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Helen Gray Cone (Хелен Грей Коун)

The First Guest

When the house is finished, Death enters.

                                     Eastern Proverb

  Life's House being ready all,
  Each chamber fair and dumb,
  Ere life, the Lord, is come
  With pomp into his hall,—
  Ere Toil has trod the floors,
  Ere Love has lit the fires,
  Or young great-eyed Desires
  Have, timid, tried the doors;
  Or from east-window leaned
  One Hope, to greet the sun,
  Or one gray Sorrow screened
  Her sight against the west,—
  Then enters the first guest,
  The House of life being done.

  He waits there in the shade.
  I deem he is Life's twin,
  For whom the house was made.
  Whatever his true name,
  Be sure, to enter in
  He has both key and claim.

  The daybeams, free of fear,
  Creep drowsy toward his feet;
  His heart were heard to beat,
  Were any there to hear;
  Ah, not for ends malign,
  Like wild thing crouched in lair,
  Or watcher of a snare,
  But with a friend's design
  He lurks in shadow there!

  He goes not to the gates
  To welcome any other,
  Nay, not Lord Life, his brother;
  But still his hour awaits
  Each several guest to find
  Alone, yea, quite alone;
  Pacing with pensive mind
  The cloister's echoing stone,
  Or singing, unaware,
  At the turning of the stair
  Tis truth, though we forget,
  In Life's House enters none
  Who shall that seeker shun,
  Who shall not so be met.
  "Is this mine hour?" each saith.
  "So be it, gentle Death!"
  Each has his way to end,
  Encountering this friend.
  Griefs die to memories mild;
  Hope turns a weanèd child;
  Love shines a spirit white,
  With eyes of deepened light.
  When many a guest has passed,
  Some day 'tis Life's at last
  To front the face of Death.
  Then, casements closed, men say:
  "Lord Life is gone away;
  He went, we trust and pray,
  To God, who gave him breath."
  Beginning, End, He is:
  Are not these sons both His?
  Lo, these with Him are one!
  To phrase it so were best:
  God's self is that first Guest,
  The House of Life being done!

Helen Gray Cone's other poems:
  1. King Raedwald
  2. When Willows Green
  3. The Trumpeter
  4. The Arrowmaker
  5. Sere Wisdom

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