(20 April 1826 - 12 October 1887 / Stoke-on-Trent / England)

The Unfinished Book

TAKE it, reader, idly passing,
This, like other idle lines;
Take it, critic, great at classing
Subtle genius and its signs:
But, O reader, be thou dumb;
Critic, let no sharp wit come;
For the hand that wrote and blurred
Will not write another word;
And the soul you scorn or prize,
Now than angels is more wise.

Take it, heart of man or woman,
This unfinished broken strain,
Whether it be poor or common
Or the noblest work of brain;
Let that good heart only sit
Now in judgment over it
Tenderly, as we would read,--
Any one, of any creed,
Any churchyard passing by,--
'Sacred to the Memory.

Wholly sacred: even as lingers
Final word, or last look cast.
Or last clasp of life-warm fingers,
Which we knew not was the last.
Or, as we apart do lay,
The day after funeral-day,
Their dear relics, great and small,
Who need nothing--yet win all:
All the best we had and have,
Buried in one silent grave.

All our highest aspirations,
And our closest love of loves;
Our most secret resignations,
Our best work that man approves,
Yet which jealously we keep
In our mute heart's deepest deep.
So of this poor broken song
Let no echoes here prolong:
For the singer's voice is known
In the heaven of heavens alone.

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