Memorial Verses April 1850

Original Text: 
Fraser's Magazine (London, 1832-82). AP 4 F8 ROBA
3But one such death remain'd to come;
4The last poetic voice is dumb--
5We stand to-day by Wordsworth's tomb.
6When Byron's eyes were shut in death,
7We bow'd our head and held our breath.
8He taught us little; but our soul
9Had felt him like the thunder's roll.
10With shivering heart the strife we saw
11Of passion with eternal law;
12And yet with reverential awe
13We watch'd the fount of fiery life
14Which served for that Titanic strife.
15     When Goethe's death was told, we said:
16Sunk, then, is Europe's sagest head.
17Physician of the iron age,
18Goethe has done his pilgrimage.
19He took the suffering human race,
20He read each wound, each weakness clear;
21And struck his finger on the place,
22And said: Thou ailest here, and here!
23He look'd on Europe's dying hour
24Of fitful dream and feverish power;
25His eye plunged down the weltering strife,
26The turmoil of expiring life--
27He said: The end is everywhere,
28Art still has truth, take refuge there!
29And he was happy, if to know
30Causes of things, and far below
31His feet to see the lurid flow
32Of terror, and insane distress,
33And headlong fate, be happiness.
34And Wordsworth!--Ah, pale ghosts, rejoice!
35For never has such soothing voice
36Been to your shadowy world convey'd,
37Since erst, at morn, some wandering shade
38Heard the clear song of Orpheus come
39Through Hades, and the mournful gloom.
40Wordsworth has gone from us--and ye,
41Ah, may ye feel his voice as we!
42He too upon a wintry clime
43Had fallen--on this iron time
44Of doubts, disputes, distractions, fears.
45He found us when the age had bound
46Our souls in its benumbing round;
47He spoke, and loosed our heart in tears.
48He laid us as we lay at birth
49On the cool flowery lap of earth,
50Smiles broke from us and we had ease;
51The hills were round us, and the breeze
52Went o'er the sun-lit fields again;
53Our foreheads felt the wind and rain.
54Our youth return'd; for there was shed
55On spirits that had long been dead,
56Spirits dried up and closely furl'd,
57The freshness of the early world.
58Ah! since dark days still bring to light
59Man's prudence and man's fiery might,
60Time may restore us in his course
61Goethe's sage mind and Byron's force;
62But where will Europe's latter hour
63Again find Wordsworth's healing power?
64Others will teach us how to dare,
65And against fear our breast to steel;
66Others will strengthen us to bear--
67But who, ah! who, will make us feel?
68The cloud of mortal destiny,
69Others will front it fearlessly--
70But who, like him, will put it by?
71Keep fresh the grass upon his grave,
72O Rotha, with thy living wave!
73Sing him thy best! for few or none
74Hears thy voice right, now he is gone.


1] First published in Fraser's Magazine, June 1850. For the ideas expressed in the poem compare the essays on Wordsworth and on Byron in Essays in Criticism.
Goethe: died in 1832, and was buried in Weimar, Germany. Back to Line
2] Byron: succumbed to fever in 1824 while assisting the Greek nationalists against the Ottoman overlords, and was buried in the family church near Newstead. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
H. Kerpneck
RPO Edition: 
3RP 3.201.