The Dread Voyage Poems

by William Wilfred Campbell


 

THE DEAD LEADER


JUNE 10, 1891

            LET the sad drums mutter low,
            And the serried ranks move slow,
And the thousand hearts beat hushed along the street;
            For a mighty heart is still,
            And a great, unconquered will,
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Hath passed to meet the conqueror all must meet.

            Outworn without assoil
            From a great life’s lengthened toil,
Laurelled with a half a century’s fame;
            From the care and adulation
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            To the heart-throb of the nation
He hath passed to be a memory and a name.

            With banners draped and furled,
            ‘Mid the sorrow of a world,
We lay him down with fitting pomp and state,
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            With slumber in his breast,
            To his long, eternal rest
We lay him down, this man who made us great.

            Him of the wider vision,
            Who had one hope, elysian,
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To mould a mighty empire toward the west;
            Who through the hostile years,
            ‘Mid the wrangling words, like spears,
Still bore this titan vision in his breast.

            God gave this highest honour
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            To the nation, that upon her
He was spared to lay the magic of his hand;
            Then to live to see the greatness
            Of his noble works, completeness,
Then to pass to rest belovèd by his land.
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            We stand at death’s dim gates
            Where his mighty soul awaits
Somewhere the long, long silence of the years.
            And the marble of his lips
            Doth all our woe eclipse,
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Death’s awful peace rolls back upon our tears.

            Greater than all sorrow
            That our hearts can borrow;
Loftier than our fleeting, human praise,
            He hath calmness, great and grim,
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            That death hath granted him,
The wisest and the mightiest of our days.

            Let the sad drums mutter low,
            And the serried ranks move slow,
And the thousand hearts beat hushed along the street;
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            For a mighty heart is still,
            And a great, unconquered will,
Hath passed to meet the conqueror all must meet.