Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895
Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895.  1895.
To a Desolate Friend
William James Dawson (b. 1854)
O FRIEND, like some cold wind to-day
Your message came, and chilled the light;
Your house so dark, and mine so bright,—
I could not weep, I could not pray!
My wife and I had kissed at morn,        5
My children’s lips were full of song;
O friend, it seemed such cruel wrong,
My life so full, and yours forlorn!
We slept last night clasped hand in hand,
Secure and calm—and never knew        10
How fared the lonely hours with you,
What time those dying lips you fanned.
We dreamed of love, and did not see
The shadow pass across our dream;
We heard the murmur of a stream,        15
Not death’s for it ran bright and free.
And in the dark her gentle soul
Passed out, but oh! we knew it not!
My babe slept fast within her cot,
While yours woke to the slow bell’s toll.        20
She paused a moment,—who can tell?—
Before our windows, but we lay
So deep in sleep she went away,
And only smiled a sad farewell!
It would be like her; well we know        25
How oft she waked while others slept—
She never woke us when she wept,
It would be like her thus to go!
Ah, friend! you let her stray too far
Within the shadow-haunted wood,        30
Where deep thoughts never understood
Breathe on us and like anguish are.
One day within that gloom there shone
A heavenly dawn, and with wide eyes
She saw God’s city crown the skies,        35
Since when she hasted to be gone.
Too much you yielded to her grace;
Renouncing self, she thus became
An angel with a human name,
And angels coveted her face.        40
Earth’s door you set so wide, alack
She saw God’s gardens, and she went
A moment forth to look; she meant
No wrong, but oh! she came not back!
Dear friend, what can I say or sing,        45
But this, that she is happy there?
We will not grudge those gardens fair
Where her light feet are wandering.
The child at play is ignorant
Of tedious hours; the years for you        50
To her are moments: and you too
Will join her ere she feels your want.
The path she wends we cannot track:
And yet some instinct makes us know
Hers is the joy, and ours the woe,—        55
We dare not wish her to come back!


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