November wind flies swift and strong and cool
Across the crystalline blue lake of sky,
And strews without a clear design or rule
The leaves that so magnificently die.
As splendidly as for a bridal trail,
They tumble, orange, pale gold, spicy red,
And in a gentle tribute lightly sail
Around these stones that mark the sleeping dead.
Some, like small towers, witnessing the losses
Of those who could spare half a fortune’s worth;
Some, sweetly carved with angels or with crosses;
Some, lowly, worn, and sunk into the earth;
But over all, a solemn silence lies,
Thick, heavy, peaceful, like a holy veil,
Unbroken by vain fears and stormy sighs
That thunder round the earth’s embattled pale.
Here, no one worries any more if life
Ne’er granted them success or wealth or fame,
Thinks on the outcome of their weary strife,
Minds mortal talk—to them, ‘tis all the same.
One thing alone is of importance here:
Did these souls, sprung from out the Father’s hand,
Direct their flight up through earth’s little sphere
Home toward His light, the destiny He planned?
If so, they have no more to grieve or dread;
Their earthly quest fulfilled, they now are free,
Or will be soon, for even to the dead
He grants the grace to reach full purity.
And whether plunged in His ecstatic sea
Or passing first through purifying rain,
They’ve gained the priceless pearl, eternity
In His embrace—for which all loss is gain.
Then, too, they rest awaiting even more,
Full, endless life not only for the soul,
For ‘tis their Lord’s design unaltered for
Man’s flesh and spirit that they form one whole.
The day will dawn; the veil o’er all their tombs
Will by a hand on high be rent asunder;
His own will rise as from some poor bedrooms,
Ring out their grateful praise while angels wonder.
One day I too will lie beneath this field,
Desires and fears of mortal life long gone;
What then I’ll find and be remains concealed,
And yet it’s pleasant to reflect upon,
That in my tangled life, the only care
That won’t be borne leaf-like on winds of time
Is following the souls gone safely there,
True home, true life, dear country, hope sublime.
So now I kneel upon their sacred ground,
My mortal mind half grasping all of this,
And lift my suffrage for those laid all round,
To speed their passage to their Father’s bliss.
O great Redeemer, by Whose gift we hold
A hope so full of immortality,
Grant them, and us, when flesh’s fire grows cold,
Your unveiled Face for evermore to see!