return— 

"Leisure or wealth,
Or power or sun-tanned health,
A bruited name,
Or the sad solace of a little fame—

40


"What hast thou known, 
In one life's narrow zone, 
Dearer than these?" 
I said, "One little love-kiss of Marie's."

And then Death said,

45
"To-day among the dead
Thou shalt go down,
And with the wise receive thy just renown."