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

March 14

Benjamin Harrison

By Charles Edward Russell (1860–1941)

(Died March 14, 1901)

FULL on his forehead fell the expiring light

Of old wreathed altars where his fathers died,

While at his back the dull devouring night

Poured its advancing tide.

He would the ancient light relume, would fain

The dear old faith keep still without a blot,

The flag he fought for scathless of a stain,

The shield without a spot.

He sided with the weak and ceaseless strove

With failing hands against the tyrannous strong;

Here was no place for him where unarmed Love

Is strangled by old Wrong.

Here was no place for him where Force and Greed

Upon the sacred fillets lay their hands

Red from the spoil of stricken souls that bleed

And wrecks of ruined lands.

He has won peace at last—the peace that knows

In dreamless tides no hint of hate or tears,

And falls where once his dauntless voice arose

The silence of the years.

And men walk by and gaze, and wondering ask,

Now that the white clear-visioned soul is fled,

Where is the hand to seize the torch and task

New fallen from the dead?

Was all in vain? Is any word of worth,

Though winged with truth and shot home to the mark,

If all the answer is this silent earth

All lost voice in the dark?

But lost is never living word nor deed.

As toward great waves unseen the ripple flows,

As hour by hour, unguessed, the fervent seed

Up to the sunlight grows,

The true man’s word, though sown in fallow soil

And fruitless lying many a day and night,

In its own way, beyond the sower’s toil,

Bursts into deathless light.