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

April 30

The Death of Livingstone

By Roden Noel (1834–1894)

  • David Livingstone was a celebrated Scotch missionary and explorer. He travelled extensively in Central and Southern Africa and died at Lake Bangweolo on April 30, 1873. His body was carried to the coast and finally interred at Westminster Abbey.

  • *****
    THE COLD hands call upon abysmal Gloom:

    Strange frondage murmers in a darkling morn:

    Orphaned men cowed round the fires forlorn:

    Nile shrouds his fountains: the dim living tomb

    Of Africa still closed, Death’s blank-eyed doom—

    No face beloved, no land where he was born—

    Guerdons the warrior! No prayed-for bloom

    Of home-love crowns him ere the year outworn;

    But while faint eyes look far away with trust,

    Death spurns the soul’s quenched altar in the dust!

    … Is all, then, failure? Lives no Father there?

    Do living hearts but supplicate dead air?

    Is this the end of the Promethean

    Indomitable, all-enduring man?

    Who calls it failure?
    God fulfils the prayer:

    He is at home; he rests; the work is done.

    He hath not failed, who fails like Livingstone!

    Radiant diadems all conquerors wear

    Pale before his magnificent despair;

    And whatsoever kingdoms men have won,

    He triumphs dead, defeated, and alone,

    Who learned sublimely to endure and dare!

    For holy labour is the very end,

    Duty man’s crown, and his eternal friend;

    Reason from Chaos wards the world’s grand whole;

    All Nature hath Love’s martyrdom for goal.

    Who nobly toils, though none be nigh to see,

    He only lives—he lives eternally.