Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
The Friend’s Burial
By John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)
MY thoughts are all in yonder town,
  Where, wept by many tears,
To-day my mother’s friend lays down
  The burden of her years.
True as in life, no poor disguise        5
  Of death with her is seen,
And on her simple casket lies
  No wreath of bloom and green.
Oh, not for her the florist’s art,
  The mocking weeds of woe;        10
Dear memories in each mourner’s heart
  Like heaven’s white lilies blow.
And all about the softening air
  Of new-born sweetness tells,
And the ungather’d May-flowers wear        15
  The tints of ocean shells.
The old, assuring miracle
  Is fresh as heretofore;
And earth takes up its parable
  Of life from death once more.        20
Here organ-swell and church-bell toll
  Methinks but discord were;
The prayerful silence of the soul
  Is best befitting her.
No sound should break the quietude        25
  Alike of earth and sky;
O wandering wind in Seabrook wood,
  Breathe but a half-heard sigh!
Sing softly, spring-bird, for her sake;
  And thou not distant sea,        30
Lapse lightly, as if Jesus spake,
  And thou wert Galilee!
For all her quiet life flow’d on
  As meadow streamlets flow,
Where fresher green reveals alone        35
  The noiseless ways they go.
And if her life small leisure found
  For feasting ear and eye,
And Pleasure, on her daily round,
  She pass’d unpausing by,        40
Yet with her went a secret sense
  Of all things sweet and fair,
And Beauty’s gracious providence
  Refresh’d her unaware.
She kept her line of rectitude        45
  With love’s unconscious ease;
Her kindly instincts understood
  All gentle courtesies.
An inborn charm of graciousness
  Made sweet her smile and tone,        50
And glorified her farm-wife dress
  With beauty not its own.
The dear Lord’s best interpreters
  Are humble human souls;
The Gospel of a life like hers        55
  Is more than books or scrolls.
From scheme and creed the light goes out,
  The saintly fact survives;
The blessèd Master none can doubt
  Reveal’d in holy lives.        60

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