An Autograph

Original Text: 
The Complete Poetical Works of John Greenleaf Whittier, Cambridge edition, ed. H. E. S. (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1894): 413. PS 3250 E94 1894 Robarts Library.
1I write my name as one,
2On sands by waves o'errun
3Or winter's frosted pane,
4Traces a record vain.
5Oblivion's blankness claims
6Wiser and better names,
7And well my own may pass
8As from the strand or glass.
9Wash on, O waves of time!
10Melt, noons, the frosty rime!
11Welcome the shadow vast,
12The silence that shall last!
13When I and all who know
14And love me vanish so,
15What harm to them or me
16Will the lost memory be?
17If any words of mine,
18Through right of life divine,
19Remain, what matters it
20Whose hand the message writ?
22Sit on my worst or best?
23Why should the showman claim
24The poor ghost of my name?
25Yet, as when dies a sound
26Its spectre lingers round,
27Haply my spent life will
28Leave some faint echo still.
29A whisper giving breath
30Of praise or blame to death,
31Soothing or saddening such
32As loved the living much.
33Therefore with yearnings vain
34And fond I still would fain
35A kindly judgment seek,
36A tender thought bespeak.
37And, while my words are read,
38Let this at least be said:
39"Whate'er his life's defeatures,
40He loved his fellow-creatures.
41"If, of the Law's stone table,
42To hold he scarce was able
43The first great precept fast,
44He kept for man the last.
45"Through mortal lapse and dulness
46What lacks the Eternal Fulness,
47If still our weakness can
48Love Him in loving man?
49"Age brought him no despairing
50Of the world's future faring;
51In human nature still
52He found more good than ill.
53"To all who dumbly suffered,
54His tongue and pen he offered;
55His life was not his own,
56Nor lived for self alone.
57"Hater of din and riot
58He lived in days unquiet;
59And, lover of all beauty,
60Trod the hard ways of duty.
61"He meant no wrong to any
62He sought the good of many,
63Yet knew both sin and folly, --
64May God forgive him wholly!"


21] "crowner's quest": coroner's inquest. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.