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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Alfred Austin 1835–1913

At His Grave


LEAVE me a little while alone,

Here at his grave that still is strown

With crumbling flower and wreath;

The laughing rivulet leaps and falls,

The thrush exults, the cuckoo calls,

And he lies hush’d beneath.

With myrtle cross and crown of rose,

And every lowlier flower that blows,

His new-made couch is dress’d;

Primrose and cowslip, hyacinth wild,

Gather’d by monarch, peasant, child,

A nation’s grief attest.

I stood not with the mournful crowd

That hither came when round his shroud

Pious farewells were said.

In the fam’d city that he sav’d,

By minaret crown’d, by billow lav’d,

I heard that he was dead.

Now o’er his tomb at last I bend,

No greeting get, no greeting tend,

Who never came before

Unto his presence, but I took,

From word or gesture, tone or look,

Some wisdom from his door.

And must I now unanswer’d wait,

And, though a suppliant at the gate,

No sound my ears rejoice?

Listen! Yes, even as I stand,

I feel the pressure of his hand,

The comfort of his voice.

How poor were Fame, did grief confess

That death can make a great life less,

Or end the help it gave!

Our wreaths may fade, our flowers may wane,

But his well-ripen’d deeds remain,

Untouch’d, above his grave.

Let this, too, soothe our widow’d minds;

Silenced are the opprobrious winds

Whene’er the sun goes down;

And free henceforth from noonday noise,

He at a tranquil height enjoys

The starlight of renown.

Thus hence we something more may take

Than sterile grief, than formless ache,

Or vainly utter’d vow;

Death hath bestow’d what life withheld

And he round whom detraction swell’d

Hath peace with honor now.

The open jeer, the covert taunt,

The falsehood coin’d in factious haunt,

These loving gifts reprove.

They never were but thwarted sound

Of ebbing waves that bluster round

A rock that will not move.

And now the idle roar rolls off,

Hush’d is the gibe and sham’d the scoff,

Repress’d the envious gird;

Since death, the looking-glass of life,

Clear’d of the misty breath of strife,

Reflects his face unblurr’d.

From callow youth to mellow age,

Men turn the leaf and scan the page,

And note, with smart of loss,

How wit to wisdom did mature,

How duty burn’d ambition pure,

And purged away the dross.

Youth is self-love; our manhood lends

Its heart to pleasure, mistress, friends,

So that when age steals nigh,

How few find any worthier aim

Than to protract a flickering flame,

Whose oil hath long run dry!

But he, unwitting youth once flown,

With England’s greatness link’d his own,

And, steadfast to that part,

Held praise and blame but fitful sound,

And in the love of country found

Full solace for his heart.

Now in an English grave he lies:

With flowers that tell of English skies

And mind of English air,

A grateful sovereign decks his bed,

And hither long with pilgrim tread

Will English feet repair.

Yet not beside his grave alone

We seek the glance, the touch, the tone;

His home is nigh,—but there,

See from the hearth his figure fled,

The pen unrais’d, the page unread,

Untenanted the chair!

Vainly the beechen boughs have made

A fresh green canopy of shade,

Vainly the peacocks stray;

While Carlo, with despondent gait,

Wonders how long affairs of State

Will keep his lord away.

Here most we miss the guide, the friend;

Back to the churchyard let me wend,

And, by the posied mound,

Lingering where late stood worthier feet,

Wish that some voice, more strong, more sweet,

A loftier dirge would sound.

At least I bring not tardy flowers:

Votive to him life’s budding powers,

Such as they were, I gave—

He not rejecting, so I may

Perhaps these poor faint spices lay,

Unchidden, on his grave!