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Margaret Junkin Preston (Маргарет Джанкин Престон)

Before Death


How much would I care for it, could I know
That when I am under the grass or snow,
The ravelled garment of life's brief day
Folded, and quietly laid away;
The spirit let loose from mortal bars, 
And somewhere away among the stars:
How much would you think it would matter then
What praise was lavished upon me, when,
Whatever might be its stint or store,
It neither could help nor harm me more? 


If midst of my toil they had but thought
To stretch a finger, I would have caught
Gladly such aid, to bear me through
Some bitter duty I had to do:
And when it was done, had I but heard 
One breath of applause, one cheering word,
One cry of "Courage!" amid the strife,
So weighted for me, with death or life,
How would it have nerved my soul to strain
Through the whirl of the coming surge again! 


What use for the rope, if it be not flung
Till the swimmer's grasp to the rock has clung?
What help in a comrade's bugle-blast
When the peril of Alpine heights is past?
What need that the spurring pæan roll 
When the runner is safe beyond the goal?
What worth is eulogy's blandest breath
When whispered in ears that are hushed in death?
No! no! if you have but a word of cheer,
Speak it, while I am alive to hear!  

Margaret Junkin Preston's other poems:
  1. Stonewall Jackson's Grave
  2. Jackson
  3. When the War Is Over
  4. A Grave in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond (J.R.T.)
  5. The Bivouac in the Snow

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