Letitia Elizabeth Landon - The City of the Dead
The City of the Dead
’Twas dark with cypresses and yews which cast
Drear shadows on the fairer trees and flowers—
Affections latest signs.
Dark portal of another world—the grave—
I do not fear thy shadow; and methinks,
If I may make my own heart oracle,—
The many long to enter thee, for thou
Alone canst reunite the loved and lost
With those who pine for them. I fear thee not;
I only fear mine own unworthiness,
Lest it prove barrier to my hope, and make
Another parting in another world.
Laurel! oh fling thy green boughs on air,
There is dew on thy branches, what doth it do there?
Thou art worn on the conquerors shield,
When his country receives him from glory's red field;
Thou that art wreathed round the lyre of the bard,
When the song of its sweetness has won its reward.
Earth's changeless and sacred—thou proud laurel tree!
The ears of the midnight, why hang they on thee?
Rose of the morning, the blushing and bright,
Thou whose whole life is one breath of delight;
Beloved of the maiden, the chosen to bind
Her dark tresses' wealth from the wild summer wind.
Fair tablet, still vowed to the thoughts of the lover,
Whose rich leaves with sweet secrets are written all over;
Fragrant as blooming—thou lovely rose tree!
The tears of the midnight, why hang they on thee?
Dark cypress I see thee—thou art my reply,
Why the tears of the night on thy comrade trees lie;
That laurel it wreathed the red brow of the brave,
Yet thy shadow lies black on the warrior's grave.
That rose was less bright than the lip which it prest,
Yet thy sad branches sweep o'er the maiden's last rest:
The brave and the lovely alike they are sleeping,
I marvel no more rose and laurel are weeping.
Yet sunbeam of heaven thou fall'st on the tomb—
Why pausest thou by such dwelling of doom?
Before thee the grove and the garden are spread;
Why lingerest thou round the place of the dead?
Thou art from another, a lovelier sphere,
Unknown to the sorrows that darken us here.
Thou art as a herald of hope from above:—
Weep mourner no more o'er thy grief and thy love;
Still thy heart in its beating, be glad of such rest,
Though it call from thy bosom its dearest and best.
Weep no more that affection thus loosens its tie,
Weep no more that the loved and the loving must die
Weep no more o'er the cold dust that lies at your feet,
But gaze on yon starry world—there ye shall meet.
O heart of mine! is there not One dwelling there
To whom thy love clings in its hope and its prayer?
For whose sake thou numberest each hour of the day,
As a link in the fetters that keep me away;
When I think of the glad and the beautiful home,
Which oft in my dreams to my spirit hath come;
That when our last sleep on my eyelids hath prest;
That I may be with thee at home and at rest:
When wanderer no longer on life's weary shore,
I may kneel at thy feet, and part from thee no more;
While death holds such hope forth to soothe and to save,
Oh sunbeam of heaven thou mayest will light the grave.