Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
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John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
 
Religious Poems
The Friend’s Burial
 
MY thoughts are all in yonder town,
  Where, wept by many tears,
To-day my mother’s friend lays down
  The burden of her years.
 
True as in life, no poor disguise        5
  Of death with her is seen,
And on her simple casket lies
  No wreath of bloom and green.
 
Oh, not for her the florist’s art,
  The mocking weeds of woe;        10
Dear memories in each mourner’s heart
  Like heaven’s white lilies blow.
 
And all about the softening air
  Of new-born sweetness tells,
And the ungathered May-flowers wear        15
  The tints of ocean shells.
 
The old, assuring miracle
  Is fresh as heretofore;
And earth takes up its parable
  Of life from death once more.        20
 
Here organ-swell and church-bell toll
  Methinks but discord were;
The prayerful silence of the soul
  Is best befitting her.
 
No sound should break the quietude        25
  Alike of earth and sky;
O wandering wind in Seabrook wood,
  Breathe but a half-heard sigh!
 
Sing softly, spring-bird, for her sake;
  And thou not distant sea,        30
Lapse lightly as if Jesus spake,
  And thou wert Galilee!
 
For all her quiet life flowed on
  As meadow streamlets flow,
Where fresher green reveals alone        35
  The noiseless ways they go.
 
From her loved place of prayer I see
  The plain-robed mourners pass,
With slow feet treading reverently
  The graveyard’s springing grass.        40
 
Make room, O mourning ones, for me,
  Where, like the friends of Paul,
That you no more her face shall see
  You sorrow most of all.
 
Her path shall brighten more and more        45
  Unto the perfect day;
She cannot fail of peace who bore
  Such peace with her away.
 
O sweet, calm face that seemed to wear
  The look of sins forgiven!        50
O voice of prayer that seemed to bear
  Our own needs up to heaven!
 
How reverent in our midst she stood,
  Or knelt in grateful praise!
What grace of Christian womanhood        55
  Was in her household ways!
 
For still her holy living meant
  No duty left undone;
The heavenly and the human blent
  Their kindred loves in one.        60
 
And if her life small leisure found
  For feasting ear and eye,
And Pleasure, on her daily round,
  She passed unpausing by,
 
Yet with her went a secret sense        65
  Of all things sweet and fair,
And Beauty’s gracious providence
  Refreshed her unaware.
 
She kept her line of rectitude
  With love’s unconscious ease;        70
Her kindly instincts understood
  All gentle courtesies.
 
An inborn charm of graciousness
  Made sweet her smile and tone,
And glorified her farm-wife dress        75
  With beauty not its own.
 
The dear Lord’s best interpreters
  Are humble human souls;
The Gospel of a life like hers
  Is more than books or scrolls.        80
 
From scheme and creed the light goes out,
  The saintly fact survives;
The blessed Master none can doubt
  Revealed in holy lives.

  1873.
 
 
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