Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  The Telegrams

Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Telegrams

By Julia Ward Howe (1819–1910)

[From Later Lyrics. 1866.]

BRING the hearse to the station,

When one shall demand it, late;

For that dark consummation

The traveller must not wait.

Men say not by what connivance

He slid from his weight of woe,

Whether sickness or weak contrivance,

But we know him glad to go.

On and on and ever on!

What next?

Nor let the priest be wanting

With his hollow eyes of prayer,

While the sexton wrenches, panting,

The stone from the dismal stair.

But call not the friends who left him

When fortune and pleasure fled:

Mortality hath not bereft him,

That they should confront him, dead.

On and on and ever on!

What next?

Bid my mother be ready:

We are coming home to-night:

Let my chamber be still and shady

With the softened nuptial light.

We have travelled so gayly, madly,

No shadow hath crossed our way;

Yet we come back like children, gladly,

Joy-spent with our holiday.

On and on and ever on!

What next?

Stop the train at the landing,

And search every carriage through;

Let no one escape your handing,

None shiver, or shrink from view.

Three blood-stained guests expect him;

Three murders oppress his soul;

Be strained every nerve to detect him

Who feasted, and killed, and stole.

On and on and ever on!

What next?

Be rid of the notes they scattered;

The great house is down at last;

The image of gold is shattered,

And never can be recast.

The bankrupts show leaden features,

And weary, distracted looks,

While harpy-eyed, wolf-souled creatures

Pry through their dishonored books.

On and on and ever on!

What next?

Let him hasten, lest worse befall him,

To look on me, ere I die:

I will whisper one curse to appall him,

Ere the black flood carry me by.

His bridal? The friends forbid it;

I have shown them his proofs of guilt;

Let him hear, with my laugh, who did it;

Then hurry, Death, as thou wilt!

On and on and ever on!

What next?

Thus the living and dying daily

Flash forward their wants and words,

While still on Thought’s slender railway

Sit scathless the little birds:

They heed not the sentence dire

By magical hands exprest,

And only the sun’s warm fire

Stirs softly their happy breast.

On and on and ever on!

God next!