The Final Reckoning

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’Twas a wild and stormy sunset, changing tints of lurid red
Flooded mountain top and valley and the low clouds overhead;
And the rays streamed through the windows of a building stately, high,
Whose wealthy, high-born master had lain him down to die.

Many friends were thronging round him, breathing aching, heavy sighs—
Men with pale and awe-struck faces, women, too, with weeping eyes,
Watching breathless, silent, grieving him whose sands were nearly run,
When, with sudden start, he muttered: “God! how much I’ve left undone!”

Then out spoke an aged listener, with broad brow and locks of snow,
“Patriot, faithful to thy country and her welfare, say not so,
For the long years thou hast served her thou hast only honor won.”
But, from side to side still tossing, still he muttered: “Much undone!”

Then the wife, with moan of anguish, like complaint of stricken dove,
Murmured: “Husband, truer, fonder, never blessed a woman’s love,
And a just and tender father both to daughter and to son”—
But more feebly moaned he ever: “Oh! there’s much, there’s much undone!”

Quickly, then, a proud, stern soldier questioned: “Say, will not thy name
Long descend in future story, linked with honor and with fame,
For thine arm was prompt in battle and thy laurels nobly won;
Patriot, citizen and soldier, what, then, is there left undone?”

Then the dying man upraised him; at his accents loud and clear
Into silence men lapsed quickly—women checked each sob and tear;
And he said: “To fame, home, country, all my heart, my thoughts I’ve given,
But, Oh dreamers, can you tell me what I’ve done for God—for Heaven?

“It was not for Him I battled with the sword or with the pen,
Not for His praise that I thirsted, but that of my fellow-men;
And amid the light now flooding this my life’s last setting sun,
I can see, misguided worldling! that there’s much I’ve left undone.”

Thicker, darker, fell the shadows, fainter grew his flutt’ring breath
Then a strange and solemn stillness, ’twas the awful hush of death:
Hope we that a tender Saviour, unto gentle pity won,
Judged that dying man with mercy, whatsoe’er he left undone!

© Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon