LYRICS

—ON—

FREEDOM, LOVE AND DEATH


By

GEORGE FREDERICK CAMERON



 

Lyrics on Death.


Draw the dread curtain and enter in!—
     In o’er the threshold the millions have trod:
Lose but the dust of the balance, and win—
     What a moment ago was the secret of God!

September, 1885.  [Page 249]

 


 

AN ANSWER.


“Can it be good to die?” you question, friend;
     “Can it be good to die, and move along
Still circling round and round, unknowing end,
     Still circling round and round amid the throng
Of golden orbs attended by their moons—

5

     To catch the intonation of their song
As on they flash, and scatter nights, and noons,
     To worlds like ours, where things like us belong?”

To me ’tis idle saying, “He is dead.”
     Or, “Now he sleepeth and shall wake no more;

10

The little flickering, fluttering life is fled,
     Forever fled, and all that was is o’er.”
I have a faith—that life and death are one,
     That each depends upon the self-same thread,
And that the seen and unseen rivers run

15

     To one calm sea, from one clear fountain head. [Page 250]

I have a faith—that man’s most potent mind
     May cross the willow-shaded stream nor sink;
I have a faith—when he has left behind
     His earthly vesture on the river’s brink,

20

When all his little fears are torn away,
     His soul may beat a pathway through the tide,
And, disencumbered of its coward-clay,
     Emerge immortal on the sunnier side.

So, say:—it must be good to die, my friend!

25

     It must be good and more than good, I deem;
’Tis all the replication I may send—
     For deeper swimming seek a deeper stream.
It must be good or reason is a cheat,
     It must be good or life is all a lie,

30

It must be good and more than living sweet,
     It must be good—or man would never die.

Boston, April, 1878.  [Page 251]

 


 

REST.*


Of that deep sorrow that befel
     Even yet I cannot calmly speak,—
When we who knew and loved him well,
     And saw the roses on his cheek
                                        Fade week by week,

5


Stood by his bed, and knew that One,
     Unseen, beside us held a place,
And waited but for set of sun
     To lay cold hand upon his face
                                         And steal its grace: [Page 252]

10


And knew that One but waited near
     To seal the eloquent, loving lips;
To rob the spirit of its dear
     Earth robe,—from heart to finger-tips
                                          To make eclipse.

15


And knew the all that we had need
     To know—that God had need of him:
And some there seemed to see, indeed,
     The sweet fair forms of seraphim
                                         Winged, moving dim

20


About the couch whereon he lay
     Who yesterday was in the bloom
Of youth and strength,—but yesterday!—
     And round about the darkened room,
                                         And through the gloom. [Page 253]

25


I scarce can calmly speak, though years
     Have touched me since, of him and all
The alternating hopes and fears
     That swayed us, till the golden ball
                                         Of day did fall:

30


And Death and Night, his sister, met
     And came together to the bed;
Ah! Love was vain as amulet
     To drive the harpies from his head,
                                         Or they had fled.

35


They came—twin Night and Death—they came,
     And on his veins their fingers prest,
And calmed the blood that was as flame,
     And stilled the beating of his breast,
                                         And gave him rest! [Page 254]

40


* In memoriam of Charles Pritchett.—Died June 10th, 1874. [back]

 


 

SHELLEY.


I.


“Dust unto dust?” No, spirit unto spirit
     For thee, beloved! for thou wert all fire,
     All luminous flame, all passionate desire,
All things that mighty beings do inherit,
     All things that mighty beings do require.

5

“Dust unto dust?” Ah, no! Thou did’st respire
     In such a high and holy atmosphere,
     Where clouds are not, but calms, and all things clear,—
Not one like ours, but purer far and higher,—
Thou did’st not know of dust. How “dust to dust” then here?

10
[Page 255]

II.


Spirit to spirit, be it! Thou wert born
     An heir apparent to the throne of mind.
     It lessens not thy right that some were blind,
And looked on thee and fixt a lip of scorn,
     And threw on thee the venom of their kind:

15

Thou wert a brother to the sun and wind,
     And it is meet that thou art of them now.
     I see thee standing, with thy godlike brow
High-arched and star-lit, upwardly inclined,
While at thy feet the singers of sweet song do bow.

20

III.


For spirits are not as men: these did not know
     An angel had been with them on the earth,—
     A singer who had caused a glorious birth
Of glorious after-singers here below,—
     Where much was sung and little sung of worth.

25

I see the stars about thee as a girth,—
     The moon in splendor standing by thy side,
     And lesser moons that evermore do glide
About her circling, making songs of mirth,—
And o’er thy head supreme Apollo in his pride,— [Page 256]

30

IV.


Pleased with the homage that his children give thee,
     Remembering it as his, even as thou art;
     Knowing thy heart a portion of his heart,
And spreading forth his breast as to receive thee—
     Twin soul of his, that had been rent apart.

35

I leave to marts the language of the mart.
     Ashes to ashes say above the crust
     Of him who was but ashes,—it is just!
But over thee as homeward thou did’st start,
Spirit to spirit was true, and not “dust unto dust!”

40


March 21st, 1883.  [Page 257]

 


 

DEAD!


Dead! And the north wind whistles o’er the place
     Where they have left her in her youth and bloom,
The snow of winter heaped above her face,
So fairly spread it scarcely leaves a trace
     Even of her tomb!

5


Dead! And she leaned to life with such a love
     That death seemed more than hateful to her eye;
For though she never found a doubt to move
Or shake her faith in better things above,
     ’Twas hard to die! [Page 258]

10

 


 

UNTIMELY.*


Untimely! So we say, and sigh.
     Is any hour so then for rest!
Is any hour so then to die,
     When dying is being blest?

Not one! And though our dead may reach

5

     No hand to us, nor come and tell,
We have within a voice whose speech
     For death is ever—all is well!

This voice within, and all without
     Confirming it, affirming still

10

That past this ill, and death, and doubt,
     There is nor doubt, nor death, nor ill. [Page 259]

So wish her not from her repose,
     And ask her not!—though that were vain
As ’twere to ask a full blown rose

15

     To close and be a bud again.

And mourn not! She, where nothing mars
     The perfect rest, the perfect good,
Beyond the circle of the stars,
     Escaping nether womanhood,

20


With all the evils that attend,—
     Uncertain fortune, much annoy,
Attains at once the endless end—
     The peace, the palm, the calm, the joy.

Ay, there! beyond the burning track

25

     Of morn, where angel pinions stir,
She waits for us,—she comes not back,—
     She waits for us,—we go to her! [Page 260]


* In Memoriam of Annie Simpson Stewart, niece of the author.—C.J.C. [back]

 


 

*ON THE DEATH OF A CHILD.


Dear boy! yea, dear as if thy years
     Were many, thou art gone to rest
And with the happy in the spheres
     Allotted to the blest.

We miss thee sadly, yet, perchance,

5

     ’Tis well that thus our dream should lose
Its glory-mantle of romance,
     And all its gorgeous hues.

For, though our cup, being broken, holds
     Nor more for us hope’s holy wine,

10

We know that the Omnific folds
     Thee to his heart divine. [Page 261]

We read fair fortune for thee, read
     Enough of days and nights of joy,
With tropic suns and moons which shed

15

     A lustre o’er thee, boy!

We built for thee our castles fair,
     Proud, golden-turreted, sublime,
By steams which ran through pastures rare
     In our green island—Time.

20


But whil’st we read, and built, and plann’d,
     An angel came and wooed thee hence
And won thee from our lower land
     To God’s high eminence! [Page 262]


* Alfred, infant son of Lt. Col. McLelland Moore, and nephew of the author.—C.J.C. [back]

 


 

IN MEMORIAM.


     “LIEUT.-COL. MACLELLAND MOORE,* one of the first commissioned officers appointed by Governor Andrew for active service in the Rebellion.


*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *


     His name was a familiar one in old time military circles, with which his connection began thirty years ago (1852) as captain of the American Artillery, at the age of sixteen. At the outbreak of the Rebellion he went into service for the Union as Captain of Co. E in the “Old Eleventh”; subsequently he was promoted and transferred to the Twenty-Eighth Massachusetts as its Lieutenant Colonel.
     Of the value of his services the war records furnish due testimony, and broken health and long years of suffering bear evidences of his sacrifices. Possessing besides his sterling military qualities, an instinctive taste for science and literature, he blended with the love of duty the graces of a genial spirit.” —Boston Journal. [Page 263]



I.


O brother! dust and ashes! dust
     Upon the tongue so sweet in song,
Upon the lips so true, and just,
     And cunning to denounce the wrong:—
     And ashes in the hands so strong,

5

And swift to war it for the right;—
     And ashes on the heart so long
A thing of love, and life, and light!


II.


And can it be that he is dead
     Beside that river that I know?

10

And is there heaped upon his head
     The burthen of the New Time’s snow?
     And shall the seasons come and go,
And mellow moons still wax and wane,
     And birds still sing, and blossoms blow,

15

And we desire his voice in vain? [Page 264]


III.


And must we mingle with the crowd,
     While close the nights, and come the days,
And dream of one no more allowed
     To walk beside us in our ways;

20

     Or only look with upward gaze,
And hope beyond the mystic end
     To meet once more, without amaze,
The husband, brother, father, friend?


IV.


Yea, dreams of what did once befall,

25

     However dim the dreams, or old,
And hopes of what may be—are all
     These mortal hands of ours may hold.
     We have no more; the tale is told;
The wondrous web of life is spun;

30

     I look aloft—the stars are cold,
     But in the East I see the sun! [Page 265]


V.


And from the utmost heights I hear—
     Sheer down the waste of waveless sea,—
A voice that whispers in my ear

35

     That all that still is mist to me
     Is clear as noon to him, that he
May now, where cloud nor darkness mars,
     With eye that longed to see them—see
The solemn secrets of the stars!

40

VI.


So, let him sleep! The stir, the strife,
     The toil, the turmoil all are o’er;
He will not wake, nor leap to life,
     At saber-clash, or cannon roar;
     He takes the battlefield no more,

45

Nor wakes at any dawn of day,
     But, with his comrades passed before,
Waits the diviner Reveille!

January 24th, 1884.  [Page 266]


* The author’s brother-in-law.—C.J.C. [back]

 


 

DEATH.*


Dear friend, I know this world is kin,
     And all of hate is but a breath:
We all are friends, made perfect in
     Our near relationship by death.

And so, although it was not mine

5

     To meet thee in thy walk below,
Or know of thee till feet of thine
     Were on the hills no man can know;

For friendship’s sake I fain would bring
     A flower, or two, to thee to prove

10

That memory lives, that death’s sharp sting
     Hath still an antidote in love. [Page 267]


*          *          *          *          *          *        


Devoured by his desire of her
     The king, who ever loved her best,
     Hath stilled the billowing of her breast,

15

Hath kissed her so no pulse doth stir,
     But all of her doth lie at rest.

Then, knowing she may never now
     Wish any else, he takes his leave,
     And little recks how they may grieve

20

Who see the splendor of her brow
     Gleam ghastly through the gathering eve;

Who see her lying pale, supine,
     With wild red roses twined with fair
     About her throat, and in her hair,

25

And on her bosom,—all divine
     If but a little life were there.

Nor heeds he aught the sunless glooms
     And fair forms folded from the light
     In close graves crowded far from sight

30

In lone lands dedicate to tombs
     And scarce to starbeams known at night; [Page 268]

But goes his way; and as he goes
     Leaves that we hold as sorrow here,—
     The pain of parting and the tear,

35

The broken lily and the rose
     Down fallen with the fallen year.

Cold king, most lone and absolute!
     What maid would be desired of thee?
     From thy embrace who would not flee?

40

What though a monarch, being mute
     In love of thine what love could be?

Can any good be silent so?
     Be dumb, and do its work and pass
     Swift as an image in a glass?

45

Ah, all of good that we can know
     Thus comes to us, and leaves, alas!

While we, who have no key to ope
     Death’s cabinet of mysteries,
     Can only vainly strain our eyes,

50

And hold to heaven and that high hope
     That death is good in any guise! [Page 269]


*          *          *          *          *          *        


And if but slight to thee appear
     The tribute brought, now that thine eyes
May view through all the eternal year

55

     The fairer flowers of Paradise,—

If dim and all unworthy look
     The offering, yet remember well
We do not sleep by Eden’s brook,
     Or dream on beds of Asphodel:

60


So only bring the flowers that bloom
     Beside us, fresh enough and fair;
Enough to wither on thy tomb:
     And with our hearts—behold them there! [Page 270]


* In memoriam of Maggie Meagher. [back]

 


 

A YEAR AFTER.

A SONNET.


Who of us thought upon that gay May night,—
     That night of joy, and jollity, and cheer,—
     That two, within the circle of a year,
Two of our number should have passed from sight—
     Passed from this present to another sphere,—

5

Passed through death’s darkness out into life’s light?
Not one of us now living. Happy all,
     We wished not morn, nor sighed for yesterday:
We gave no thought to funeral pomp or pall,
     Or gnawing worm, or darkness, or decay.

10

Yet are they gone: and we, who yet remain,
     Grasp but this lesson: it is ever thus,—
Though pleasure drown awhile all thought of pain,
Though we forget of death, yet Death forgets not us.

Boston.  [Page 271]

 


 

IN MEMORIAM.*


I.


On many a heart a shadow falls,
     Where lay a line of light of yore,
For here, within the College walls,
     And there, beyond the College door,
     A friend—that time shall not restore,—

5

Is missing—leaving not a trace—
     Is missing, and forever more
Is missing from his wonted place!


II.


And as the sad world onward slips
     From hall to hall, from room to room,

10

The laughter freezes on our lips,
     And lo!—we speak of death and doom
     And grief comes in to us and gloom,—
With swift suggestions of a soul
     That waves at length a perfect plume,

15

Or waits—a winner—at the goal! [Page 272]


III.


And though he only seemed to dwell
     An instant with us, ere the Foe
Laid hand upon him and he fell,
     Down-smitten by a bitter blow,—

20

     We knew him; we were glad to know:
And these shall miss him in the class;
     And those shall miss him as they go
To meet their rivals on the grass.


IV.


And long his memory shall remain,

25

     And be amongst us and abide—
Though he shall not return again
     With any time, or any tide;
     For dark Death’s river is, and wide;
And long our eyes shall seek our friend

30

     Who wanders on the other side,—
Where we shall find him in the end!


Queen’s College, February 16th, 1884.
  [Page 273]


* John C. Macleod, Captain of Queen’s College Football Team. [back]

 


 

FROM THE SEA.

A FRAGMENT.


A voice comes in with the tide,—
     A voice that I should know;
And I fancy it that of the dead, who died
     Ah, me! so long ago.

With the solemn sigh of the sea

5

     The voice comes landward in:
And ever it seems to say to me—
     Death wins not—Life doth win! [Page 274]