The Great War

from War: an Ode And Other Poems, an electronic edition

Death, the Child

ONCE in pain I reviled

The greybeard Death

Who grudged me breath,

And lo, from the Tomb of Space,

He came to my torture-place--

Came and smiled;

O God, and he had the hands, and the face,

The tender limbs, and the slender grace,

And the heart of a child.

Death of the dimpled hands, death of the rosy cheek,

Wilt give us all we have lost, and all that we vainly seek.

Seeds of unripened hopes thy fingers hold,

Wilt quicken the dead.

To white and red,

And green and gold,

And flickering passion will flame, and faded promise unfold.

What though our careworn lives may bitter and barren be--

Bitter and cold,

Barren and old,

As the tides of an Arctic sea?

What matter! Thy heart is young and bold,

Thy wings are strong and free.

And health, and wisdom, and wonder are doled

By thy childish charity--

Wisdom, and Wonder, and gleams

Of a glory new,

Rest, and Sleep, and Dreams,

And a Garden drenched with dew;

Till Life in verity seems

But a mist that thy Smile comes through.

Once I gazed on Death, and he looked in my face and smiled;

And now I fear him not, for he is only a child.