Wilfrid Scawen Blunt
Requiescit - Poem by Wilfrid Scawen Blunt
I cannot tell his story. He was one
To whom the riddle of our human life
Was strangely put, and who, because of that
And that he could not read it, died. But a short hour
Before he passed, the woman who stood by,
Weeping as once she had wept to see him born,
Tired with her watching looked into his face
And saw the heavy eyelids dropping down
Loaded with sleep. And she, for all her tears,
Bent for the hundredth time to ease his bed.
And, as she almost touched him, smoothing out
The ruffled pillows, close into her ear
He whispered, never lifting up his eyes:
``No matter now. I shall be soon asleep.''
And then, as if he would pursue the thought
A little way as once he loved to do,
And yet too weak to catch it, he went on:
``And what a trouble it has been to keep
This pillow smooth! And in a little while
It will not want another touch; and then--
This aching head of mine will have done with thought.
Thought! Thought!'' But loud the aged woman sobbed,
``Poor soul, poor gentleman.'' So they remained
For a brief space, the goodwife standing there
Knotting her wrinkled hands and he hard by
Upon the bed and breathing heavily.
For he seemed sunk again in that dull trance
Through which men often pass away from life,
When death, as the lion does, has shaken his prey
And he lies numb and dumb and powerless.
She listened. He was telling slowly over
The names of those whom he had loved in youth.
Many were strange to her; and then there came
One she knew well. She started at the sound
She had not heard for years, and bending near
Heard him repeat it twice. She whispered hoarsely:
``Have you no word for her?''--yet stopped again
Because his eyes were open. Doubtingly
They wandered to her own and seemed to say
``Who, and what is it that you ask?'' And she
Spoke it again. He seemed to catch the name
And said it after her, but like a child
Which knows not what it speaks; and afterwards:
``Ah! Bridget, I have quite forgot that story,
And now, in half an hour, it is not long,
I shall have clean forgotten the name too.''
She cried, ``Oh Sir, it is a life too late.
Would God you had forgot it long ago!''
The tears stole slowly down her withered cheeks
And fell upon his hands. She did not move
While he went murmuring on: ``'Tis very well
Thus to forget. And what a wonder too
It now is''--and there came a sudden light
Into his eyes--``that one should ever care
To recollect a single day of life.
I used to think and plan and plot and scheme
How I might build my life in such a way
That I should take fine memories to my grave.
And now what a small matter 'tis to know
How the years went, when death in half an hour
Is all that is left of them! No matter now,
But only to sleep sound in any bed
And have no dreams.'' His eyes grew dim again
As he ceased speaking. And the woman knew
That he was dying. ``He is gone,'' she said.
And then she started muttering half aloud
``They cannot pass without the sacraments,
These gentle--folks.'' And so she hurried out.
The dying man smiled. When they came again,
She whispered in his ear, and looking down
Saw him still smiling; so she lit in haste
A candle by the bed and knelt aside.
They put the holy oils upon his hands,
Which closed upon the fingers of the priest.
The priest bent over him and laid his ear
To the half--open mouth and presently,
Thinking he heard some words, gave absolution.
But, when they would have gone on with the rest,
They found that he was dead. They buried him
With some small pomp to comfort the old dame,
Who said her master was a gentleman
And must be followed with a mourning coach
And mutes and weepers. There was no one else.
His name is cut upon a stone. His dreams
Were written on Time's hem; and Time has fled
And taken him and them. The grass is green
Upon his grave. I cannot doubt he sleeps.
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