The London Necropolis Working

The swallows and white butterflies
Fly low down Guildford Street;
The wandering harpers at the doors
Male music sounding sweet;
The golden sun of August shines
Above the yellow wheat.

The purple levels of the heath
Stretch wide to the unknown,
The delicate sundew droops between
In islets each alone;
The sweetness of the silent air
From fairyland is blown.

The garden of the dead lies smooth,
In vistas long and green;
The fir-trees sweep the sunny turf,
With low graves between;
Lawn after lawn runs opening out,
And still no end is seen.

They lie around their Calvary,
All sleeping in the sun,
The faithful, the emancipate,
Whose Sabbath has begun,
Far from the dark and narrow ways
In which their rest was won.

The thyme lies lowly at their feet,
In measureless perfume.
The bees are humming all around
Amid the heather bloom.
The blue-winged moths hang motionless
Upon the quiet tomb.

Do they remember the long years
Of want and care’s increase?
The noisy days, the crowded nights,
The toil that did not cease?
Did these come to them through the din
The vision of this peace?

The simple, and the penitent,
The broken down, the young,
Together in their pilgrimage
Have they not prayed and sung?
They gather here once more at last,
The rest their own among.

Oh, well for them that they have here
A resting-place so sweet;
A waft of rose and rosemary
Steals through the sultry street;
One sleeps, one watches—both of them
In this last home shall meet.

The lambs are born upon the hills,
Amid the winter show,
The babes are born in London streets,
Where fire and lights burn low;
They come with crying and with tears,
But they are glad to go.

They have a happy playing place,
Where they may laugh and run;
Their angels hold them by the hand,
Soft-singing every one;
They dance upon a sward like this,
Beneath a summer sun.
Eastward God keeps a garden
The winged songs fly there;
There is no weight nor weariness
Through all the limpid air.
They have forgotten like a dream
This load of flesh we bear.

The sun-rise shows the gates of it,
That open always stay;
You turn towards it at the Creed,
It is not far away;
Dying at noon you may arrive
Before the fall of day.

Have we not been there, who can tell,
In sleep, when souls walk free?
O, land that lies behind the veil,
What did we hear and see?
Some shadow in the noonday floats,
Of long-lost memory.

It must be near, for when the soul
Has slipped across the stream,
A touch, a whisper brings it back
Into this earthly dream,
And we forge the things that are,
Lost in the things that seem.

But they will pass the waves no more,
They will not wake again;
In field of lilies far away
The languid limbs have lain;
Amid the palms of Paradise
Doth their long rest remain.

Source: Atalanta 3.35 (August 1890): 677-680. Print.


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