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The dead are on the mount; or, what is left
Of those who lived and moved in varied form; —
The reeking warrior, with his brains all cleft,
And bosom bleeding from the battle-storm;
The blushing bride, of nuptial joys bereft, *
Whilst yet her life was new and love was warn;
The feverish poet, with his pulse so high,
His flaming fancy and his flashing eye.
And those are there whose locks were white with time,
And those whose time would scarcely count an hour;
And manhood stricken in its boasted prime,
And beauty blighted ere the bud could flower;
And blasted Genius, with his thought sublime,
And soul-aspiring as a sun-lit tower; —
All—all are gathered on that mountain's brow:
Alas! what were they once 3–what are they now
It matters not: with them I'd love to lay,
So lightly lifted from the scum of earth;
My spirit, bursting from its clogging clay,
Beneath the rising moon would wander forth ;
Mayhap 't would join the long and dim array
Of dusky shadows in their ghostly mirth;—
For ghosts are mirthful — or they should be so,
Exempt from mortal pangs and human wo.
From o'er the craggy verge 't were joy to lean,
And hear from restless life the ceaseless hum ;
And seeing all things, be ourself unseen,
And know that sorrow ne'er to us would come;
Assuming but to mock a mortal's mien ;
Nor lacking language, though our tongue be dumb,
Each gossip ghost whose crony news had brought, Though hearing nothing, would absorb a thought.
I hate those gloomy vaults made for the dead,
Those mouldy cellars, with their walls of stone;
Where friend and foe are piled above our head,
So soon as they have spent their parting groan,
And ravenous rats are quick, with stealthy tread,
To gnaw the coffins to the corse's bone
*T were better far to give us to the worm,
Than let such vermin feed upon our form.
I’ve gazed within those vaults, when opened wide:
Huge rats were running in the light of day;
And as my living form they longing eyed,
They said unto themselves — or seemed to say—
“We soon will taste of you!” but there they lied
When breathless is this brittle house of clay,
"Twill slowly seek a rural church's yard,
And rest for aye beneath the grassy sward.
Some years ago within this city dwelt
A fair young creature in the morn of life.
A fever struck her; and within she felt
The sad forebodings of a mortal strife.
Beside her couch her mournful mother knelt,
And prayed that Death would stay his lifted knife,
Nor sever thus the ties that bound her here
To that meek sufferer — her daughter dear.
The prayer was vain: she shortly swooned away;
They thought her dead, nor deemed her in a trance:
Her weeping friends came crowding where she lay,
And took through streaming tears their farewell glance.
Then came the funeral, with its black array,
And slowly forward did the train advance.
Within an opened vault the maid was lain–
And then its yawning mouth was closed again.
My God — she was not dead . She woke, and found
No kind, familiar face was bending near ; —
The awful truth flashed on her with a bound,
She burst her coffin ; – ’t was the strength of Fear !—
Then wildly did she scream; the rolling sound
Reverberated on her startled ear;
But none replied: she shrieked, and shrieked in vain –
No human voice could answer her again!
The mouldy vault she trampled to and fro,
And groped along the wall to find the door:
Protruding coffins made her passage slow ;
In loathsome piles they lay behind—before —
And all around, where'er she tried to go —
Descending from the roof unto the floor; —
Alone she stood among the many dead,
Six feet of solid earth above her head
Alone!—alone! Among the dead—alone,
And breathing thick the foul, unwholesome air :
Oh' had her joyless brother but have known
That she was moving mid the horrors there,
With all a brother's love, he would have flown
To wrest her from the grasp of fell despair;
But 'twas not thus to be ; – remorseless Fate
Forbids us knowledge till it comes too late.
Ay! she was shut mid darkness and the dead!
Or night or day—apart she knew them not,
But stumbled on, with false, uncertain tread;
For thrice her flowing robes the coffins caught,
And thrice she tore away; the rending shred
In vain withheld her from the goal she sought.
The arching doorway she perceived at last, —
But, oh! the weighty earth compressed it fast!
*T was also bolted on the outer side; And why we know not, but the bolts were there; • And hence ’twas useless, yet she fiercely tried To force a passage to the upper air. The stubborn door her feeble strength defied, And stood immovable, to keep her where She still was panting to escape from Death, Exhausted—fainting — frightened out of breath !
She could not bear to die! she was so young,
And life so lovely to her youthful sight!
Thus when 't was slipping, then the more she clung,
With grip tenaceous, to prevent its flight:
And then, her heart's fine chords were newly strung
To ring their symphony to love's delight;
Her sun was rising yet, midway from noon; —
The startling King of Terrors came too soon :
And now she longed for light, that she might scan
If aught could be removed that barred the way;
And next she groping felt, to form some plan
Of quick progression to the blessed day:
Anon, her sinking hopes she turned from man,
And from herself—poor, helpless child of clay !
Then down the steps she went; and, kneeling there,
Unto her God she prayed a fervent prayer.
With penitential thoughts her prayer was rife,
Except in danger, such we seldom see,_
And oft she promised, if He granted life,
She'd seek Religion ;— oh! how good she'd be —
Forsaking vain desires and worldly strife,
And living only for eternity: -
Her reckless friends she'd urge, their souls to save;—
They'd listen unto one from out the grave!
She calmly rose from that strange place of prayer,
Her terror tempered to a sober grief;
And all her anguish she found strength to bear;
For faith she had her trials would be brief,-
That He who takes the sparrows 'neath his care,
Unto a dying girl would send relief:
And so she waited hours, but nothing heard,
Excepting her own sobs from hope deferred,
Or rattling vermin, which were hurrying o'er
The hollow covers of decaying wood.
In droves they came ; for, as I said before,
Within those dreary caves they found their food.
With their long, yellow teeth, she heard them bore,
So near, she could have touched them where she stood :
But none molested her; no doubt, because
They more than had enough to fill their maws.