Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > An American Anthology, 1787–1900
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  An American Anthology, 1787–1900.  1900.
 
291. The Funeral of Time
 
By Henry Beck Hirst
 
 
LO! through a shadowy valley
  March with measured step and tread
A long array of Phantoms wan
  And pallid as the dead,—
  The white and waxen dead!        5
  With a crown on every head,
    And a torch in every hand
      To fright the sheeted ghosts away
      That guard its portals night and day,
    They seek the Shadow-Land.        10
 
On as the pale procession stalks,
  The clouds around divide,
Raising themselves in giant shapes,
  And gazing down in pride
  On the spectres as they glide        15
  Through the valley long and wide,—
    On the spectres all so pale
      In vestments whiter than the snow,
      As through the dim defile they go
    With melancholy wail.        20
 
On tramps the funeral file; and now
  The weeping ones have passed,
A throng succeeding, loftier
  And statelier than the last,—
  The Monarchs of the Past!        25
  And upon the solemn blast,
    Wave their plumes and pennons high,
      And loud their mournful marches sweep
      Up from the valley dark and deep
    To the over-arching sky.        30
 
And now the Cycle-buried years
  Stride on in stern array:
Before each band the Centuries,
  With beards of silver gray,
  The Marshals of the Day,        35
  In silence pass away;
    And behind them come the Hours
      And Minutes, who, as on they go,
      Are swinging steadily to and fro
    The incense round in showers.        40
 
Behold the bier,—the ebony bier,—
  On sinewy shoulders borne,
Of many a dim, forgotten Year
  From Primal Times forlorn.
  All weary and all worn,        45
  With their ancient garments torn
    And their beards as white as Lear’s,
      Lo! how they tremble as they tread,
      Mourning above the marble dead,
    In agonies of tears!        50
 
How very wan the old man looks!
  As wasted and as pale
As some dim ghost of shadowy days
  In legendary tale.
  God give the sleeper hail!        55
  And the world hath much to wail
    That his ears no more may hear;
      For, with his palms across his breast,
      He lieth in eternal rest
    Along his stately bier.        60
 
How thin his hair! How white his beard!
  How waxen-like his hands,
Which nevermore may turn the glass
  That on his bosom stands,—
  The glass whose solemn sands        65
  Were won from Stygian strands!
    For his weary work is done,
      And he has reaped his latest field,
      And none that scythe of his can wield
    ’Neath the dim, descending sun.        70
 
At last they reach the Shadow-Land,
  And with an eldritch cry
The guardian ghost sweeps wailingly
  Athwart the troubled sky,
  Like meteors flashing by,        75
  As asunder crashing fly,
    With a wild and clangorous din,
      The gates before the funeral train,
      Filing along the dreary plain
    And marching slowly in.        80
 
Lo! ’t is a temple! and around
  Tall ebony columns rise
Up from the withering earth, and bear
  Aloft the shrivelling skies,
  Where the tempest trembling sighs,        85
  And the ghostly moonlight dies
    ’Neath a lurid comet’s glare,
      That over the mourners’ plumëd heads
      And on the Dead a lustre sheds
    From its crimson floating hair!        90
 
The rites are read, the requiem sung;
  And as the echoes die,
The Shadow Chaos rises
  With a wild unearthly cry,—
  A giant, to the sky!        95
  His arms outstretched on high
    Over Time that dead doth lie;
      And with a voice that shakes the spheres,
      He shouts to the mourners mad with fears,
    “Depart! Lo! here am I!”        100
 
Down, showering fire, the comet sweeps;
  Shivering the pillars fall;
And lightning-like the red flames rush,
  A whirlwind, over all!
  And Silence spreads her pall,        105
  Like pinions over the hall,
    Over the temple overthrown,
      Over the dying and the unburied dead;
      And, with a heavily-drooping head,
    Sits, statue-like, alone!        110
 

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