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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Death and a Future Life
By Thomas Campbell (1777–1844)
 
From the ‘Pleasures of Hope’

UNFADING Hope! when life’s last embers burn,
When soul to soul, and dust to dust return!
Heaven to thy charge resigns the awful hour.
Oh, then thy kingdom comes! Immortal Power!
What though each spark of earth-born rapture fly        5
The quivering lip, pale cheek, and closing eye,—
Bright to the soul thy seraph hands convey
The morning dream of life’s eternal day—
Then, then the triumph and the trance begin,
And all the phœnix spirit burns within!        10
  Oh deep-enchanting prelude to repose,
The dawn of bliss, the twilight of our woes!
Yet half I hear the panting spirit sigh,
It is a dread and awful thing to die!
Mysterious worlds, untraveled by the sun!        15
Where Time’s far-wandering tide has never run,—
From your unfathomed shades and viewless spheres,
A warning comes, unheard by other ears.
’Tis Heaven’s commanding trumpet, long and loud,
Like Sinai’s thunder, pealing from the cloud!        20
While Nature hears, with terror-mingled trust,
The shock that hurls her fabric to the dust;
And like the trembling Hebrew, when he trod
The roaring waves, and called upon his God,
With mortal terrors clouds immortal bliss,        25
And shrieks, and hovers o’er the dark abyss!
  Daughter of Faith, awake, arise, illume
The dread unknown, the chaos of the tomb;
Melt and dispel, ye spectre doubts, that roll
Cimmerian darkness o’er the parting soul!        30
Fly, like the moon-eyed herald of Dismay,
Chased on his night-steed by the star of day!
The strife is o’er—the pangs of Nature close,
And life’s last rapture triumphs o’er her woes.
Hark! as the spirit eyes, with eagle gaze,        35
The noon of Heaven undazzled by the blaze,
On heavenly winds that waft her to the sky
Float the sweet tones of star-born melody;
Wild as that hallowed anthem sent to hail
Bethlehem’s shepherds in the lonely vale,        40
When Jordan hushed his waves, and midnight still
Watched on the holy towers of Zion hill.
  Soul of the just! companion of the dead!
Where is thy home, and whither art thou fled?
Back to its heavenly source thy being goes,        45
Swift as the comet wheels to whence he rose;
Doomed on his airy path a while to burn,
And doomed like thee to travel and return.
Hark! from the world’s exploding centre driven,
With sounds that shook the firmament of Heaven,        50
Careers the fiery giant, fast and far,
On bickering wheels and adamantine car;
From planet whirled to planet more remote,
He visits realms beyond the reach of thought;
But wheeling homeward, when his course is run,        55
Curbs the red yoke, and mingles with the sun:
So hath the traveler of earth unfurled
Her trembling wings, emerging from the world;
And o’er the path by mortal never trod,
Sprung to her source, the bosom of her God!        60
  Oh, lives there, Heaven, beneath thy dread expanse,
One hopeless, dark idolater of Chance,
Content to feed, with pleasures unrefined,
The lukewarm passions of a lowly mind,
Who, moldering earthward, reft of every trust,        65
In joyless union wedded to the dust,
Could all his parting energy dismiss,
And call this barren world sufficient bliss?
There live, alas! of heaven-directed mien,
Of cultured soul, and sapient eye serene,        70
Who hail thee, Man! the pilgrim of a day,
Spouse of the worm, and brother of the clay;
Frail as the leaf in Autumn’s yellow bower,
Dust in the wind, or dew upon the flower;
A friendless slave, a child without a sire,        75
Whose mortal life and momentary fire
Light to the grave his chance-created form,
As ocean-wrecks illuminate the storm;
And when the guns’ tremendous flash is o’er,
To-night and silence sink for evermore!        80
  Are these the pompous tidings ye proclaim,
Lights of the world, and demigods of Fame?
Is this your triumph—this your proud applause,
Children of Truth, and champions of her cause?
For this hath Science searched, on weary wing,        85
By shore and sea, each mute and living thing?
Launched with Iberia’s pilot from the steep,
To worlds unknown, and isles beyond the deep?
Or round the cope her living chariot driven,
And wheeled in triumph through the signs of Heaven?        90
O star-eyed Science, hast thou wandered there,
To waft us home the message of despair?
Then bind the palm, thy sage’s brow to suit,
Of blasted leaf and death-distilling fruit.
Ah me! the laureled wreath that Murder rears,        95
Blood-nursed, and watered by the widow’s tears,
Seems not so foul, so tainted, and so dread,
As waves the nightshade round the skeptic’s head.
What is the bigot’s torch, the tyrant’s chain?
I smile on death, if Heavenward Hope remain!        100
But if the warring winds of Nature’s strife
Be all the faithless charter of my life;
If Chance awaked, inexorable power,
This frail and feverish being of an hour;
Doomed o’er the world’s precarious scene to sweep,        105
Swift as the tempest travels on the deep;
To know Delight but by her parting smile,
And toil, and wish, and weep a little while;—
Then melt, ye elements, that formed in vain
This troubled pulse and visionary brain!        110
Fade, ye wild flowers, memorials of my doom,
And sink, ye stars, that light me to the tomb!
Truth, ever lovely,—since the world began,
The foe of tyrants, and the friend of man,—
How can thy words from balmy slumber start        115
Reposing Virtue, pillowed on the heart!
Yet if thy voice the note of thunder rolled,
And that were true which Nature never told,
Let Wisdom smile not on her conquered field:
No rapture dawns, no treasure is revealed.        120
Oh! let her read, nor loudly, nor elate,
The doom that bars us from a better fate;
But, sad as angels for the good man’s sin,
Weep to record, and blush to give it in!
 
 
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