Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, IN MEMORY OF A FRIEND, by LEWIS MORRIS (1833-1907)



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IN MEMORY OF A FRIEND, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Beneath the feathery fronds of palm
Last Line: And consecrates a soul!
Subject(s): Jamaica, West Indies; Schalch, Ernest (D. 1874); Yellow Fever


BENEATH the feathery fronds of palm
The white stone of a double grave,
And on the horizon, blue and calm,
The tropic ocean wave.

'Twas three years since, no more, that thou,
Dear friend, with us, in daily round,
Didst labour where we labour now,
'Mid London's surge of sound.

Treading the dull slow paths of law,
With little of reward or gain,
To feel a high ambition gnaw
Thy heart with tooth of pain,

And mark with scant content the crowd
Fulfil the immemorial rule
Which drives the fool with plaudits loud
To glorify the fool.

And so with patient scorn didst gain
To winnow from the growing heap
Of barren precedent the grain
Which hides there buried deep.

Till last, congenial labour came,
To call thee o'er the tropic sea,
And exile, gilt by toil and fame,
Severed thy friends from thee.

Brief as we hoped, but ah, how long!
Though lit by news of days well spent,
Of rights defined, of law made strong,
Of rebels grown content,

Of ordered codes so reasoned out,
Speaking with voice so true and clear,
That none who hear them still may doubt
"'Tis Justice speaketh here."

Yet not the less thou barest part
In the old talk we loved before;
The newest growths of thought or art
Delighted more and more,

And all the marvels of thy isle,
The lavish wealth of sea and land,
The skies with their too constant smile,
Loud surf on breathless strand,

The shallow nature fierce, yet gay,
Of our dark brethren; thou didst learn,
Noting -- but gazing, far away,
With eyes that still would yearn,

For that fair time when, toil being done,
The happy day at length should come,
When with our kindly autumn sun
Thou should'st revisit home.


It was this very year; and then
The plague, which long time, dealing death,
Had vexed the shores of kindred men,
On those breathed deadly breath.

And one, I know not who, their guest,
Sickening, Love drew them forth to tend,
Careless of needful food and rest,
Their fever-stricken friend,

Who owed to them life's refluent power;
While for those duteous martyrs twain,
Brother and Sister, one blest hour
Brought one release from pain.

Too generous natures! kindred souls! --
And now, round those twin tombs the wave,
Forgetful of their story, rolls,
And the palms shade their grave.

* * * *

And we -- what shall we say of thee? --
Thou hast thy due reward, oh, friend --
We serve a High Necessity,
To an Invisible End.

That waste nor halting comes at all
In all the scheme is all we know;
The force was formed that bade thee fall,
Millions of years ago.

The clouds of circumstance unite,
The winds of fate together roll;
They meet; there bursts a sudden light,
And consecrates a soul!





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