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

February 18

The Dead Czar

By Dinah Maria Mulock Craik (1826–1887)

  • The Czar Nicholas I., who died on Feb. 18, 1855, was the third son of Paul I. He succeeded his brother and died during the Crimean War.

  • LAY him beneath his snows,

    The great Norse giant who in these last days

    Troubled the nations. Gather decently

    The imperial robes about him. ’Tis but a man,—

    This demi-god. Or rather it was man,

    And is—a little dust, that will corrupt

    As fast as any nameless dust which sleeps

    ’Neath Alma’s grass or Balaklava’s vines.

    No vineyard grave for him. No quiet tomb

    By river margin, where across the seas

    Children’s fond thoughts and women’s memories come

    Like angels, to sit by the sepulchre,

    Saying: “All these were men who knew to count,

    Front-faced, the cost of honor, nor did shrink

    From its full payment: coming here to die,

    They died—like men.”

    But this man? Ah! for him

    Funereal state, and ceremonial grand,

    The stone-engraved sarcophagus, and then


    Nay, oblivion were as bliss

    To that fierce howl which rolls from land to land

    Exulting,—“Art thou fallen Lucifer,

    Son of the morning?” or condemning,—“Thus

    Perish the wicked!” or blaspheming,—“Here

    Lies our Belshazzar, our Sennacherib,

    Our Pharaoh,—he whose heart God hardened,

    So that he would not let the people go.”

    Self-glorifying sinners! Why, this man

    Was but like other men:—you, Levite small,

    Who shut your saintly ears, and prate of hell

    And heretics, because outside church-doors,

    Your church-doors, congregations poor and small

    Praise heaven in their own way;—you, autocrat

    Of all the hamlets, who add field to field

    And house to house, whose slavish children cower

    Before your tyrant footstep;—you, foul-tongued

    Fanatic and ambitious egotist,

    Who thinks God stoops from His high majesty

    To lay His finger on your puny head,

    And crown it,—that you henceforth may parade

    Your maggotship throughout the wondering world,—

    “I am the Lord’s anointed!”

    Fools and blind!

    This Czar, this emperor, this disthroned corpse,

    Lying so straightly in an icy calm

    Grander than sovereignty, was but as ye;—

    No better and no worse;—Heaven mend us all!

    Carry him forth and bury him. Death’s peace

    Rest on his memory! Mercy by his bier

    Sits silent, or says only these few words,—

    “Let him who is without sin ’mongst ye all

    Cast the first stone.”