Nathan Covington Brooks

(1809-1898 / the United States)

Shelley's Obsequies - Poem by Nathan Covington Brooks

Ibi tu calentem
Debita sparges lacryma favillam
Vatis amici.


Beneath the axle of departing day
The weary waters on the horizon's verge
Blush'd like the cheek of children tired in play,
As bore the surge
The poet's wasted form with slow and mournful dirge.

On Via Reggio's surf-beaten strand
The late-relenting sea, with hollow moan
Gave back the storm-tossed body to the land,
As if in tone
Of sorrow it bewailed the deed itself had done.

There laid upon his bed of shells-around
The moon and stars their lonely vigils kept;
While in their pall-like shades the mountains bound
And night bewept
The bard of nature as in death's cold arms he slept.

The tuneful morn arose with locks of light-
The ear that drank her music's call was chill;
The eye that shone was sealed in endless night,
And cold and still
The pulses stood that 'neath her gaze were wont to thrill.

With trees e'en like the sleeper's honors sered
And prows of galleys, like his bosom riven,
The melancholy pile of death was reared
Aloft to heaven,
And on its pillared height the corpse to torches given.

From his meridian throne the eye of day
Beheld the kindlings of the funeral fire,
Where, like a war-worn Roman chieftain, lay
Upon his pyre
The poet of the broken heart and broken lyre.

On scented wings the sorrowing breezes came
And fanned the blaze, until the smoke that rushed
In dusky volumes upward, lit with flame
All redly blushed
Like Melancholy's sombre cheek by weeping flushed.

And brother bards upon that lonely shore
Were standing by, and wept as brightly burned
The pyre, till all the form they loved before,
To ashes turned,
With incense, wine, and tears was sprinkled and inurned.

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, September 18, 2010

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