Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. III. Sorrow and Consolation
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume III. Sorrow and Consolation.  1904.
 
V. Death and Bereavement
“I would not live alway”
William Augustus Muhlenberg (1796–1877)
 
I WOULD not live alway—live alway below!
Oh no, I ’ll not linger when bidden to go:
The days of our pilgrimage granted us here
Are enough for life’s woes, full enough for its cheer:
Would I shrink from the path which the prophets of God,        5
Apostles, and martyrs, so joyfully trod?
Like a spirit unblest, o’er the earth would I roam,
While brethren and friends are all hastening home?
 
I would not live alway: I ask not to stay
Where storm after storm rises dark o’er the way;        10
Where seeking for rest we but hover around,
Like the patriarch’s bird, and no resting is found;
Where Hope, when she paints her gay bow in the air,
Leaves its brilliance to fade in the night of despair,
And joy’s fleeting angel ne’er sheds a glad ray,        15
Save the gleam of the plumage that bears him away.
 
I would not live alway—thus fettered by sin,
Temptation without and corruption within;
In a moment of strength if I sever the chain,
Scarce the victory ’s mine, ere I ’m captive again;        20
E’en the rapture of pardon is mingled with fears,
And the cup of thanksgiving with penitent tears:
The festival trump calls for jubilant songs,
But my spirit her own miserere prolongs.
 
I would not live alway—no, welcome the tomb,        25
Since Jesus hath lain there I dread not its gloom;
Where he deigned to sleep, I ’ll too bow my head,
All peaceful to slumber on that hallowed bed.
Then the glorious daybreak, to follow that night,
The orient gleam of the angels of light,        30
With their clarion call for the sleepers to rise
And chant forth their matins, away to the skies.
 
Who, who would live alway? away from his God,
Away from yon heaven, that blissful abode,
Where the rivers of pleasure flow o’er the bright plains,        35
And the noontide of glory eternally reigns;
Where the saints of all ages in harmony meet,
Their Saviour and brethren transported to greet,
While the songs of salvation exultingly roll
And the smile of the Lord is the feast of the soul.        40
 
That heavenly music! what is it I hear?
The notes of the harpers ring sweet in mine ear!
And see, soft unfolding those portals of gold,
The King all arrayed in his beauty behold!
Oh give me, oh give me, the wings of a dove,        45
To adore him—be near him—enwrapt with his love;
I but wait for the summons, I list for the word—
Alleluia—Amen—evermore with the Lord!
 
 
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