Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895.  1895.
 
At Last
 
Sir Lewis Morris (b. 1833)
 
 
LET me at last be laid
On that hillside I know which scans the vale,
Beneath the thick yews’ shade,
For shelter when the rains and winds prevail.
It cannot be the eye        5
Is blinded when we die,
So that we know no more at all
The dawns increase, the evenings fall;
Shut up within a mouldering chest of wood
Asleep, and careless of our children’s good.        10
 
Shall I not feel the spring,
The yearly resurrection of the earth,
Stir thro’ each sleeping thing
With the fair throbbings and alarms of birth,
Calling at its own hour        15
On folded leaf and flower,
Calling the lamb, the lark, the bee,
Calling the crocus and anemone,
Calling new lustre to the maiden’s eye,
And to the youth love and ambition high?        20
 
Shall I no more admire
The winding river kiss the daisied plain?
Nor see the dawn’s cold fire
Steal downward from the rosy hills again?
Nor watch the frowning cloud,        25
Sublime with mutterings loud,
Burst on the vale, nor eves of gold,
Nor crescent moons, nor starlights cold,
Nor the red casements glimmer on the hill
At Yule-tides, when the frozen leas are still?        30
 
Or should my children’s tread
Through Sabbath twilights, when the hymns are done,
Come softly overhead,
Shall no sweet quickening through my bosom run,
Till all my soul exale        35
Into the primrose pale,
And every flower which springs above
Breathes a new perfume from my love;
And I shall throb, and stir, and thrill beneath
With a pure passion stronger far than death?        40
 
Sweet thought! fair, gracious dream,
Too fair and fleeting for our clearer view!
How should our reason deem
That those dear souls, who sleep beneath the blue
In rayless caverns dim,        45
’Mid ocean monsters grim,
Or whitening on the trackless sand,
Or with strange corpses on each hand
In battle-trench or city graveyard lie,
Break not their prison-bonds till time shall die?        50
 
Nay, ’t is not so indeed:
With the last fluttering of the falling breath
The clay-cold form doth breed
A viewless essence, far too fine for death;
And, ere one voice can mourn,        55
On upward pinions borne,
They are hidden, they are hidden, in some thin air,
Far from corruption, far from care,
Where through a veil they view their former scene,
Only a little touch’d by what has been.        60
 
Touch’d but a little; and yet,
Conscious of every change that doth befall,
By constant change beset,
The creatures of this tiny whirling ball,
Fill’d with a higher being,        65
Dower’d with a clearer seeing,
Risen to a vaster scheme of life,
To wider joys and nobler strife,
Viewing our little human hopes and fears
As we our children’s fleeting smiles and tears.        70
 
Then, whether with fire they burn
This dwelling-house of mine when I am fled,
And in a marble urn
My ashes rest by my beloved dead,
Or in the sweet cold earth        75
I pass from death to birth,
And pay kind Nature’s life-long debt
In heart’s-ease and in violet—
In charnel-yard or hidden ocean wave,
Where’er I lie, I shall not scorn my grave.        80
 

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