Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE DEATH OF HARRISON, by NATHANIEL PARKER WILLIS



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THE DEATH OF HARRISON, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: What! Soar'd the old eagle to die at the sun!
Last Line: From the round at the top he has stepp'd to the sky!
Subject(s): Harrison, William Henry (1773-1841)


WHAT! soar'd the old eagle to die at the sun!
Lies he stiff with spread wings at the goal he had won!
Are there spirits more blest than the "Planet of Even,"
Who mount to their zenith, then melt into Heaven --
No waning of fire, no quenching of ray,
But rising, still rising, when passing away?
Farewell, gallant eagle! thou'rt buried in light!
God-speed into Heaven, lost star of our night!
Death! Death in the White House! Ah, never before,
Trod his skeleton foot on the President's floor!
He is look'd for in hovel, and dreaded in hall --
The king in his closet keeps hatchment and pall --
The youth in his birthplace, the old man at home,
Make clean from the door-stone the path to the tomb; --
But the lord of this mansion was cradled not here --
In a churchyard far-off stands his beckoning bier!
He is here as the wave-crest heaves flashing on high --
As the arrow is stopp'd by its prize in the sky --
The arrow to earth, and the foam to the shore --
Death finds them when swiftness and sparkle are o'er --
But Harrison's death fills the climax of story --
He went with his old stride -- from glory to glory!

Lay his sword on his breast! There's no spot on its blade
In whose cankering breath his bright laurels will fade!
'T was the first to lead on at humanity's call --
It was stay'd with sweet mercy when "glory" was all!
As calm in the council as gallant in war,
He fought for its country and not its "hurrah!"
In the path of the hero with pity he trod --
Let him pass -- with his sword -- to the presence of God!

What more? Shall we on with his ashes? Yet, stay!
He hath ruled the wide realm of a king in his day!
At his word, like a monarch's, went treasure and land --
The bright gold of thousands has pass'd through his hand.
Is there nothing to show of his glittering hoard?
No jewel to deck the rude hilt of his sword --
No trappings -- no horses? -- what had he, but now?
On! -- on with his ashes! -- HE LEFT BUT HIS PLOUGH!

Follow now, as ye list! The first mourner to-day
Is the nation -- whose father is taken away!
Wife, children, and neighbor, may moan on his knell --
He was "lover and friend" to his country, as well!
For the stars on our banner, grown suddenly dim,
Let us weep, in our darkness -- but weep not for him!
Not for him -- who, departing, leaves millions in tears!
Not for him -- who has died full of honor and years!
Not for him -- who ascended Fame's ladder so high
From the round at the top he has stepp'd to the sky!





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