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
The Future Life
William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878)
 
HOW shall I know thee in the sphere which keeps
  The disembodied spirits of the dead,
When all of thee that time could wither sleeps
  And perishes among the dust we tread?
 
For I shall feel the sting of ceaseless pain        5
  If there I meet thy gentle presence not;
Nor hear the voice I love, nor read again
  In thy serenest eyes the tender thought.
 
Will not thy own meek heart demand me there?
  That heart whose fondest throbs to me were given;        10
My name on earth was ever in thy prayer,
  And wilt thou never utter it in heaven?
 
In meadows fanned by heaven’s life-breathing wind,
  In the resplendence of that glorious sphere,
And larger movements of the unfettered mind,        15
  Wilt thou forget the love that joined us here?
 
The love that lived through all the stormy past,
  And meekly with my harsher nature bore,
And deeper grew, and tenderer to the last.
  Shall it expire with life, and be no more?        20
 
A happier lot than mine, and larger light,
  Await thee there; for thou hast bowed thy will
In cheerful homage to the rule of right,
  And lovest all, and renderest good for ill.
 
For me, the sordid cares in which I dwell,        25
  Shrink and consume my heart, as heat the scroll;
And wrath has left its scar—that fire of hell
  Has left its frightful scar upon my soul.
 
Yet though thou wear’st the glory of the sky,
  Wilt thou not keep the same belovèd name,        30
The same fair thoughtful brow, and gentle eye,
  Lovelier in heaven’s sweet climate, yet the same?
 
Shalt thou not teach me, in that calmer home,
  The wisdom that I learned so ill in this—
The wisdom which is love—till I become        35
  Thy fit companion in that land of bliss?
 
 
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