Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
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James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
 
April 25
Cowper’s Grave
By Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861)
 
        
(Died April 25, 1800)
  
I will invite thee, from thy envious hearse
To rise and ’bout the world thy beams to spread,
That we may see there’s brightness in the dead.
—Harrington.    

IT is a place where poets crowned
  May feel the heart’s decaying—
It is a place where happy saints
  May weep amid their praying;
Yet let the grief and humbleness,        5
  As low as silence, languish—
Earth surely now may give her calm
  To whom she gave her anguish.
 
O poets! from a maniac’s tongue
  Was poured the deathless singing!        10
O Christians! at your cross of hope
  A hopeless hand was clinging!
O men! this man, in brotherhood,
  Your weary paths beguiling,
Groaned inly while he taught you peace,        15
  And died while ye were smiling!
 
And now, what time ye all may read
  Through dimming tears his story—
How discord on the music fell,
  And darkness on the glory—        20
And how, when one by one, sweet sounds
  And wandering lights departed,
He wore no less a loving face,
  Because so broken-hearted—
He shall be strong to sanctify        25
  The poet’s high vocation,
And bow the meekest Christian down
  In meeker adoration;
Nor ever shall he be in praise
  By wise or good forsaken—        30
Named softly, as the household name
  Of one whom God hath taken!
 
With sadness that is calm, not gloom,
  I learn to think upon him;
With meekness that is gratefulness,        35
  On God whose heaven hath won him—
Who suffered once the madness-cloud
  Toward his love to blind him;
But gently led the blind along
  Where breath and bird could find him;        40
And wrought within his shattered brain
  Such quick poetic senses
As hills have language for, and stars
  Harmonious influences!
The pulse of dew upon the grass,        45
  His own did calmly number;
And silent shadow from the trees
  Fell o’er him like a slumber.
 
The very world, by God’s constraint,
  From falsehood’s chill removing,        50
Its women and its men became,
  Beside him, true and loving!—
And timid hares were drawn from woods
  To share his home-caresses,
Uplooking to his human eyes        55
  With sylvan tendernesses.
But while in blindness he remained
  Unconscious of the guiding,
And things provided came without
  The sweet sense of providing,        60
He testified this solemn truth,
  Though frenzy desolated—
Nor man nor nature satisfy,
  When only God created!
 
Like a sick child that knoweth not        65
  His mother while she blesses,
And droppeth on his burning brow
  The coolness of her kisses;
That turns his fevered eyes around—
  “My mother! where’s my mother?”—        70
As if such tender words and looks
  Could come from any other—
 
The fever gone, with leaps of heart
  He sees her bending o’er him;
Her face all pale from watchful love,        75
  Th’ unweary love she bore him!
Thus woke the poet from the dream
  His life’s long fever gave him,
Beneath these deep pathetic eyes
  Which closed in death to save him!        80
 
Thus! O, not thus! no type of earth
  Could image that awaking,
Wherein he scarcely heard the chant
  Of seraphs, round him breaking—
Or felt the new immortal throb        85
  Of soul from body parted;
But felt those eyes alone, and knew
  “My Saviour! not deserted!”
 
Deserted! who hath dreamt that when
  The cross in darkness rested,        90
Upon the victim’s hidden face
  No love was manifested?
What frantic hands outstretched have e’er
  Th’ atoning drops averted—
What tears have washed them from the soul—        95
  That one should be deserted?
 
Deserted! God could separate
  From His own essence rather;
And Adam’s sins have swept between
  The righteous Son and Father—        100
Yea! once, Immanuel’s orphaned cry
  His universe hath shaken—
It went up single, echoless,
  “My God, I am forsaken!”
 
It went up from the Holy lips        105
  Amid His lost creation,
That of the lost no son should use
  Those words of desolation;
That earth’s worst frenzies, marring hope,
  Should mar not hope’s fruition;        110
And I, on Cowper’s grave, should see
  His rapture, in a vision!
 
 
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