Augusta Davies Webster
If? - Poem by Augusta Davies Webster
If I should die this night, (as well might be,
So pain has on my weakness worked its will),
And they should come at morn and look on me
Lying more white than I am wont, and still
In the strong silence of unchanging sleep,
And feel upon my brow the deepening chill,
And know me gathered to His time-long keep,
The quiet watcher over all men's rest,
And weep as those around a death-bed weep --
There would no anguish throb my vacant breast,
No tear-drop trickle down my stony cheek,
No smile of long farewell say "Calm is best."
I should not answer aught that they should speak,
Nor look my meaning out of earnest eyes,
Nor press the reverent hands that mine should seek;
But, lying there in such an awful guise,
Like some strange presence from a world unknown
Unmoved by any human sympathies,
Seem strange to them, and dreadfully alone,
Vacant to love of theirs or agony,
Having no pulse in union with their own.
Gazing henceforth upon infinity
With a calm consciousness devoid of change,
Watching the current of the years pass by,
And watching the long cycles onward range,
With stronger vision of their perfect whole,
As one whom time and space from them estrange.
And they might mourn and say "The parted soul
"Is gone out of our love; we spend in vain
"A tenderness that cannot reach its goal."
Yet I might still perchance with them remain
In spirit, being free from laws of mould,
Still comprehending human joy and pain.
Ah me! but if I knew them as of old,
Clasping them in vain arms, they unaware,
And mourned to find my kisses leave them cold,
And sought still some part of their life to share
Still standing by them, hoping they might see,
And seemed to them but as the viewless air!
For so once came it in a dream to me,
And in my heart it seemed a pang too deep,
A shadow having human life to be.
For it at least would be long perfect sleep
Unknowing Being and all Past to lie,
Void of the growing Future, in God's keep:
But such a knowledge would be misery
Too great to be believed. Yet if the dead
In a diviner mood might still be nigh,
Their former life unto their death so wed
That they could watch their loved with heavenly eye,
That were a thing to joy in, not to dread.
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