Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > America
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX.  1876–79.
 
Middle States: Brooklyn, N. Y.
Greenwood Cemetery
William Ross Wallace (1819–1881)
 
(Excerpt)

HERE are the houses of the dead. Here youth
And age and manhood, stricken in his strength,
Hold solemn state and awful silence keep,
While Earth goes murmuring in her ancient path,
And troubled Ocean tosses to and fro        5
Upon his mountainous bed impatiently,
And many stars make worship musical
In the dim-aisled abyss, and over all
The Lord of Life, in meditation sits
Changeless, alone, beneath the large white dome        10
Of Immortality.
                I pause and think
Among these walks lined by the frequent tombs;
For it is very wonderful. Afar
The populous city lifts its tall, bright spires,
And snowy sails are glancing on the bay,        15
As if in merriment,—but here all sleep;
They sleep, these calm, pale people of the past:
Spring plants her rosy feet on their dim homes,—
They sleep! Sweet Summer comes and calls, and calls
With all her passionate poetry of flowers        20
Wed to the music of the soft south-wind,—
They sleep! The lonely Autumn sits and sobs
Between the cold white tombs, as if her heart
Would break,—they sleep! Wild Winter comes and chants
Majestical the mournful sagas learned        25
Far in the melancholy North, where God
Walks forth alone upon the desolate seas,—
They slumber still! Sleep on, O passionless dead!
Ye make our world sublime: ye have a power
And majesty the living never hold.        30
Here Avarice shall forget his den of gold!
Here Lust his beautiful victim, and hot Hate
His crouching foe. Ambition here shall lean
Against Death’s shaft, veiling the stern, bright eye
That, overbold, would take the height of gods,        35
And know Fame’s nothingness. The sire shall come,
The matron and the child, through many years,
To this fair spot, whether the pluméd hearse
Moves slowly through the winding walks, or Death
For a brief moment pauses: all shall come        40
To feel the touching eloquence of graves.
And therefore it was well for us to clothe
The place with beauty. No dark terror here
Shall chill the generous tropic of the soul,
But Poetry and her starred comrade Art        45
Shall make the sacred country of the dead
Magnificent. The fragrant flowers shall smile
Over the low, green graves; the trees shall shake
Their soul-like cadences upon the tombs;
The little lake, set in a paradise        50
Of wood, shall be a mirror to the moon
What time she looks from her imperial tent
In long delight at all below; the sea
Shall lift some stately dirge he loves to breathe
Over dead nations, while calm sculptures stand        55
On every hill, and look like spirits there
That drink the harmony. Oh, it is well!
Why should a darkness scowl on any spot
Where man grasps immortality? Light, light,
And art, and poetry, and eloquence,        60
And all that we call glorious are its dower.
*        *        *        *        *
 
 
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