John William Streets

(1883-1916 / England)

The Dead - Poem by John William Streets

Let music vast, triumphal, fill the world's great nave,
Voicing the peerless theme of noble youth
Who rose to Life's sublimest greatness at the grave
And won from Death the diadem of Truth!
No requiem solemn, funeral chant so drear
Ought mark their passing to the vast beyond
As at the shrine of Memory we revere,
Crooning their names in murmurings so fond!
For these like some great planet spheric- whirl'd
Have swung into the orbit of a greater world.

These topped the hill of Youth; stood on the verge
Of vision; saw within the furthest star
Spiritual presences, Love's own avatar;
These the twin worlds of soul and flesh did merge
Into a dream, a consciousness that stole
Around their spirits like an aureole.

Knew moments mad with ecstasy, when years
And dreams a happy bridal knew
In Life attained; when mystery that grew
Around the fringe of Life generating years
Was swept into the magic of a morn
From darkness filched, from Love Eternal born.

These flushed with hope; with star-uplifted eyes;
Strained and tense with consciousness of life;
Strung to high purpose; plumed for Youth's astral skies ;
These closed with Death in vast Olympian strife!
Laughed at the fate that lured them from their paradise
To fling their rapturous souls in deathless sacrifice!

Thus should we pay our tributary tears
When Youth doth triumph over Death; when he,
Mad with the promise of the future years,
Yieldeth his will and dies for Liberty?

When he, like some great eagle, lightning- wing'd,
Doth sweep above the dawn, the plains of light,
Winging swift passage (tho' by terror ring'd)
And heedless plunge into the heart of night?
Why weep when Youth doth burst the prison of the clod
And rise unto the heritage, the greatness of a God?

Say not that these are dead: O rather say
That these do live (does nobleness e'er die?)
Who might have fled with Life's autumnal day
And ne'er .have left their soul unto posterity.
These nobly died: in that they live: their sin and vice
Thro' Honour purified became high sacrifice.
Perchance the years their purpose would have worn;
Bred hate, despair, and disillusionment;
Maybe their faith had melted into scorn
Till Life with tragic destinies was pent:
But in one hour of highest sacrifice
Poured out upon the altar-steps of Liberty
They consecrated Life-its destinies and vice-
And wrought within that hour their immortality.

Swell out the song of life since these are meet
In fields of fadeless Memory to play
Where Life and Love in happy bridals meet;
Where Spirits wed on earth
Their ecstasies of birth,
Embrace within the rapture of eternal day!
There, Father, thou canst greet thy son,
Aspiring to the greatness he hath won;
There, Mother, prostrate with your tears,
Within that spirit-heaven remote, afar,
Beyond the night of future years
Behold his soul a bright and fadeless Star!

Sob out no dirge for peerless nobleness,
For Youth triumphant, greater than his fate!
It is an hour when proud of soul, elate,
Man's greatness swells our little consciousness:
When on the wings of aspiration we do rise
And reach to God beyond the brazen skies.

There is a place beyond the bourne of Time,
A niche within the archives of Eternity,
Where souls that touched on earth a chord sublime
Dwell in concordant spirit-harmony:
There these repose who gave their love, their youth,
To feed the dying, sacred flame of Truth.

Theirs is the mighty music of the fadeless stars;
The chant of Life, exultant with high esctasy;
The strength of suffering gods who toil with many scars
To wrest promethean fire for dead humanity.
Beyond our ken, beyond the limit of the years
They sweep into the soul the freedom of the spheres.

Their life will burn with unextinguished flame
To other Youth who tread Life's upland way;
The lustre of their chivalry will shame
All drift of life into a comic play:

And growing Youth will look with wistful eyes
On unexampled manhood meeting death
With unexampled scorn and sacrifice,
Till to their mighty yearning there cometh
An inspiration to achieve and emulate
The youth who died Life's grandeur to perpetuate.

O Youth too great with Littleness to dwell!
O soul of Youth triumphant over death!
O envious manhood keeping sentinel
O'er nobleness of life! O oracle which saith:
'The soul of life is in the will to give:
The best to life in willing sacrifice:
Youth only reaches greatness when he dies
In fullest prime that love and truth may live.
Light's born in darkness, Life breaks from the tomb:
To never die and live, O dark and tragic doom!'

JUNE 1915


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 22, 2010



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