After wearisome toil and much sorrow,
How quietly sleep they at last,
Neither dreading and fearing the morrow,
Nor vainly bemoaning the past!
Shall we give them our envy or pity?
Shall we shun or yearn after such rest,
So calm near the turbulent city,
With their heart stilled at length in their breast?
They all sleep with their heads lying westward,
Where all suns and all days have gone down.
Do they long for the dawn, looking eastward?
Do they dream of the strife and the crown?
Each one held a lit taper when dying:
Where hath vanished the fugitive flame?
With his love, and his joy, and his sighing,
Alas! and his youth and his name.
The living stands o'er him and dreameth,
And wonders what dreams came to him.
While the tender, brief twilight still gleameth,
With a light strangely mournful and dim.
And he wonders what lights and what shadows
Passed over these dead long ago,
When their feet now at rest trod these meadows,
And their hearts throbbed to pleasure or woe
What dreams came to them in their living?
The self-same that come now to thee.
If thou findest those dreams are deceiving,
Then these lives thou wilt know and wilt see:
The same visions of love and of glory,
The same vain regret for the past;
All the same poor and pitiful story,
Till the taper's extinguished at last.
All the treasures on earth that they cherished,
Now they care not to clasp nor to save;
And the poor little lights, how they perished,
Slowly dying alone in the grave!
With a flickering faint on the features
Of age, or of youth in its bloom:
Lighting up for grim Death his weak creatures,
In the darkness and night of the tomb,—
With a radiance ghostly and mournful,
On the good, on the just and unjust;
For a space, till the monarch, so scornful,
Turned the light and the lighted to dust.
No taper of earth he desired
In his halls where they quietly rest;
For all those who have toiled and are tired,
Utter darkness and sleep may be best.