Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IV. The Higher Life
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IV. The Higher Life.  1904.
 
VII. Death: Immortality: Heaven
Burial of Moses
Cecil Frances Alexander (1818–1895)
 
   “And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.”—DEUTERONOMY xxxiv. 6.

BY Nebo’s lonely mountain,
On this side Jordan’s wave,
In a vale in the land of Moab,
There lies a lonely grave;
But no man built that sepulchre,        5
And no man saw it e’er;
For the angels of God upturned the sod,
And laid the dead man there.
 
That was the grandest funeral
That ever passed on earth;        10
Yet no man heard the trampling,
Or saw the train go forth:
Noiselessly as daylight
Comes back when night is done,
And the crimson streak on ocean’s cheek        15
Grows into the great sun;
 
Noiselessly as the spring-time
Her crown of verdure weaves,
And all the trees on all the hills
Unfold their thousand leaves:        20
So without sound of music
Or voice of them that wept,
Silently down from the mountain’s crown
The great procession swept.
 
Perchance the bald old eagle        25
On gray Beth-peor’s height
Out of his rocky eyry
Looked on the wondrous sight;
Perchance the lion stalking
Still shuns that hallowed spot;        30
For beast and bird have seen and heard
That which man knoweth not.
 
But, when the warrior dieth,
His comrades of the war,
With arms reversed and muffled drums,        35
Follow the funeral car:
They show the banners taken;
They tell his battles won;
And after him lead his masterless steed,
While peals the minute-gun.        40
 
Amid the noblest of the land
Men lay the sage to rest,
And give the bard an honored place,
With costly marbles drest,
In the great minster transept        45
Where lights like glories fall,
And the sweet choir sings, and the organ rings
Along the emblazoned hall.
 
This was the bravest warrior
That ever buckled sword;        50
This the most gifted poet
That ever breathed a word;
And never earth’s philosopher
Traced with his glorious pen
On the deathless page truths half so sage        55
As he wrote down for men.
 
And had he not high honor?—
The hillside for a pall!
To lie in state while angels wait,
With stars for tapers tall!        60
And the dark rock-pines, like tossing plumes,
Over his bier to wave,
And God’s own hand, in that lonely land,
To lay him in his grave!—
 
In that strange grave without a name,        65
Whence his uncoffined clay
Shall break again—O wondrous thought!—
Before the judgment day,
And stand, with glory wrapped around
On the hills he never trod,        70
And speak of the strife that won our life
With the incarnate Son of God.
 
O lonely tomb in Moab’s land!
O dark Beth-peor’s hill!
Speak to these curious hearts of ours,        75
And teach them to be still:
God hath his mysteries of grace,
Ways that we cannot tell,
He hides them deep, like the secret sleep
Of him he loved so well.        80
 
 
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