Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802-1838 / England)
Scenes In London II - Oxford Street
LIFE in its many shapes was there,
The busy and the gay;
Faces that seemed too young and fair
To ever know decay.
Wealth, with its waste, its pomp, and pride,
Led forth its glittering train;
And poverty's pale face beside
Asked aid, and asked in vain.
The shops were filled from many lands,
Toys, silks, and gems, and flowers;
The patient work of many hands,
The hope of many hours.
Yet, mid life's myriad shapes around
There was a sigh of death;
There rose a melancholy sound,
The bugle's wailing breath.
They played a mournful Scottish air,
That on its native hill
Had caught the notes the night-winds bear
From weeping leaf and rill.
'Twas strange to hear that sad wild strain
Its warning music shed,
Rising above life's busy train,
In memory of the dead.
There came a slow and silent band
In sad procession by:
Reversed the musket in each hand,
And downcast every eye.
They bore the soldier to his grave;
The sympathyzing crowd
Divided like a parted wave
By some dark vessel ploughed.
A moment, and all sounds were mute,
For awe was over all;
You heard the soldier's measured foot,
The bugle's wailing call.
The gloves were laid upon the bier,
The helmet and the sword,
The drooping war-horse followed near,
As he, too, mourned his lord.
Slowly—I followed too—they led
To where a church arose,
And flung a shadow o'er the dead,
Deep as their own repose.
Green trees were there—beneath the shade
Of one, was made a grave;
And there to his last rest was laid
The weary and the brave.
They fired a volley o'er the bed
Of an unconscious ear;
The birds sprang fluttering overhead,
Struck with a sudden fear.
All left the ground, the bugles died
Away upon the wind;
Only the tree's green branches sighed
O'er him they left behind.
Again, all filled with light and breath,
I passed the crowded street—
Oh, great extremes of life and death,
How strangely do ye meet!
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