Bayard Taylor image

Bayard Taylor

Jan. 11, 1825 - Dec 19, 1878



by Bayard Taylor

If thou hadst died at midnight,
With a lamp beside thy bed;
The beauty of sleep exchanging
For the beauty of the dead:

When the bird of heaven had called thee,
And the time had come to go,
And the northern lights were dancing
On the dim December snow --

If thou hadst died at midnight,
I had ceased to bid thee stay,
Hearing the feet of the Father
Leading His child away.

I had knelt, in the awful Presence;
And covered my guilty head,
And received His absolution
For my sins toward the dead.

But the cruel sun was shining
In the cold and windy sky,
And Life, with his mocking voices,
Looked in to see thee die.

God came and went unheeded;
No tear repentant shone;
And he took the heart from my bosom,
And left in its place a stone.

Each trivial promise broken,
Each tender word unsaid,
Must be evermore unspoken, --
Unpardoned by the dead.

Unpardoned? No: the struggle
Of years was not in vain, --
The patience that wearies passion,
And the prayers that conquer pain.

This tardy resignation
May be the blessed sign
Of pardon and atonement,
Thy spirit sends to mine.

Now first I dare remember
That day of death and woe:
Within, the dreadful silence,
Without, the sun and snow!


The Poet's Journal
Copyright 1863
Ticknor and Fields, Boston