Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
After Death
By John Henry Newman (1801–1890)
From ‘The Dream of Gerontius’

I WENT to sleep, and now I am refreshed:
A strange refreshment; for I feel in me
An inexpressive lightness, and a sense
Of freedom, as I were at length myself,
And ne’er had been before. How still it is!        5
I hear no more the busy beat of time,—
No, nor my fluttering breath, nor struggling pulse;
Nor does one moment differ from the next.
I had a dream: yes, some one softly said,
“He’s gone;” and then a sigh went round the room;        10
And then I surely heard a priestly voice
Cry “Subvenite”; and they knelt in prayer—
I seem to hear him still, but thin and low
And fainter and more faint the accents come,
As at an ever-widening interval.        15
Ah! whence is this? What is this severance?
This silence pours a solitariness
Into the very essence of my soul;
And the deep rest, so soothing and so sweet,
Hath something too of sternness and of pain,        20
For it drives back my thoughts upon their spring
By a strange introversion, and perforce
I now begin to feed upon myself,
Because I have naught else to feed upon.
Am I alive or dead? I am not dead,        25
But in the body still; for I possess
A sort of confidence, which clings to me,
That each particular organ holds its place
As heretofore, combining with the rest
Into one symmetry, that wraps me round        30
And makes me man; and surely I could move,
Did I but will it, every part of me.
And yet I cannot to my sense bring home,
By very trial, that I have the power.
’Tis strange: I cannot stir a hand or foot,        35
I cannot make my fingers or my lips
By mutual pressure witness each to each,
Nor by the eyelid’s instantaneous stroke
Assure myself I have a body still.
Nor do I know my very attitude,        40
Nor if I stand, or lie, or sit, or kneel.
So much I know, not knowing how I know,
That the vast universe, where I have dwelt,
Is quitting me, or I am quitting it.
Or I or it is rushing on the wings        45
Of light or lightning, on an onward course,
And we e’en now are million miles apart.
Yet— is this peremptory severance
Wrought out in lengthening measurements of space,
Which grow and multiply by speed and time?        50
Or am I traversing infinity
By endless subdivision, hurrying back
From finite towards infinitesimal,
Thus dying out of the expanded world?
Another marvel: some one has me fast        55
Within his ample palm; ’tis not a grasp
Such as they use on earth, but all around
Over the surface of my subtle being,
As though I were a sphere, and capable
To be accosted thus, a uniform        60
And gentle pressure tells me I am not
Self-moving, but borne forward on my way.
And hark! I hear a singing; yet in sooth
I cannot of that music rightly say
Whether I hear, or touch, or taste the tones.        65
Oh, what a heart-subduing melody!

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