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.
 
February 18
The Dead Czar
By Dinah Maria Mulock Craik (1826–1887)
 
          The Czar Nicholas I., who died on Feb. 18, 1855, was the third son of Paul I. He succeeded his brother and died during the Crimean War.

LAY him beneath his snows,
The great Norse giant who in these last days
Troubled the nations. Gather decently
The imperial robes about him. ’Tis but a man,—
This demi-god. Or rather it was man,        5
And is—a little dust, that will corrupt
As fast as any nameless dust which sleeps
’Neath Alma’s grass or Balaklava’s vines.
 
No vineyard grave for him. No quiet tomb
By river margin, where across the seas        10
Children’s fond thoughts and women’s memories come
Like angels, to sit by the sepulchre,
Saying: “All these were men who knew to count,
Front-faced, the cost of honor, nor did shrink
From its full payment: coming here to die,        15
They died—like men.”

            But this man? Ah! for him
Funereal state, and ceremonial grand,
The stone-engraved sarcophagus, and then
Oblivion.

            Nay, oblivion were as bliss
To that fierce howl which rolls from land to land        20
Exulting,—“Art thou fallen Lucifer,
Son of the morning?” or condemning,—“Thus
Perish the wicked!” or blaspheming,—“Here
Lies our Belshazzar, our Sennacherib,
Our Pharaoh,—he whose heart God hardened,        25
So that he would not let the people go.”
Self-glorifying sinners! Why, this man
Was but like other men:—you, Levite small,
Who shut your saintly ears, and prate of hell
And heretics, because outside church-doors,        30
Your church-doors, congregations poor and small
Praise heaven in their own way;—you, autocrat
Of all the hamlets, who add field to field
And house to house, whose slavish children cower
Before your tyrant footstep;—you, foul-tongued        35
Fanatic and ambitious egotist,
Who thinks God stoops from His high majesty
To lay His finger on your puny head,
And crown it,—that you henceforth may parade
Your maggotship throughout the wondering world,—        40
“I am the Lord’s anointed!”

                    Fools and blind!
This Czar, this emperor, this disthroned corpse,
Lying so straightly in an icy calm
Grander than sovereignty, was but as ye;—
No better and no worse;—Heaven mend us all!        45
 
Carry him forth and bury him. Death’s peace
Rest on his memory! Mercy by his bier
Sits silent, or says only these few words,—
“Let him who is without sin ’mongst ye all
Cast the first stone.”        50
 
 
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