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

Sir Lewis Morris b. 1833

At Last

LET me at last be laid

On that hillside I know which scans the vale,

Beneath the thick yews’ shade,

For shelter when the rains and winds prevail.

It cannot be the eye

Is blinded when we die,

So that we know no more at all

The dawns increase, the evenings fall;

Shut up within a mouldering chest of wood

Asleep, and careless of our children’s good.

Shall I not feel the spring,

The yearly resurrection of the earth,

Stir thro’ each sleeping thing

With the fair throbbings and alarms of birth,

Calling at its own hour

On folded leaf and flower,

Calling the lamb, the lark, the bee,

Calling the crocus and anemone,

Calling new lustre to the maiden’s eye,

And to the youth love and ambition high?

Shall I no more admire

The winding river kiss the daisied plain?

Nor see the dawn’s cold fire

Steal downward from the rosy hills again?

Nor watch the frowning cloud,

Sublime with mutterings loud,

Burst on the vale, nor eves of gold,

Nor crescent moons, nor starlights cold,

Nor the red casements glimmer on the hill

At Yule-tides, when the frozen leas are still?

Or should my children’s tread

Through Sabbath twilights, when the hymns are done,

Come softly overhead,

Shall no sweet quickening through my bosom run,

Till all my soul exale

Into the primrose pale,

And every flower which springs above

Breathes a new perfume from my love;

And I shall throb, and stir, and thrill beneath

With a pure passion stronger far than death?

Sweet thought! fair, gracious dream,

Too fair and fleeting for our clearer view!

How should our reason deem

That those dear souls, who sleep beneath the blue

In rayless caverns dim,

’Mid ocean monsters grim,

Or whitening on the trackless sand,

Or with strange corpses on each hand

In battle-trench or city graveyard lie,

Break not their prison-bonds till time shall die?

Nay, ’t is not so indeed:

With the last fluttering of the falling breath

The clay-cold form doth breed

A viewless essence, far too fine for death;

And, ere one voice can mourn,

On upward pinions borne,

They are hidden, they are hidden, in some thin air,

Far from corruption, far from care,

Where through a veil they view their former scene,

Only a little touch’d by what has been.

Touch’d but a little; and yet,

Conscious of every change that doth befall,

By constant change beset,

The creatures of this tiny whirling ball,

Fill’d with a higher being,

Dower’d with a clearer seeing,

Risen to a vaster scheme of life,

To wider joys and nobler strife,

Viewing our little human hopes and fears

As we our children’s fleeting smiles and tears.

Then, whether with fire they burn

This dwelling-house of mine when I am fled,

And in a marble urn

My ashes rest by my beloved dead,

Or in the sweet cold earth

I pass from death to birth,

And pay kind Nature’s life-long debt

In heart’s-ease and in violet—

In charnel-yard or hidden ocean wave,

Where’er I lie, I shall not scorn my grave.