Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE DEATH OF JEFFERSON, by HEZEKIAH BUTTERWORTH

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE DEATH OF JEFFERSON, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: Twas midsummer; cooling breezes all the languid forests fanned
Last Line: Gone his soul into all nations, gone to live and not to die.
Subject(s): Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826)


'T WAS midsummer; cooling breezes all the languid forests fanned,
And the angel of the evening drew her curtain o'er the land.
Like an isle rose Monticello through the cooled and rippling trees,
Like an isle in rippling starlight in the silence of the seas.

Ceased the mocking-bird his singing; said the slaves with
faltering breath,
"'T is the Third, and on the morrow Heaven will send the Angel Death."


In his room at Monticello, lost in dreams the statesman slept,
Seeing not the still forms round him, seeing not the eyes that wept,
Hearing not the old clock ticking in life's final silence loud,
Knowing not when night came o'er him like the shadow of a cloud.
In the past his soul is living as in fifty years ago,
Hastes again to Philadelphia, hears again the Schuylkill flow --


Meets again the elder Adams -- knowing not that far away
He is waiting for Death's morrow, on old Massachusetts Bay;
Meets with Hancock, young and courtly, meets with Hopkins,
bent and old,
Meets again calm Roger Sherman, fiery Lee, and Carroll bold,
Meets the sturdy form of Franklin, meets the half a hundred men
Who have made themselves immortal, -- breathes the ancient morn again.


Once again the Declaration in his nerveless hands he holds,
And before the waiting statesmen its prophetic hope unfolds, --
Reads again the words puissant, "All men are created free,"
Claims again for man his birthright, claims the world's equality;
Hears the coming and the going of an hundred firm-set feet,
Hears the summer breezes blowing 'mid the oak trees cool and sweet.


Sees again tall Patrick Henry by the side of Henry Lee,
Hears him cry, "And will ye sign it? -- it will make all nations free!
Fear ye not the axe or gibbet; it shall topple every throne.
Sign it for the world's redemption! -- all mankind its
truth shall own!
Stars may fall, but truth eternal shall not falter, shall not fail.
Sign it, and the Declaration shall the voice of ages hail.


"Sign, and set yon dumb bell ringing, that the people all may know
Man has found emancipation; sign, the Almighty wills it so."
Sees one sign it, then another, till like magic moves the pen,
Till all have signed it, and it lies there, charter of the
rights of men.
Hears the small bells, hears the great bell, hanging idly in the sun,
Break the silence, and the people whisper, awe-struck, "It is done."


Then the dream began to vanish -- burgesses, the war's red flames,
Charging Tarleton, proud Cornwallis, navies moving on the James,
Years of peace, and years of glory, all began to melt away,
And the statesman woke from slumber in the night, and tranquil lay,
And his lips moved; friends there gathered with love's
silken footstep near,
And he whispered, softly whispered in love's low and tender ear, --


"It is the Fourth?" "No, not yet," they answered, "but't
will soon be early morn;
We will wake you, if you slumber, when the day begins to dawn."
Then the statesman left the present, lived again amid the past,
Saw, perhaps, the people future ope its portals grand and vast,
Till the flashes of the morning lit the far horizon low,
And the sun's rays o'er the forests in the east began to glow.


Rose the sun, and from the woodlands fell the midnight dews like rain,
In magnolias cool and shady sang the mocking-bird again;
And the statesman woke from slumber, saw the risen sun, and heard
Rippling breezes 'mid the oak trees, and the lattice singing bird,
And, his eye serene uplifted, as rejoicing in the sun,
"It is the Fourth?" his only question, -- to the world his final one.


Silence fell on Monticello -- for the last dread hour was near,
And the old clock's measured ticking only broke upon the ear.
All the summer rooms were silent, where the great of earth had trod,
All the summer blooms seemed silent as the messengers of God;
Silent were the hall and chamber where old councils oft had met,
Save the far boom of the cannon that recalled the old day yet.


Silent still is Monticello -- he is breathing slowly now,
In the splendors of the noon-tide, with the death-dew on his brow --
Silent save the clock still ticking where his soul had given birth
To the mighty thoughts of freedom, that should free the
fettered earth;
Silent save the boom of cannon on the sunfilled wave afar,
Bringing 'mid the peace eternal still the memory of war.


Evening in majestic shadows fell upon the fortress' walls;
Sweetly were the last bells ringing on the James and on the Charles.
'Mid the choruses of freedom two departed victors lay.
One beside the blue Rivanna, one by Massachusetts Bay.
He was gone, and night her sable curtain drew across the sky;
Gone his soul into all nations, gone to live and not to die.

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