The Husband’s and Wife’s Grave

written by

« Reload image

Husband and wife! No converse now ye hold,As once ye did in your young days of love,On its alarms, its anxious hours, delays,Its silent meditations, its glad hopes,Its fears, impatience, quiet sympathies;Nor do ye speak of joy assured, and blissFull, certain, and possessed. Domestic caresCall you not now together. Earnest talkOn what your children may be, moves you not.Ye lie in silence, and an awful silence;'T is not like that in which ye rested onceMost happy -- silence eloquent, when heartWith heart held speech, and your mysterious frames,Harmonious, sensitive, at every beatTouch'd the soft notes of love.

A stillness deepInsensible, unheeding, folds you round;And darkness, as a stone, has seal'd you in.Away from all the living, here ye rest:In all the nearness of the narrow tomb,Yet feel ye not each other's presence now.Dread fellowship! -- together, yet alone.

Is this thy prison-house, thy grave, then, Love?And doth death cancel the great bond that holdsCommingling spirits? Are thoughts that know no bounds,But self-inspired, rise upward, searching outThe eternal Mind -- the Father of all thought --Are they become mere tenants of a tomb? --Dwellers in darkness, who the illuminate realmsOf uncreated light have visited and lived? --Lived in the dreadful splendor of that throne,Which One, with gentle hand the veil of fleshLifting, that hung 'twixt man and it, revealedIn glory? -- throne, before which even nowOur souls, moved by prophetic power, bow downRejoicing, yet at their own natures awed? --Souls that Thee know by a mysterious sense,Thou awful, unseen Presence -- are they quenched,Or burn they on, hid from our mortal eyesBy that bright day which ends not; as the sunHis robe of light flings round the glittering stars?

And do our loves all perish with our frames?Do those that took their root and put forth buds,And their soft leaves unfolded in the warmthOf mutual hearts, grow up and live in beauty,Then fade and fall, like fair unconscious flowers?Are thoughts and passions that to the tongue give speech,And make it send forth winning harmonies, --That to the cheek do give its living glow,And vision in the eye the soul intenseWith that for which there is no utterance --Are these the body's accidents? -- no more? --To live in it, and when that dies, go outLike the burnt taper's flame?

O, listen, man!A voice within us speaks that startling word,"Man, thou shalt never die!" Celestial voicesHymn it around our souls: according harps,By angel fingers touched when the mild starsOf morning sang together, sound forth stillThe song of our great immortality:Thick clustering orbs, and this our fair domain,The tall, dark mountains, and the deep-toned seas,Join in this solemn, universal song.-- O, listen, ye, our spirits; drink it inFrom all the air! 'T is in the gentle moonlight;'T is floating in day's setting glories; Night,Wrapt in her sable robe, with silent stepComes to our bed and breathes it in our ears:Night, and the dawn, bright day, and thoughtful eve,All time, all bounds, the limitless expanse,As one vast mystic instrument, are touchedBy an unseen, living Hand, and conscious chordsQuiver with joy in this great jubilee:-- The dying hear it; and as sounds of earthGrow dull and distant, wake their passing soulsTo mingle in this heavenly harmony.

Why is it that I linger round this tomb?What holds it? Dust that cumbered those I mourn.They shook it off, and laid aside earth's robes,And put on those of light. They're gone to dwellIn love -- their God's and angels'. Mutual love,That bound them here, no longer needs a speechFor full communion; nor sensations strong,Within the breast, their prison, strive in vainTo be set free, and meet their kind in joy.Changed to celestials, thoughts that rise in each,By natures new, impart themselves though silent.Each quickening sense, each throb of holy love,Affections sanctified, and the full glowOf being, which expand and gladden one,By union all mysterious, thrill and liveIn both immortal frames: -- Sensation all,And thought, pervading, mingling sense and thought!Ye paired, yet one! wrapt in a consciousnessTwofold, yet single -- this is love, this life!

Why call we then the square-built monument,The upright column, and the low laid slab,Tokens of death, memorials of decay?Stand in this solemn, still assembly, man,And learn thy proper nature; for thou seest,In these shaped stones and lettered tables, figuresOf life: More are they to thy soul than thoseWhich he who talked on Sinai's mount with God,Brought to the old Judeans -- types are theseOf thine eternity.

I thank Thee, Father,That at this simple grave, on which the dawnIs breaking, emblem of that day which hathNo close, Thou kindly unto my dark mindHast sent a sacred light, and that awayFrom this green hillock, whither I had comeIn sorrow, Thou art leading me in joy.

© Dana Richard Henry