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

May 19

William E. Gladstone

By London Punch

(Died May 19, 1898)

SOME in the promise of an early prime,

Ere yet the first assault is dared and won,

Death takes with envious hand before their time,

Leaving the task undone.

Some, ripe in manhood, at their army’s head,

As even now they touched the topmost tower,

With shining harness on have fallen dead,

In victory’s crowning hour.

But you, O veteran of a thousand fights,

Whose toil had long attained its perfect end—

Death calls you not as one that claims his rights,

But gently as a friend.

For though that matchless energy of mind

Was firm to front the menace of decay,

Your bodily strength on such a loss declined

As only Death could stay.

So then with you ’tis well, who after pain,

After long pain, have reached your rest at last;

But we—ah when shall England mould again

This type of splendour past?

Noble in triumph, noble in defeat,

Leader of hopes that others held forlorn,

Strong in the faith that looks afar to meet

The flush of Freedom’s morn—

Could we, Her own, forget you to our shame,

Lands that have lived to see Her risen sun

Remembering much should witness how your name

And Freedom’s name are one.

But we shall not forget, nor Time erase

Your record deep in English annals set:

What severance marred your labour’s closing days

Alone we shall forget.

And now, with all your armour laid aside,

Swift eloquence your sword, and, for your shield,

The indomitable courage that defied

The fortune of the field—

As in the noontide of your high command,

So in the final hour when darkness fell,

Submissive still to that untiring Hand

That orders all things well—

We bear you to your resting-place apart

Between the ranks where ancient foe and friend,

Kin by a common sorrow at the heart,

Silent together bend.