Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MONODY ON THE DEATH OF WILLIAM MARION REEDY, by EDGAR LEE MASTERS



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MONODY ON THE DEATH OF WILLIAM MARION REEDY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Son of the freer republic, child of a day
Last Line: The western star!
Subject(s): Reedy, William Marion (1862-1920)


I

Son of the freer Republic, child of a day
More joyous and more vital and more blest
At the feast of Life; great heart, wise and gay,
Forgiving and compassionate, though ever stressed
Between the thorns, seeing afar the flower;
And living from hour to hour
In laughter for your wounds, or with a sigh
For the thickening brambles that around you pressed: --
April has come to me again and May
Since that July
When you sank gladly to a coveted rest,
Almost with your words to me upon your lips:
That immortality
Is not a promise, but a threat; that sleep
However eternal, or however deep
No more the worn out heart equips
For life again; cannot make whole
A liver and a dreamer, and a soul
That climbed, as you did, earth's precipitous steep.

II

You who had lived with books and walked the city
Of statesman and of priest,
Of money changer, theorist,
And knew the human heart thereby,
Saw with clairvoyant eye
Behind my irony and laughter, pity;
Behind indifference desire;
At the core of me unquenchable fire,
Walled with impenetrable ice.
This I confess:
I strewed adversities to your love
With pride, with slow forgiveness
Of the world's ways. Yet for the strength thereof,
Born of that mystic brotherhood, which can rise
From kindred spirits, none the less
Was your love mine, even to the end.
You were my brother, O my friend!

III

The wages of Wisdom is Death: --
Shame, Fear, Want, Hate, Lust, Strife and Enmity,
All these you lived, and living them through
You survived them, but still knew
Their quality. At last from them made free
You stood in blossom, perfecter of bloom
At the touch of the sickle than ever in all your years.
Pure flame had conquered the reek and fume
Of the gross fuel of your nature, feeding
The light that lighted us, but to consume
Itself at last. O soul of eyes and ears
Open and heeding
Signs of all fair and foul in the land, all climes,
Riches of dead epochs, ancient times.
O, human, worldly Augustine, in your tower
Watching the wavering lines of Want or Power,
Hailing and warning, Stilites of the rite
Of Epicurus (that happiness at the last
Is freedom) viewing the misty age
Atop a pillar of Zeus, and holding fast,
Through change and weariness, to work, in spite
Of clear conviction, nothing can assuage
The soul's desire. Though the flesh has food,
And water, and is satisfied,
Yet the soul must hunger for hope, for explanation
Of this insoluble task of life, defied
By every test of the human soul, still wooed
By flitting lights of faith and intimation.
Yet if soul father us could soul not do
For souls of us what water for our thirst
Accomplishes? Promethean, this you knew:
The restless search with which man's soul is cursed;
Yet brooding on it, still you dreamed
Of a city for all nations, consecrate
To the creative spirit of God in man;
Guardian angels were to you revealed
In labor with man's fate,
Uplifting the human spirit, like a flame,
Consoled, redeemed,
Strengthened and purified and healed,
To the silent, eternal life from whence it came.

III

To this you have gone. I saw your artist hands
That had so little rest
Folded in quietness upon your breast.
Whether the dead find peace, or loose the bands
Of some intenser rhythm, still with peace
Your face was sealed, as of a great surcease:
Like sculpture, tideless streams,
Or winter woods, or windless skies,
Or sleep that has no dreams.
Those spheres of flame, your ever wandering eyes,
Were turned within to a realm more deep,
Where death's great secret seemingly was known
As some clear, mild Simplicity! Or 'twas sleep
Of the unborn that stilled them, or the void
Of the dead seed never sown....
You were no more to me, whatever death is.
I stood alone
Empty of hand, save for the heritage
Of what you were:
A voice, a light, a music of deep tone,
Which life made richer, and the age,
And something of heaven employed
To be for us our best interpreter.
You were our star of empire lighting
The path of peoples more and more
To a freer day! O, voice of you which woke
Rapt listeners over the earth.
Out of your ashes wings of memory soar
To carry the message of your life and word.
Death of your body was the clearer birth
Of the spirit of you, shining afar
Upon our day and days to be:
As evening winds blow coldly, yet make free
From mist and hovering cloud
The Western Star!





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