The Cathedral Tombs
THEY lie, with upraised hands, and feet
Stretched like dead feet that walk no more,
And stony masks oft human sweet,
As if the olden look each wore,
Familiar curves of lip and eye,
Were wrought by some fond memory.
All waiting: the new-coffined dead,
The handful of mere dust that lies
Sarcophagused in stone and lead
Under the weight of centuries:
Knight, cardinal, bishop, abbess mild,
With last week's buried year-old child.
After the tempest cometh peace,
After long travail sweet repose;
These folded palms, these feet that cease
From any motion, are but shows
Of--what? What rest? How rest they? Where?
The generations naught declare.
Dark grave, unto whose brink we come,
Drawn nearer by all nights and days;
Each after each, thy solemn gloom
We pierce with momentary gaze,
Then go, unwilling or content,
The way that all our fathers went.
Is there no voice or guiding hand
Arising from the awful void,
To say, 'Fear not the silent land;
Would He make aught to be destroyed?
Would He? or can He? What know we
Of Him who is Infinity?
Strong Love, which taught us human love,
Helped us to follow through all spheres
Some soul that did sweet dead lips move,
Lived in dear eyes in smiles and tears,
Love--once so near our flesh allied,
That 'Jesus wept' when Lazarus died;--
Eagle-eyed Faith that can see God,
In worlds without and heart within;
In sorrow by the smart o' the rod,
In guilt by the anguish of the sin;
In everything pure, holy, fair,
God saying to man's soul, 'I am there';--
These only, twin-archangels, stand
Above the abyss of common doom,
These only stretch the tender hand
To us descending to the tomb,
Thus making it a bed of rest
With spices and with odors drest.
So, like one weary and worn, who sinks
To sleep beneath long faithful eyes,
Who asks no word of love, but drinks
The silence which is paradise--
We only cry--'Keep angelward,
And give us good rest, O good Lord!'