by Joseph Ignatius Constantine Clarke
With deep Amen are closed the funeral rites:
The wreathing incense lingers on the air,
A mist of sorrow and a floating prayer
That dims the altar's starry lights.
Slowly the coffin neath its crest of flowers,
Two white-robed nuns before,
Is borne to trembling music down the aisle;
And following, as loath to go,
Even to steps so slow,
The mourners in defile
The white-haired woman whom her grief devours,
The children bowed and weeping sore
The friend, the father they will see no more.
And we the watchers, grey of head,
Lifelong companions of the man here dead,
Gaze sorrowing through backward glance of years,
And finding ever lonely founts of fears
In silent reaches of the past.
Sudden I catch my breath aghast,
And ask myself what place
In such procession finds yon smiling face?
Scarce more than boy, with sunlit hair
And eyes of laughing blue,
Of buoyant stride and gesture debonnair,
A red rose in his coat so gay of hue.
What does he there,
With joy of raptured hours upon his brow,
In startling light from suns long gone?
Why shine they on his forehead here and now,
The while the dead man's coffin passes slowly on?
Surely I know, I've seen
Oh, no: the like it never could have been
What smile familiar on his lips
His parted lips, as if some song
Of joyous lilting and o f merry quips
Were fain to issue clear and strong?
Yea, glad strains ring of carols wild, profane,
That match the laughter of his eyes,
Strange discord making with the sobs and sighs
From hearts here wrung in bitter pain.
They mingle with the dead-chant in mine ear,
Across the thrilling of the organ s roll:
stripling of the singing soul,
Your place is far from here!
Ay, somewhere once, far off in time,
When twin were love and joy,
And living was a silver rhyme,
I knew you, boy, care-free and debonnair;
And he whose clay you follow knew
Your laughing heart, your blue eyes rare,
You of the morning hour,
You of the blood-red flow'r.
And all might read the darling hope
That was your lode-star then,
Ere --- fired you, and the rocky slope,
Ambition, tempted you beyond your ken:
When love first dawned on you in flame,
And temple shrines of fame,
Mid garden spaces hedged by living truth,
Lay fair before you, eager to explore
Oh God, it is my golden, jocund youth
Goes out there by the dead man at the door.
Last updated January 14, 2019