Lydia Howard Sigourney



The Passing Bell

by Lydia Howard Sigourney

Oh! solemn passing bell
What said thy measured knell
In ancient time?
When for the listening throng,
Borne by life's tide along,
A pause in Folly's song
Made the low chime.

Slowly, o'er rock and dell,
Thus thy deep accents fell,
Thus spake the toll:
One of thine own frail race
Gaspeth in Death's embrace,
Pray for his soul.

The strong man's arm is weak,
See from pale brow and cheek
Cold dewdrops roll;
How call he break away
From those who need his stay?
Pray for the soul.

Hark! to a wailing sound,
A household gather round
With grief and dole,
The mother struggleth sore,
She heeds her babe no more,
Pray for her soul.

To Beauty's shaded room
The Spoiler's step of gloom
Hath darkly stole,
Her lips are ghastly white,
A film is o'er her sight,
Pray for the soul.

Oh bell. that slowly toll'd!
Were these thy words of old,
Bidding men bow
In prayer for those who bear
The pang they soon must share?
What say'st thou now?

One from his dear abode
Travelleth the churchyard road
To his last bed,
The widow next the bier
Walketh, with blinding tear,
Toll for the dead.

The pauper layeth down
Gaunt Penury's galling crown
Of scorn and dread,
Great as a king he goes
Unto his long repose,
Toll for the dead.

From crib and cradle fair,
From Love's unresting care
A child hath fled,
Let smowdrops lift their eye
Where that shorn bud must lie,
Toll for the dead.

Low 'neath the coffin lid
The aged one hath hid
His hoary head,
On staff, at sunny door,
You'll see him lean no more,
Toll for the dead.

Oh, holy passing bell!
Mingling thy mournful knell
Thus with our tears,
While like the shuttle's flight,
Like the short summer night,
Fleet our brief years;

Prompt us His will to do,
Bid us His favor sue,
Warn us His wrath to rue,
Unto whose eye,
Unto whose bar of dread,
Judge of the quick and dead,
Every hour's silent tread
Bringeth us nigh.

In ancient times the passing bell was tolled when a fellow-being approached death, that Christians might unite in supplication for a peaceful passage to the departing soul. This usage was probably abolished about the time of the Reformation.


The Weeping Willow
Copyright 1847
Henry S. Parsons, Hartford.