Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE LIFE AND DEATH; THE DEATH, by HORACE SMITH

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THE LIFE AND DEATH; THE DEATH, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Hark to the toll of the passing bell
Last Line: And rush from my own sad thoughts away.
Alternate Author Name(s): Smith, Horatio
Subject(s): Bells; Coffins; Death; Life; Soul; Dead, The

Hark to the toll of the passing bell,
Which "swinging slow with solemn roar,"
Carries the dismal funeral knell
O'er the thrilling waves of the Plymouth shore;
And is borne afar by the shuddering breeze,
From Wembury's cliffs to Mount-Edgecombe's trees.

Nature appears to have thrown a pall
Over that landscape so rich and fair,
For a withering gloom and sadness fall
Alike upon ocean, earth, and air,
And the darkling heights in the distance show
Like spectral mourners, grim with woe.

The bittern's wail and the sea-mew's cry,
Seem to share the deep and wide distress,
As their wings they spread, and seaward fly
Away from that scene of wretchedness:
And the booming moan of the distant surge
Falls on the ear like a doleful dirge.

Hark! 'tis a female cry -- 'tis the sound
Of a widow's heart with anguish torn;
A groan succeeds, and the sob profound
Of a sireless son, aghast, forlorn!
And oh! how loving and loved they were,
Their own 'reft hearts can alone declare.

Behold! from St. Andrew's Church appears
A funeral train in its sad array,
Whose mourners, blind in their staunchless tears,
With faltering footsteps feel their way
To the bones and mould thrown up in a heap
Beside a sepulchre dark and deep.

The coffin is sunk, the prayer is poured --
"Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust."
They sprinkle earth on the rattling board,
And they whose heads o'er the grave are thrust,
Draw back at the sound with a shuddering start,
For its awful echoes thrill their heart.

As if it were sent to reveal and bless,
A ray through the lurid vapour beams --
Pierces the sepulchre's ghastliness,
And lo! on the coffin's plate it gleams.
Th' inscription now may be plainly read --
"Charles Mathews" -- that's the name of the dead.

God! can it be? -- is that breath resigned
Which rendered the brightest joy more bright?
Does that life of life, and mind of mind,
The circle's soul, and the world's delight,
Lie stretched in the coffin's silence, dark,
Cold -- lifeless -- ghastly -- stiff and stark?

What proofs of his friendship, wit, and worth,
On memory crowd, and recall past years!
But I cannot give their record birth,
For my heart and my eyes are both in tears:
Let me drop the pen -- let me quit the lay.
And rush from my own sad thoughts away.

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