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Poem by John Townsend Trowbridge

The Old Burying-Ground

PLUMED ranks of tall wild-cherry
And birch surround
The half-hid, solitary
Old burying-ground.

All the low wall is crumbled
And overgrown,
And in the turf lies tumbled,
Stone upon stone.

Only the school-boy, scrambling
After his arrow
Or lost ball,searching, trampling
The tufts of yarrow,

Of milkweed and slim mullein,
The place disturbs;
Or bowed wise-woman, culling
Her magic herbs.

No more the melancholy
Dark trains draw near;
The dead possess it wholly
This many a year.

The head-stones lean, winds whistle,
The long grass waves,
Rank grow the dock and thistle
Over the graves;

And all is waste, deserted,
And drear, as though
Even the ghosts departed
Long years ago!

The squirrels start forth and chatter
To see me pass;
Grasshoppers leap and patter
In the dry grass.

I hear the drowsy drumming
Of woodpeckers,
And suddenly at my coming
The quick grouse whirs.

Untouched through all mutation
Of times and skies,
A by-gone generation
Around me lies:

Of high and low condition,
Just and unjust,
The patient and physician,
All turned to dust.

Suns, snows, drought, cold, birds, blossoms,
Visit the spot;
Rains drench the quiet bosoms,
Which heed them not.

Under an aged willow,
The earth my bed,
A mossy mound my pillow,
I lean my head.

Babe of this mother, dying
A fresh young bride,
That old, old man is lying
Here by her side!

I muse: above me hovers
A haze of dreams:
Bright maids and laughing lovers,
Life's morning gleams;

The past with all its passions,
Its toils and wiles;
Its ancient follies, fashions,
And tears and smiles;

With thirsts and fever-rages,
And ceaseless pains,
Hoarding as for the ages
Its little gains!

Fair lives that bloom and wither,
Their summer done;
Loved forms with heart-break hither
Borne one by one.

Wife, husband, child and mother,
Now reck no more
Which mourned on earth the other,
Or went before.

The soul, risen from its embers,
In its blest state
Perchance not even remembers
Its earthly fate;

Nor heeds, in the duration
Of spheres sublime,
This pebble of creation,
This wave of time.

For a swift moment only
Such dreams arise;
Then, turning from this lonely,
Tossed field, my eyes

Through clumps of whortleberry
And brier look down
Toward yonder cemetery,
And modern town,

Where still men build, and marry,
And strive, and mourn,
And now the dark pall carry,
And now are borne.

John Townsend Trowbridge

John Townsend Trowbridge's other poems:
  1. Menotomy Lake
  2. The Tragedy Queen
  3. An Idyl of Harvest Time
  4. Filling an Order
  5. Dorothy in the Garret

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