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.
 
Narrative and Legendary Poems
Conductor Bradley
 
          A railway conductor who lost his life in an accident on a Connecticut railway, May 9, 1873.

CONDUCTOR BRADLEY, (always may his name
Be said with reverence!) as the swift doom came,
Smitten to death, a crushed and mangled frame,
 
Sank, with the brake he grasped just where he stood
To do the utmost that a brave man could,        5
And die, if needful, as a true man should.
 
Men stooped above him; women dropped their tears
On that poor wreck beyond all hopes or fears,
Lost in the strength and glory of his years.
 
What heard they? Lo! the ghastly lips of pain,        10
Dead to all thought save duty’s, moved again:
“Put out the signals for the other train!”
 
No nobler utterance since the world began
From lips of saint or martyr ever ran,
Electric, through the sympathies of man.        15
 
Ah me! how poor and noteless seem to this
The sick-bed dramas of self-consciousness,
Our sensual fears of pain and hopes of bliss!
 
Oh, grand, supreme endeavor! Not in vain
That last brave act of failing tongue and brain!        20
Freighted with life the downward rushing train,
 
Following the wrecked one, as wave follows wave,
Obeyed the warning which the dead lips gave.
Others he saved, himself he could not save.
 
Nay, the lost life was saved. He is not dead        25
Who in his record still the earth shall tread
With God’s clear aureole shining round his head.
 
We bow as in the dust, with all our pride
Of virtue dwarfed the noble deed beside.
God give us grace to live as Bradley died!

  1873.
        30
 
 
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