Verse > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow > Complete Poetical Works
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882).  Complete Poetical Works.  1893.
 
Birds of Passage
Flight the Fourth.
Charles Sumner
 
          The first draft of the first poem was made March 30, 1874. It did not satisfy the poet, for he wrote, April 2: “I have been trying to write something about Sumner, but to little purpose. I cannot collect my faculties.”

  GARLANDS upon his grave
  And flowers upon his hearse,
And to the tender heart and brave
  The tribute of this verse.
 
  His was the troubled life,        5
  The conflict and the pain,
The grief, the bitterness of strife,
  The honor without stain.
 
  Like Winkelried, he took
  Into his manly breast        10
The sheaf of hostile spears, and broke
  A path for the oppressed.
 
  Then from the fatal field
  Upon a nation’s heart
Borne like a warrior on his shield!—        15
  So should the brave depart.
 
  Death takes us by surprise,
  And stays our hurrying feet;
The great design unfinished lies,
  Our lives are incomplete.        20
 
  But in the dark unknown
  Perfect their circles seem,
Even as a bridge’s arch of stone
  Is rounded in the stream.
 
  Alike are life and death,        25
  When life in death survives,
And the uninterrupted breath
  Inspires a thousand lives.
 
  Were a star quenched on high,
  For ages would its light,        30
Still travelling downward from the sky,
  Shine on our mortal sight.
 
  So when a great man dies,
  For years beyond our ken,
The light he leaves behind him lies        35
  Upon the paths of men.
 
 
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