Saturday, April 10, 2010

Oh Death, Set The Dying Free!

Written by Christina Rossetti on the fourth (or fifth?) anniversary of the death of her dear friend (and old beau) Charles Bagot Cayley.

Bury Hope (originally untitled, title added by later editors)

Bury Hope out of sight,
No book for it and no bell;
It never could bear the light
Even while growing and well:
Think if now it could bear
The light on its face of care
And gray scattered hair.

No grave for Hope in the earth,
But deep in that silent soul
Which rang no bell for its birth
And rings no funeral toll.
Cover its once bright head;
Nor odours nor tears be shed:
It lived once, it is dead.

Brief was the day of its power,
The day of its grace how brief:
As the fading of a flower,
As the falling of a leaf,
So brief its day and its hour;
No bud more and no bower
Or hint of a flower.

Shall many wail it? not so:
Shall one bewail it? not one:
Thus it hath been from long ago,
Thus it shall be beneath the sun.
O fleet sun, make haste to flee;
O rivers, fill up the sea;
O Death, set the dying free.

The sun nor loiters nor speeds,
The rivers run as they ran,
Thro' clouds or thro' windy reeds
All run as when all began.
Only Death turns at our cries:--
Lo, the Hope we buried with sighs
Alive in Death's eyes!


"There had always been present to him, unrecognized but secure, man's last hope, the possibility of death. It may be refused, but the refusal, even the unrecognized refusal, admits hope. Without the knowledge of his capacity of death, however much he fear it, man is desolate."
Charles Williams, from Descent Into Hell p 33

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