Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
September 19
The Bells at Midnight
By Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836–1907)
          Tolling for the death of President Garfield.

  In their dark House of Cloud
The three weird sisters toil till time be sped;
One unwinds life, one ever weaves the shroud,
  One waits to part the thread.
How long, O sister, how long
Ere the weary task is done?
How long, O sister, how long
Shall the fragile thread be spun?
’Tis mercy that stays her hand,
Else she had cut the thread;        10
She is a woman too,
Like her who kneels by his bed!
Patience! the end is come;
He shall no more endure:
See! with a single touch!—        15
My hand is swift and sure!
Two angels pausing in their flight.
Listen! what was it fell
An instant ago on my ear—
A sound like the throb of a bell        20
From yonder darkling sphere.
The planet where mortals dwell!
I hear it not … yes, I hear;
How it deepens—a sound of dole!
Listen! It is the knell
Of a passing soul—
The midnight lamentation
Of some stricken nation
For a chieftain’s soul!
It is just begun,        30
The many-throated moan …
Now the clangor swells
As if a million bells
Had blent their tones in one!
Accents of despair        35
Are these to mortal ear;
But all this wild funereal music blown
And sifted through celestial air
Turns to triumphal pæans here!
Wave upon wave the silvery anthems flow;        40
Wave upon wave the deep vibrations roll
From that dim sphere below.
Come, let us go—
Surely, some chieftain’s soul!

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