Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
 
Mors, Morituri Te Salutamus
By Francis Burdett Money-Coutts (1852–1923)
 
I HATE thee, Death!
Not that I fear thee,—more than mortal sprite
  Fears the dark entrance, whence no man returns;
For who would not resign his scanty breath,
Unreal joy, and troublesome delight,        5
  To marble coffer or sepulchral urn’s
          Inviolate keeping?
  To quench the smouldering lamp, that feebly burns
    Within this chamber, to procure sweet sleeping,
  Is not a madman’s act. And yet I hate thee,        10
    Swift breaker of life’s poor illusion,
    Stern ender of love’s fond confusion,
  And with rebellion in my heart await thee.
 
Like mariners we sail, of fate unwist,
  With orders seal’d and only to be read        15
When home has faded in the morning mist
  And simple faith and innocence are fled!
 
Oft we neglect them, being much dismay’d
      By phantoms and weird wonders
          That haunt the deep,        20
      By voices, winds, and thunders,
  Old mariners that cannot pray nor weep,
  And faces of drown’d souls that cannot sleep!
Or else our crew is mutinous, array’d
Against us, and the mandate is delay’d.        25
 
But when the forces that rebell’d
Are satisfied or quell’d;
When sails are trimm’d to catch the merry wind,
And billows dance before and foam behind;
Free, free at last from tumult and distraction        30
Of pleasure beckon’d and of pain repell’d,—
Free from ourselves and disciplined for action,—
We break the seal of destiny, to find
The bourne or venture for our cruise design’d,
Then, at that very moment, hark! a cry        35
  On deck; and then a silence, as of breath
Held. In the offing, low against the sky,
  Hoves thy black flag!… Therefore I hate thee, Death!
 
 
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