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

Francis Turner Palgrave 1824–97

Pro Mortuis


WHAT should a man desire to leave?

A flawless work; a noble life:

Some music harmoniz’d from strife,

Some finish’d thing, ere the slack hands at eve

Drop, should be his to leave.

One gem of song, defying age;

A hard-won fight; a well-work’d farm;

A law no guile can twist to harm;

Some tale, as our lost Thackeray’s bright, or sage

As the just Hallam’s page.

Or, in life’s homeliest, meanest spot,

With temperate step from year to year

To move within his little sphere,

Leaving a pure name to be known, or not,—

This is a true man’s lot.

He dies: he leaves the deed or name,

A gift forever to his land,

In trust to Friendship’s prudent hand,

Round ’gainst all adverse shocks to guard his fame,

Or to the world proclaim.

But the imperfect thing or thought,—

The crudities and yeast of youth,

The dubious doubt, the twilight truth,

The work that for the passing day was wrought,

The schemes that came to nought,

The sketch half-way ’twixt verse and prose

That mocks the finish’d picture true,

The quarry whence the statue grew,

The scaffolding ’neath which the palace rose,

The vague abortive throes

And fever-fits of joy or gloom:—

In kind oblivion let them be!

Nor has the dead worse foe than he

Who rakes these sweepings of the artist’s room,

And piles them on his tomb.

Ah, ’t is but little that the best,

Frail children of a fleeting hour,

Can leave of perfect fruit or flower!

Ah, let all else be graciously supprest

When man lies down to rest!