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 His Grave
 
Alfred Austin (1835–1913)
 
 
Hughenden, May, 1881
 
 
LEAVE me a little while alone,
Here at his grave that still is strown
    With crumbling flower and wreath;
The laughing rivulet leaps and falls,
The thrush exults, the cuckoo calls,        5
    And he lies hush’d beneath.
 
With myrtle cross and crown of rose,
And every lowlier flower that blows,
    His new-made couch is dress’d;
Primrose and cowslip, hyacinth wild,        10
Gather’d by monarch, peasant, child,
    A nation’s grief attest.
 
I stood not with the mournful crowd
That hither came when round his shroud
    Pious farewells were said.        15
In the fam’d city that he sav’d,
By minaret crown’d, by billow lav’d,
    I heard that he was dead.
 
Now o’er his tomb at last I bend,
No greeting get, no greeting tend,        20
    Who never came before
Unto his presence, but I took,
From word or gesture, tone or look,
    Some wisdom from his door.
 
And must I now unanswer’d wait,        25
And, though a suppliant at the gate,
    No sound my ears rejoice?
Listen! Yes, even as I stand,
I feel the pressure of his hand,
    The comfort of his voice.        30
 
How poor were Fame, did grief confess
That death can make a great life less,
    Or end the help it gave!
Our wreaths may fade, our flowers may wane,
But his well-ripen’d deeds remain,        35
    Untouch’d, above his grave.
 
Let this, too, soothe our widow’d minds;
Silenced are the opprobrious winds
    Whene’er the sun goes down;
And free henceforth from noonday noise,        40
He at a tranquil height enjoys
    The starlight of renown.
 
Thus hence we something more may take
Than sterile grief, than formless ache,
    Or vainly utter’d vow;        45
Death hath bestow’d what life withheld
And he round whom detraction swell’d
    Hath peace with honor now.
 
The open jeer, the covert taunt,
The falsehood coin’d in factious haunt,        50
    These loving gifts reprove.
They never were but thwarted sound
Of ebbing waves that bluster round
    A rock that will not move.
 
And now the idle roar rolls off,        55
Hush’d is the gibe and sham’d the scoff,
    Repress’d the envious gird;
Since death, the looking-glass of life,
Clear’d of the misty breath of strife,
    Reflects his face unblurr’d.        60
 
From callow youth to mellow age,
Men turn the leaf and scan the page,
    And note, with smart of loss,
How wit to wisdom did mature,
How duty burn’d ambition pure,        65
    And purged away the dross.
 
Youth is self-love; our manhood lends
Its heart to pleasure, mistress, friends,
    So that when age steals nigh,
How few find any worthier aim        70
Than to protract a flickering flame,
    Whose oil hath long run dry!
 
But he, unwitting youth once flown,
With England’s greatness link’d his own,
    And, steadfast to that part,        75
Held praise and blame but fitful sound,
And in the love of country found
    Full solace for his heart.
 
Now in an English grave he lies:
With flowers that tell of English skies        80
    And mind of English air,
A grateful sovereign decks his bed,
And hither long with pilgrim tread
    Will English feet repair.
 
Yet not beside his grave alone        85
We seek the glance, the touch, the tone;
    His home is nigh,—but there,
See from the hearth his figure fled,
The pen unrais’d, the page unread,
    Untenanted the chair!        90
 
Vainly the beechen boughs have made
A fresh green canopy of shade,
    Vainly the peacocks stray;
While Carlo, with despondent gait,
Wonders how long affairs of State        95
    Will keep his lord away.
 
Here most we miss the guide, the friend;
Back to the churchyard let me wend,
    And, by the posied mound,
Lingering where late stood worthier feet,        100
Wish that some voice, more strong, more sweet,
    A loftier dirge would sound.
 
At least I bring not tardy flowers:
Votive to him life’s budding powers,
    Such as they were, I gave—        105
He not rejecting, so I may
Perhaps these poor faint spices lay,
    Unchidden, on his grave!
 

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