Death, a Poem

THY gloomy walks, 0 Death! replete with fears,
With 'scutcheons hung, and wet with widows' tears,
The groans of anguish and of deep remorse,
The gloomy coffin and extended cor'se,
Be now my theme—Hence, all ye idle dreams,
Of flowery meadows and meand'ring streams,
Or war's arousing roar—since none are brave
Save those bold few who triumph o'er the grave.
O thou, first Being! Thou, almighty Power!
Who metes out life, a century or an hour;
At whose dread nod the spectre wields his dart,
Uprears his arm, and stabs the quivering heart,
Assist my feeble pen, (since I and all
Must soon before that grisly monarch fall)
To mark his frowns, but learn alone to dread
That awful stroke that tends to death indeed.

  When God descended first to form our earth,
And gave each plant and every creature birth,
When trees arose at his supreme command,
In order ranged, or scattered o'er the land;
Then the clear brook in murmuring measure flow'd,
The zephyr whispered and the cattle lowed;
The voice of music warbled through each grove,
From morn to morn, and every song was love.
The lamb and tiger wantoned o'er the green,
The stag and lion joined the mirthful scene;
The eagle thirsted not for streams of gore,
And the swift hawk had ne'er the warbler tore;
The meanest insect, starting from the ground,
At pleasure sallied to its mazy round,
Returned at night to its abode, a flower,
Nor felt nor feared a mightier creature's power:
For all was peace, and harmony, and love,
Through the deep ocean and the tuneful grove.
Such was the world, ere man its sovereign lord,
Or beauteous woman paradise explored;
Ah! hapless pair! too soon they broke the bounds,
They sinned—they fell—and felt sin's deadly wounds,
Then rushed to being Death, and frowning dread
Stalked o'er the world, and heapt his way with dead.
The herbage withered, in the sun and shade;
Trees shook their leaves, and drooping flowers decayed;
Each creature felt his power; and, while they pined,
Groaned out their last to the loud howling wind.
Yet still a following race did those succeed,
And hoar Time glutted Death with piles of dead.
Thus, for five thousand years, the world has rolled,
Rocks now are mouldering, even the heavens grow old,
And soon that day shall come when Time shall cease,
And usher in eternal pain or peace.
Yet how important is that awful day,
That lays us breathless, pale, extended clay,
When from our lips the ruddy glow shall fade,
When the pulse ceases to emit its tide;
When sadly pondering o'er our lifeless cor'se,
Our weeping friends regret Death's cruel force;
Then mounts the soul to God, and there receives
Its fixed doom, and shouts for joy, or grieves;
Through all eternity prolongs the strain
Of endless joy—or yells in endless pain.

  Death sometimes sends his cruel page, disease,
To rob our nights of rest, our days of ease;
Unwelcome guest: and yet he proves no foe,
He weans our passions from the trash below;
Each pang of anguish urges to prepare,
Ere death approach with stern relentless glare;
And, if unready, we are caught by Death,
He throws us howling to the gulph beneath.

  With sudden steps sometimes the foe appears,
And calls to judgment in our shuddering ears.
We start alarmed—survey our guilty past;
Bend down to pray, and, bending, breathe our last.
Then fled is fate, for as we fall we lie;
We sink in death, or sinking doubly die.
Should these sad scenes not rouse us to concern,
Our state to weigh, and danger to discern,
Ere that dread period, when we leave this shore,
And time and means are given us here no more.
Death's stare may startle even the purest saint,
And at the change his soul perhaps may faint;
But in that hour these cheering words he hears,
And this sweet promise flows upon his ears,
"I am thy friend, on me thy burden lay,
And through death's vale I'll gently pave thy way."
Thrice welcome words! rejoiced, he spurns this earth,
Where nought but sorrow reigns, and foolish mirth;
To life saints usher, when on earth they die,
And when they leave us join the song on high.