The Dying Hour

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OH! watch me; watch me still
Thro' the long night's dreary hours,
Uphold by thy firm will
Worn Nature's sinking powers!

While yet thy face is there
(The loose locks round it flying),
So young, and fresh, and fair,
I feel not I am dying!

Stoop down, and kiss my brow!
The shadows round me closing
Warn me that dark and low
I soon shall be reposing.

But while those pitying eyes
Are bending thus above me,
In vain the death-dews rise,--
Thou dost regret and love me!

Then watch me thro' the night,
Thro' my broken, fitful slumber;
By the pale lamp's sickly light
My dying moments number!

Thy fond and patient smile
Shall soothe my painful waking;
Thy voice shall cheer me while
The slow grey dawn is breaking!

The battle-slain, whose thirst
No kindly hand assuages,
Whose low faint farewells burst
Unheard, while combat rages,--

The exiled, near whose bed
Some vision'd form seems weeping,
Whose steps shall never tread
The land where he lies sleeping,--

The drown'd, whose parting breath
Is caught by wild winds only,--
Theirs is the bitter death,
Beloved, for they die lonely!

But thus, tho' rack'd, to lie,
Thou near, tho' full of sadness,
Leaves still, e'en while I die,
A lingering gleam of gladness!

I feel not half my pain
When to mine thy fond lip presses,--
I warm to life again
Beneath thy soft caresses!

Once more, oh! yet once more
Fling, fling thy white arms round me,
As oft in days of yore
Their gentle clasp hath bound me;

And hold me to that breast
Which heaves so full with sorrow--
Who knows where I may rest
In the dark and blank to-morrow?

Ah! weep not--it shall be
An after-thought to cheer thee,
That while mine eyes could see,
And while mine ears could hear thee--

Thy voice and smile were still
The spells on which I doated,
And thou, through good and ill,
To me and mine devoted!

And calmly by my tomb,
When the low bright day declineth,
And athwart the cypress gloom
The mellow sunset shineth,--

Thou'lt sit and think of Him,
Who, of Heaven's immortal splendour,
Had a dream on earth, though dim,
In thy love so pure and tender,--

Who scarcely feels thy touch,--
Whom thy voice can rouse no longer,--
But whose love on earth was such,
That only death was stronger.

Yes, sit, but not in tears!
Thine eyes in faith uplifting,
From thy lot of changeful years,
To the Heaven where naught is shifting.

From this world, where all who love
Are doomed alike to sever,
To the glorious realms above,
Where they dwell in peace for ever!

And then such hope shall beam
From the grave where I lie sleeping,
This bitter hour shall seem
Too vague and far for weeping--

And grief--ah! hold me now!
My fluttering pulse is failing,--
The death-dews chill my brow,--
The morning light is paling!

I seek thy gaze in vain,--
Earth reels and fades before me;
I die!--but feel no pain,--
Thy sweet face shining o'er me!

© Caroline Norton