Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  To a Desolate Friend

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

William James Dawson b. 1854

To a Desolate Friend

O FRIEND, like some cold wind to-day

Your message came, and chilled the light;

Your house so dark, and mine so bright,—

I could not weep, I could not pray!

My wife and I had kissed at morn,

My children’s lips were full of song;

O friend, it seemed such cruel wrong,

My life so full, and yours forlorn!

We slept last night clasped hand in hand,

Secure and calm—and never knew

How fared the lonely hours with you,

What time those dying lips you fanned.

We dreamed of love, and did not see

The shadow pass across our dream;

We heard the murmur of a stream,

Not death’s for it ran bright and free.

And in the dark her gentle soul

Passed out, but oh! we knew it not!

My babe slept fast within her cot,

While yours woke to the slow bell’s toll.

She paused a moment,—who can tell?—

Before our windows, but we lay

So deep in sleep she went away,

And only smiled a sad farewell!

It would be like her; well we know

How oft she waked while others slept—

She never woke us when she wept,

It would be like her thus to go!

Ah, friend! you let her stray too far

Within the shadow-haunted wood,

Where deep thoughts never understood

Breathe on us and like anguish are.

One day within that gloom there shone

A heavenly dawn, and with wide eyes

She saw God’s city crown the skies,

Since when she hasted to be gone.

Too much you yielded to her grace;

Renouncing self, she thus became

An angel with a human name,

And angels coveted her face.

Earth’s door you set so wide, alack

She saw God’s gardens, and she went

A moment forth to look; she meant

No wrong, but oh! she came not back!

Dear friend, what can I say or sing,

But this, that she is happy there?

We will not grudge those gardens fair

Where her light feet are wandering.

The child at play is ignorant

Of tedious hours; the years for you

To her are moments: and you too

Will join her ere she feels your want.

The path she wends we cannot track:

And yet some instinct makes us know

Hers is the joy, and ours the woe,—

We dare not wish her to come back!