We, sighing, said, “Our Pan is dead;
His pipe hangs mute beside the river;
Around it wistful sunbeams quiver,
But Music’s airy voice is fled.
Spring mourns as for untimely frost;
The bluebird chants a requiem;
The willow-blossom waits for him;
The Genius of the wood is lost.”
Then from the flute, untouched by hands,
There came a low, harmonious breath:
“For such as he there is no death;
His life the eternal life commands;
Above man’s aims his nature rose:
The wisdom of a just content
Made one small spot a continent,
And turned to poetry Life’s prose.
“Haunting the hills, the stream, the wild,
Swallow and aster, lake and pine,
To him grew human or divine,—
Fit mates for this large-hearted child.
Such homage Nature ne’er forgets,
And yearly on the coverlid
’Neath which her darling lieth hid
Will write his name in violets.
“To him no vain regrets belong,
Whose soul, that finer instrument,
Gave to the world no poor lament,
But wood-notes ever sweet and strong.
O lonely friend! he still will be
A potent presence, though unseen,—
Steadfast, sagacious, and serene:
Seek not for him,—he is with thee.”
Ah, the last offering from the Eden's Outcasts obsession. Louisa May Alcott's best poem, honoring the Bard of Concord.
Would we all could receive the honor of such a tribute, eh?
I read a portion of this poem in Eden's Outcasts, the Pulitzer Prize winning biography by John Matteson, and then found the full poem on Bartleby.com. All honor to that website, the first ever to offer a repository for public domain works. And praise for the site's name too, especially if you grew up on Melville.
If you could write a poem to honor another living human, or one recently gone, for whom would you write?
|And look: There's a book about it!|