Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Feb. 27, 1807 - Mar. 24, 1882


Charles Sumner

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Garlands upon his grave,
And flowers upon his hearse;
And to the tender heart and brave,
The tribute of this verse.

His was the troubled life,
The conflict and the pain;
The griefs, the bitterness of strife,
The honour without stain.

Like Winkelried, he took
Into his manly breast
The sheaf of hostile spears, and broke
A path for the oppress'd;

Then from the fatal field,
Upon a nation's heart,
Borne like a warrior on his shield! --
So should the brave depart.

Death takes us by surprise,
And stays our hurrying feet;
The great design unfinish'd lies
Our lives are incomplete.

But in the dark unknown,
Perfect their circles seem,
Even as a bridge's arch of stone
Is rounded in the stream.

Alike are life and death
When life in death survives,
And the interrupted breath
Inspires a thousand lives.

Were a star quench'd on high,
For ages would its light,
Still travelling downward from the sky
Shine on our mortal sight.

So when a great man dies,
For years beyond our ken,
The light he leaves behind him lies
Upon the paths of men.

March 30, 1874


Longfellow's Poetical Works
Copyright 1893
Henry Frowde, London