Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. III. Sorrow and Consolation
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume III. Sorrow and Consolation.  1904.
 
V. Death and Bereavement
“Asleep! asleep!”
Lucy Ann Bennett (1850–1927)
 
“And so saying, he fell asleep.”

Martyrdom of Saint Stephen

ASLEEP! asleep! men talk of “sleep,”
When all adown the silent deep
  The shades of night are stealing;
When like a curtain, soft and vast,
The darkness over all is cast,        5
And sombre stillness comes at last,
  To the mute heart appealing.
 
Asleep! asleep! when soft and low
The patient watchers come and go,
  Their loving vigil keeping;        10
When from the dear eyes fades the light,
When pales the flush so strangely bright,
And the glad spirit takes its flight,
  We speak of death as “sleeping.”
 
Or when, as dies the orb of day,        15
The aged Christian sinks away,
  And the lone mourner weepeth;
When thus the pilgrim goes to rest,
With meek hands folded on his breast,
And his last sigh a prayer confessed—        20
  We say of such, “He sleepeth.”
 
But when amidst a shower of stones,
And mingled curses, shrieks, and groans,
  The death-chill slowly creepeth;
When falls at length the dying head,        25
And streams the life-blood dark and red,
A thousand voices cry, “He ’s dead”;
  But who shall say, “He sleepeth”?
 
“He fell asleep.” A pen divine
Hath writ that epitaph of thine;        30
  And though the days are hoary,
Yet beautiful thy rest appears—
Unsullied by the lapse of years—
And still we read, with thankful tears,
  The tale of grace and glory.        35
 
Asleep! asleep! though not for thee
The touch of loving lips might be,
  In sadly sweet leave-taking:
Though not for thee the last caress,
The look of untold tenderness,        40
The love that dying hours can press
  From hearts with silence breaking.
 
 
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