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Alfred Austin

(30 May 1835 – 2 June 1913 / Headingley)

A Farewell


Good-bye, old year, good-bye!
Gentle you were to many as to me,
And so we, meditating, sigh,
Since what hath been will be,
That you must die.
Hark! In the crumbling grey church tower,
Tolls the recording bell
The deeply-sounding solemnising knell
For your last hour.

How quietly you die!
No canonisëd Saint
E'er put life by
With less of struggle or complaint.
You seem to feel nor grief nor pain,
No retrospection vain,
As if, departing, you would have us know
It is not hard to go,
Since pang is none, but only peace, in Death,
And Life it is that suffereth.

Closer and clearer comes the last slow knell,
And on my lip for you awaits
That final formula of Fate's,
The low, lamenting, lingering word, Farewell!
For you the curved-backed sexton need not stir
The mould, for there is nothing to inter,
No worn integument to doff,
No bodily corruption to put off;
Begotten of the earth and sun,
And ending spirit-wise as you begun,
You pass, a mere memento of the mind,
Leaving no lees behind.

Hark! What is that we hear?
A quick-jerked, jocund peal,
Making the fretted church tower reel,
Telling the wakeful of a young New Year,
Young, but of lusty birth,
To face the masked vicissitudes of earth.

Let us, then, look not back,
Though smooth and partial was the track
Of the receding Past,
But through the vista vast
Of unknown Future wend intrepid way,
Framed to contend and cope
With perils new by vanished yesterday,
Whose last bequests to Man are Love, and
Faith, and Hope.

Submitted: Thursday, April 08, 2010

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