Life In Death And Death In Life by Adelaide Anne Procter

I.

If the dread day that calls thee hence,
Through a red mist of fear should loom,
(Closing in deadliest night and gloom
Long hours of aching dumb suspense,)
And leave me to my lonely doom.

I think, beloved, I could see
In thy dear eyes the loving light
Glaze into vacancy and night,
And still say, “God is good to me,
And all that He decrees is right.”

That, watching thy slow struggling breath,
And answering each imperfect sign,
I still could pray thy prayer and mine,
And tell thee, dear, though this was death,
That God was love, and love divine.

Could hold thee in my arms, and lay
Upon my heart thy weary head,
And meet thy last smile ere it fled;
Then hear, as in a dream, one say,
“Now all is over,–she is dead.”

Could smooth thy garments with fond care,
And cross thy hands upon thy breast,
And kiss thine eyelids down to rest,
And yet say no word of despair,
But, through my sobbing, “It is best.”

Could stifle down the gnawing pain,
And say, “We still divide our life,
She has the rest, and I the strife,
And mine the loss, and hers the gain:
My ill with bliss for her is rife.”

Then turn, and the old duties take–
Alone now–yet with earnest will
Gathering sweet sacred traces still
To help me on, and, for thy sake,
My heart and life and soul to fill.

I think I could check vain weak tears,
And toil,–although the world’s great space
Held nothing but one vacant place,
And see the dark and weary years
Lit only by a vanished grace.

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And sometimes, when the day was o’er,
Call up the tender past again:
Its painful joy, its happy pain,
And live it over yet once more,
And say, “But few more years remain.”

And then, when I had striven my best,
And all around would smiling say,
“See how Time makes all grief decay,”
Would lie down thankfully to rest,
And seek thee in eternal day.

II.

But if the day should ever rise–
It could not and it cannot be–
Yet, if the sun should ever see,
Looking upon us from his skies,
A day that took thy heart from me;

If loving thee still more and more,
And still so willing to be blind,
I should the bitter knowledge find,
That Time had eaten out the core
Of love, and left the empty rind;

If the poor lifeless words, at last,
(The soul gone, that was once so sweet,)
Should cease my eager heart to cheat,
And crumble back into the past,
And show the whole a vain deceit;

If I should see thee turn away,
And know that prayer, and time, and pain,
Could no more thy lost love regain,
Than bid the hours of dying day
Gleam in their mid-day noon again;

If I should loose thy hand, and know
That henceforth we must dwell apart,
Since I had seen thy love depart,
And only count the hours flow
By the dull throbbing of my heart;

If I should gaze and gaze in vain
Into thine eyes so deep and clear,
And read the truth of all my fear
Half mixed with pity for my pain,
And sorrow for the vanished year;

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If not to grieve thee overmuch,
I strove to counterfeit disdain,
And weave me a new life again,
Which thy life could not mar, or touch,
And so smile down my bitter pain;

The ghost of my dead Past would rise
And mock me, and I could not dare
Look to a future of despair,
Or even to the eternal skies,
For I should still be lonely there.

All Truth, all Honour, then would seem
Vain clouds, which the first wind blew by;
All Trust, a folly doomed to die;
All Life, a useless empty dream;
All Love–since thine had failed–a lie.

But see, thy tender smile has cast
My fear away: this thought of mine
Is treason to my Love and thine;
For Love is Life, and Death at last
Crowns it eternal and divine!

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