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Poem by Richard Monckton Milnes

An Incindent at Pisa

''From the common burial--ground
Mark'd by some peculiar bound,
Beppo! who are these that lie
Like one numerous family?''

''They whose bodies rest within
This appointed place,
Signor! never knew of sin,
Only knew of grace.
Purified from earthly leaven,
They have mounted straight to heaven,
Without sorrow, without thrall,
Blessed children, angels all!''

''But that second space, with art
Fenc'd from all the rest apart,
Though from those sweet infants' bed
By a low wall separated--
Beppo! who are these, and why
To the others laid so nigh?''

''Signor! they who moulder here,
Be it wrong or right,
Shake with many a pang of fear
Passers--by at night:
Men of passion, vice, and pride,
Who in evil liv'd and died,
Unrepentant, unconfess'd,
By the sacraments unbless'd;
Though with these are mingled some
That deserv'd a better doom,
When by sudden death waylaid,
Ere their peace with God was made:
But why they who guiltless die
By those reprobates should lie,
Signor! the priest may know, not I.''

In these words the truth discerning,
Much I ponder'd, home returning,
Whether chance or wise design
Drew this thin dividing line,
Almost blending in this close
Old decay and young repose;
Almost laying side by side
Those who hardly liv'd and died,
And the wretched ones for whom
Life has been a very tomb.

Oh! if in our utmost need
Love has power to intercede--
If between us and our foes
Innocence may interpose--
May not they, who dare not claim
Pardon in the church's name,
By some sweet and secret law
From these little neighbours draw
Blessings such as nature gave
To the angel--ruffled wave;
Finding a Bethesda's worth
In this angel--planted earth? 

Richard Monckton Milnes

Richard Monckton Milnes's other poems:
  1. London Churches
  2. The Subterranean River, At Cong
  3. Switzerland and Italy
  4. To the Moon of the South
  5. Valentia

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