The Husband’s and Wife’s Grave

Original Text: 
Richard Henry Dana, Poems and Prose Writings (Boston: Russell, Odiorne, 1933): 100-04. Internet Archive
1Husband and wife! No converse now ye hold,
2As once ye did in your young days of love,
3On its alarms, its anxious hours, delays,
4Its silent meditations, its glad hopes,
5Its fears, impatience, quiet sympathies;
6Nor do ye speak of joy assured, and bliss
7Full, certain, and possessed. Domestic cares
8Call you not now together. Earnest talk
9On what your children may be, moves you not.
10Ye lie in silence, and an awful silence;
11'T is not like that in which ye rested once
12Most happy -- silence eloquent, when heart
13With heart held speech, and your mysterious frames,
14Harmonious, sensitive, at every beat
15Touch'd the soft notes of love.
16                                                A stillness deep
17Insensible, unheeding, folds you round;
18And darkness, as a stone, has seal'd you in.
19Away from all the living, here ye rest:
20In all the nearness of the narrow tomb,
21Yet feel ye not each other's presence now.
22Dread fellowship! -- together, yet alone.
23    Is this thy prison-house, thy grave, then, Love?
24And doth death cancel the great bond that holds
25Commingling spirits? Are thoughts that know no bounds,
26But self-inspired, rise upward, searching out
27The eternal Mind -- the Father of all thought --
28Are they become mere tenants of a tomb? --
29Dwellers in darkness, who the illuminate realms
30Of uncreated light have visited and lived? --
31Lived in the dreadful splendor of that throne,
32Which One, with gentle hand the veil of flesh
33Lifting, that hung 'twixt man and it, revealed
34In glory? -- throne, before which even now
35Our souls, moved by prophetic power, bow down
36Rejoicing, yet at their own natures awed? --
37Souls that Thee know by a mysterious sense,
38Thou awful, unseen Presence -- are they quenched,
39Or burn they on, hid from our mortal eyes
40By that bright day which ends not; as the sun
41His robe of light flings round the glittering stars?
42    And do our loves all perish with our frames?
43Do those that took their root and put forth buds,
44And their soft leaves unfolded in the warmth
45Of mutual hearts, grow up and live in beauty,
46Then fade and fall, like fair unconscious flowers?
47Are thoughts and passions that to the tongue give speech,
48And make it send forth winning harmonies, --
49That to the cheek do give its living glow,
50And vision in the eye the soul intense
51With that for which there is no utterance --
52Are these the body's accidents? -- no more? --
53To live in it, and when that dies, go out
54Like the burnt taper's flame?
55                                            O, listen, man!
56A voice within us speaks that startling word,
57"Man, thou shalt never die!" Celestial voices
58Hymn it around our souls: according harps,
59By angel fingers touched when the mild stars
60Of morning sang together, sound forth still
61The song of our great immortality:
62Thick clustering orbs, and this our fair domain,
63The tall, dark mountains, and the deep-toned seas,
64Join in this solemn, universal song.
65-- O, listen, ye, our spirits; drink it in
66From all the air! 'T is in the gentle moonlight;
67'T is floating in day's setting glories; Night,
68Wrapt in her sable robe, with silent step
69Comes to our bed and breathes it in our ears:
70Night, and the dawn, bright day, and thoughtful eve,
71All time, all bounds, the limitless expanse,
72As one vast mystic instrument, are touched
73By an unseen, living Hand, and conscious chords
74Quiver with joy in this great jubilee:
75-- The dying hear it; and as sounds of earth
76Grow dull and distant, wake their passing souls
77To mingle in this heavenly harmony.
78    Why is it that I linger round this tomb?
79What holds it? Dust that cumbered those I mourn.
80They shook it off, and laid aside earth's robes,
81And put on those of light. They're gone to dwell
82In love -- their God's and angels'. Mutual love,
83That bound them here, no longer needs a speech
84For full communion; nor sensations strong,
85Within the breast, their prison, strive in vain
86To be set free, and meet their kind in joy.
87Changed to celestials, thoughts that rise in each,
88By natures new, impart themselves though silent.
89Each quickening sense, each throb of holy love,
90Affections sanctified, and the full glow
91Of being, which expand and gladden one,
92By union all mysterious, thrill and live
93In both immortal frames: -- Sensation all,
94And thought, pervading, mingling sense and thought!
95Ye paired, yet one! wrapt in a consciousness
96Twofold, yet single -- this is love, this life!
97    Why call we then the square-built monument,
98The upright column, and the low laid slab,
99Tokens of death, memorials of decay?
100Stand in this solemn, still assembly, man,
101And learn thy proper nature; for thou seest,
102In these shaped stones and lettered tables, figures
103Of life: More are they to thy soul than those
104Which he who talked on Sinai's mount with God,
105Brought to the old Judeans -- types are these
106Of thine eternity.
107                                        I thank Thee, Father,
108That at this simple grave, on which the dawn
109Is breaking, emblem of that day which hath
110No close, Thou kindly unto my dark mind
111Hast sent a sacred light, and that away
112From this green hillock, whither I had come
113In sorrow, Thou art leading me in joy.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2012
Rhyme: 
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