Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
Lines Written at an Unknown Grave
By Willis Gaylord Clark (1808–1841)
A MOURNFUL 1 tone the night-air brings, about this lonely tomb,
Like thoughts of fair and faded things amid life’s changeful gloom;
Deep shadows of the past are here!—and fancy wanders back,
When joy woke in this mouldering breast, now pass’d from life’s worn track:
When hope made glad his spirit here, as the pure summer-rain        5
Pours its sweet influence on the earth, with all her flowery train;
While buds were tossing in the breeze beneath a deep blue sky—
And pleasure’s chant was in his ear, ere he had gone to die!
Youth, too, was his—its morning hour—its sunlight for his brow—
Its phantoms shone, for him to chase, in giddy round, but now;        10
Perchance the glee of his young heart—the glancing of his eye
Hath been upon another shore, beneath a brighter sky:—
The night-tones have no tales to tell—no history to unfold—
The tall, sere grass, that waves alone, in sadness o’er his mould—
These speak not—deep in dreamless rest, the peaceful sleeper lies;        15
There is no pang to rend his heart,—no grief to dim his eyes!
Perchance, in halcyon hours of Youth, a transient dream of love
Came to his brain while earth was joy, and heaven was light above;—
When his soul was fill’d with gladsome thought—and in idolatry
He bow’d him to that holy shrine, which in our youth we see;        20
A star above life’s troubled scene—a gleam upon its wave—
A ray, whose light is soon eclipsed, in the darkness of the grave;
A song, which like the mirthful tone of wild birds on the wing,
Dies when the dewy even-tide enshrouds a sky of spring!
I know but this—Death’s shadows dwell upon his deep-seal’d eye;        25
Vainly earth laughs in joy for him, or the blue summer-sky—
The gales may tell where flowers repose, or where the young buds swell;
Their soft chant may not enter here, within this voiceless cell—
Flowers, dreams, and grief, alike are past—and why should man reply,
When life is but a wilderness whose promise soon may die—        30
’T is but a home, where all must sleep—change, which to all must come—
A curtain, which o’er ALL must spread its deep, o’ershadowing gloom!
The wail of the expiring year is in the deep brown woods—
The leaf is borne upon the stream, in its dark solitudes:—
The clouds are on the chasten’d hills—the floods are wild and high—        35
The mournful pall is lingering, where faded blossoms lie:—
Then here should monitory thoughts be treasured in the breast
That life is but a changeful hour—and Death, a holy rest,
Where grief’s loud wail or bursting tears ne’er to its stillness come;
But silence reigns within its hall, wrapp’d in its shrouded home!        40
Note 1. Clark, a native of Otisco, Onondaga county, New York, is at present editor of The Ladies’ Literary Port Folio, in Philadelphia. [back]

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