James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

April 19

At His Grave

By Alfred Austin (1835–1913)

  • Lord Beaconsfield died at Hughenden, April 19, 1881.

  • 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 hushed beneath.

    With myrtle cross and crown of rose,

    And every lowlier flower that blows,

    His new-made couch is dressed;

    Primrose and cowslip, hyacinth wild,

    Gathered 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 famed city that he saved,

    By minaret crowned, by billow laved,

    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 presence, but I took,

    From word or gesture, tone or look,

    Some wisdom from his door.

    And must I now unanswered 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-ripened deeds remain,

    Untouched, above his grave.

    Let this, too, soothe our widowed 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 vaguely uttered vow;

    Death hath bestowed what life withheld

    And he round whom detraction swelled

    Hath peace with honour now.

    The open jeer, the covert taunt,

    The falsehood coined 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,

    Hushed is the gibe and shamed the scoff,

    Repressed the envious gird;

    Since death, the looking-glass of life,

    Cleared of the misty breath of strife,

    Reflects his face unblurred.

    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 burned 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!

    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 unraised, 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!