WHAT is it that is dead?
by Augusta Davies Webster
Somewhere there is a grave, and something lies
Cold in the ground, and stirs not for my sighs,
Nor songs that I can make, nor smiles from me,
Nor tenderest foolish words that I have said;
Something that was has hushed, and will not be.
Did it go yesterday?
Or did it wane away with the old years?
There hath not been farewell, nor watchers' tears,
Nor hopes, nor vain reprieves, nor strife with death,
Nor lingering in a meted out delay;
None closed the eyes nor felt the latest breath.
But, be there joyous skies,
It is not in their sunshine; in the night
It is not in the silence, and the light
Of all the silver stars; the flowers asleep
Dream no more of it, nor their morning eyes
Betray the secrets it has bidden them keep.
Birds that go singing now
Forget it and leave sweetness meaningless;
The fitful nightingale, that feigns distress
To sing it all away, flows on by rote;
The seeking lark, in very heaven, I trow,
Shall find no memory to inform her note.
The voices of the shore
Chime not with it for burden; in the wood,
Where it has soul of the vast solitude,
It hath forsook the stillness; dawn and day
And the deep-thoughted dusk know it no more;
It is no more the freshness of the May.
Joy hath it not for heart;
Nor music for its second, subtler, tongue,
Sounding what music's self hath never sung;
Nor very Sorrow needs it help her weep.
Vanished from everywhere! what was a part
Of all and everywhere; lost into sleep!
What was it ere it went?
Whence had it birth? What is its name to call,
That gone unmissed has left a want in all?
Or shall I cry on Youth, in June-time still?
Or cry on Hope, who long since am content?
Or Love, who hold him ready at my will?
What is it that is dead?
Breath of a flower? sea-freshness on a wind?
Oh, dearest, what is that that we should find,
If you and I at length could win it back?
What have we lost and know not it hath fled?
Heart of my heart, could it be love we lack?