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

John Sterling 1806–44


HOW little fades from earth when sink to rest

The hours and cares that mov’d a great man’s breast!

Though naught of all we saw the grave may spare,

His life pervades the world’s impregnate air;

Though Shakespeare’s dust beneath our footsteps lies,

His spirit breathes amid his native skies;

With meaning won from him forever glows

Each air that England feels, and star it knows;

His whisper’d words from many a mother’s voice

Can make her sleeping child in dreams rejoice,

And gleams from spheres he first conjoin’d to earth

Are blent with rays of each new morning’s birth.

Amid the sights and tales of common things,

Leaf, flower, and bird, and wars, and deaths of kings,

Of shore, and sea, and nature’s daily round,

Of life that tills, and tombs that load the ground,

His visions mingle, swell, command, pace by,

And haunt with living presence heart and eye;

And tones from him by other bosoms caught

Awaken flush and stir of mounting thought,

And the long sigh, and deep impassion’d thrill,

Rouse custom’s trance, and spur the faltering will.

Above the goodly land more his than ours

He sits supreme enthron’d in skyey towers,

And sees the heroic brood of his creation

Teach larger life to his ennobled nation.

O shaping brain! O flashing fancy’s hues!

O boundless heart kept fresh by pity’s dews!

O wit humane and blithe! O sense sublime

For each dim oracle of mantled Time!

Transcendent Form of Man! in whom we read

Mankind’s whole tale of Impulse, Thought, and Deed;

Amid the expanse of years beholding thee,

We know how vast our world of life may be;

Wherein, perchance, with aims as pure as thine,

Small tasks and strength may be no less divine.