Lydia Howard Huntley Sigourney

(1791-1865 / the United States)

Sudden Death


Where are ye, spirits of the dead?
That erst with us held converse kind?
Bright o'er our hearts your sunlight shed
And with strong influence moved the mind?

At morn, with tender smile and word
Ye cheered us on our devious way,
At eve, we marked, with terror stirred,
A silent form of rigid clay.

This hour, beside the cheerful hearth
Or at the household board ye sit,
The next, dissolve the ties of earth,
And like the impassive shadow flit.

On your sealed lip, the unfinished phrase
With trembling agony we trace,
And shudder, as with stony gaze
Ye shut us from your fond embrace.

We vainly search your viewless track,
We call, ye deign us not reply,
We weep, but yet ye turn not back,
To kiss the teardrop from our eye.

Ye hide from us the robe you wear,
The path you take, the page you read,
And coldly veil the mansion where
A strange, mysterious life you lead.

Ah! Why is this! What fault is ours?
That coldly thus, ye haste away,
And heed no more the once lov'd flowers
That in your pulseless hand we lay?

Heed not the piercing sighs that swell
From the lone hearts untold despair,
And leave to those ye loved so well
The load of undivided care.

Oh! spirits of the viewless dead!
If nought within this world of pain
May hope to lure your backward tread,
To earth's sweet intercourse again,

Yet bend and teach us not to mourn,
Unfold the hovering wing, and show
How at one rush the nerves were torn,
That bind so close to joys below.

We knelt beside your shrouded clay,
To move with prayers the close seal'd ear,
And now the self-same words we say
Beside the grave that yawns so drear.

It closes! Must we homeward go,
The desert-void of life to try?
And miss, amid our toil and woe
The solace of your love-lit eye?

Bereaved and shelterless and lone,
There yet remains one place of trust,
The footstool of our Father's throne,
The humble lip, laid low in dust.

There let us cling though tempest-tost,
There let us breathe the contrite prayer,
Till, Spirits of the loved and lost!
Like you, an unknown flight we dare;

From orb to orb, from sphere to sphere
Shall what your eyes behold, discern,
What your purg'd ear hath heard, shall hear,
And what your thoughts conceive, shall learn.

And if, like you, with lowly zeal
This dim probation path we trod,
Shall at your side enraptured kneel
Amid the paradise of God.

Submitted: Saturday, September 25, 2010

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