Requiescat in Pace1

We have watched him to the last ;1
We have seen the dreaded king2
Smile pacific as he past3
By that couch of suffering :4
Wrinkles of aggressive years,5
Channels of unwitnessed tears,6
Furrows on the anxious brow,7
All are smooth as childhood’s now !8
Death, as seen by men in dreams,9
Something stern and cruel seems10
But his face is not the same,11
When he comes into the room,12
Takes the hand and names the name,13
Seals the eyes with tender gloom,14
Saying : “ Blessed are the laws15
To which all God’s creatures bend :16
Mortal ! fear me not, because17
Thine inevitable friend !”18
So, when all the limbs were still,19
Moved no more by sense or will,20
Reverent hands the body laid21
In the church’s pitying shade,22
With the pious rites that fall23
Like the rain-drops upon all.24
What could Man refuse or grant25
The spiritual inhabitant,26
Who so long had ruled within27
With power to sin or not to sin ?28
Nothing. Hope, and hope alone,29
Mates with death. Upon a stone30
Let the simple name be writ,31
Traced upon the infant’s front32
Years ago : and under it,33
As with Christian folk is wont,34
Requiescat,” or may be35
Symbol letters, R. I. P.36
Rest is happy, rest is right,37
Rest is precious in God’s sight.38
But if He who lies below,39
Out of an abundant heart40
Drawing remedies for woe,41
Never wearied to impart42
Blessings to his fellow-men ;43
If he never rested then,44
1 We have reason to believe that this poem has been printed in
some collection in the United States, but it has never been published
in this country.
But each harvest gathered seed45
For the future word and deed,46
And the darkness of his kind47
Filled him with such endless ruth,48
That the very light of truth49
Pained him walking ’mid the blind,—50
How, when some transcendent change51
Gives his being boundless range,52
When he knows not time or space,53
In the nearness of God’s face,54
In the world of spirits how55
Shall that Soul be resting now ?56
While one creature is unblest,57
How can such as He have rest ?58
Rest in peace,” the legend runs ;59
Rest is sweet to Adam’s sons.60
But can He, whose busy brain61
Worked within this hollow skull62
Now his zeal for truth restrain,63
Now his subtle fancy dull,64
When he wanders spirit-free,65
Young in his immortality ?66
While on earth he only bore67
Life as it was linked with lore,68
And the infinite increase69
Of knowledge was his only peace :70
Till that knowledge be possest,71
How can such a mind have rest ?72
Rest is happy ; rest is meet73
For well-worn and weary feet ;74
Surely not for Him, on whom75
Ponderous stands the pompous tomb,76
Prompt to blind the future’s eyes77
With gilt deceit and blazoned lies :78
Him, who never used his powers79
To speed for good the waiting hours,—80
Made none wiser for his seeing,81
Made none better for his being82
Closed his eyes, lest others’ woes83
Should disturb his base repose84
Catching at each selfish zest ;85
How can He have right to rest ?86
Rather we would deem him driven87
Anywhere in search of heaven,88
Failing ever in the quest,89
Till he learns it is not given90
That man should by himself be blest.91


Here we struggle with the light,—92
And, when comes the fated night,93
Into nature’s lap we fall,94
Like tired children, one and all.95
Day and Labour, Night and Rest,96
Come together in our mind,97
And we image forth the Blest98
To eternal calm resigned :99
Yet it may be that the abyss100
Of the lost is only this101
That for them all things to come102
Are inanimate and dumb,103
And immortal life they steep104
In dishonourable sleep :105
‘While no power of pause is given106
To the inheritors of heaven ;107
And the holiest still are those108
Who are farthest from repose,109
And yet onward, onward press110
To a loftier godliness ;111
Still becoming, more than being,112
Apprehending, more than seeing,113
Feeling, as from orb to orb114
In their awful course they run,115
How their Souls new light absorb116
From the self-existing One,117
Demiurgos, throned above,118
Mind of Mind, and Love of Love.119