William Watson

In Laleham Churchyard

      (AUGUST 18, 1890)

'Twas at this season, year by year,
The singer who lies songless here
Was wont to woo a less austere,
    Less deep repose,
Where Rotha to Winandermere
    Unresting flows,—

Flows through a land where torrents call
To far-off torrents as they fall,
And mountains in their cloudy pall
    Keep ghostly state,
And Nature makes majestical
    Man's lowliest fate.

There, 'mid the August glow, still came
He of the twice-illustrious name,
The loud impertinence of fame
    Not loth to flee—
Not loth with brooks and fells to claim

Linked with his happy youthful lot,
Is Loughrigg, then, at last forgot?
Nor silent peak nor dalesman's cot
    Looks on his grave.
Lulled by the Thames he sleeps, and not
    By Rotha's wave.

'Tis fittest thus! for though with skill
He sang of beck and tarn and ghyll,
The deep, authentic mountain-thrill
    Ne'er shook his page!
Somewhat of worldling mingled still
    With bard and sage.

And 'twere less meet for him to lie
Guarded by summits lone and high
That traffic with the eternal sky
    And hear, unawed,
The everlasting fingers ply
    The loom of God,

Than, in this hamlet of the plain,
A less sublime repose to gain,
Where Nature, genial and urbane,
    To man defers,
Yielding to us the right to reign,
    Which yet is hers.

And nigh to where his bones abide,
The Thames with its unruffled tide
Seems like his genius typified,—
    Its strength, its grace,
Its lucid gleam, its sober pride,
    Its tranquil pace.

But ah! not his the eventual fate
Which doth the journeying wave await—
Doomed to resign its limpid state
    And quickly grow
Turbid as passion, dark as hate,
    And wide as woe.

Rather, it may be, over-much
He shunned the common stain and smutch,
From soilure of ignoble touch
    Too grandly free,
Too loftily secure in such
    Cold purity.

But he preserved from chance control
The fortress of his 'stablisht soul;
In all things sought to see the Whole;
    Brooked no disguise;
And set his heart upon the goal,
    Not on the prize.

With those Elect he shall survive
Who seem not to compete or strive,
Yet with the foremost still arrive,
    Prevailing still:
Spirits with whom the stars connive
    To work their will.

And ye, the baffled many, who,
Dejected, from afar off view
The easily victorious few
    Of calm renown,—
Have ye not your sad glory too,
    And mournful crown?

Great is the facile conqueror;
Yet haply he, who, wounded sore,
Breathless, unhorsed, all covered o'er
    With blood and sweat,
Sinks foiled, but fighting evermore,—
    Is greater yet.

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