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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 Two Mysteries

By Mary Mapes Dodge (1831–1905)

[Born in New York, N. Y. Died in Tannersville, N. Y., 1905. From Along the Way. 1879.]

WE know not what it is, dear, this sleep so deep and still;

The folded hands, the awful calm, the cheek so pale and chill;

The lids that will not lift again, though we may call and call;

The strange, white solitude of peace that settles over all.

We know not what it means, dear, this desolate heart-pain;

This dread to take our daily way, and walk in it again;

We know not to what other sphere the loved who leave us go,

Nor why we’re left to wonder still, nor why we do not know.

But this we know: Our loved and dead, if they should come this day—

Should come and ask us, “What is life?” not one of us could say.

Life is a mystery as deep as ever death can be;

Yet oh, how dear it is to us, this life we live and see!

Then might they say—these vanished ones—and blessèd is the thought;

“So death is sweet to us, beloved! though we may show you naught;

We may not to the quick reveal the mystery of death—

Ye cannot tell us, if ye would, the mystery of breath.”

The child who enters life comes not with knowledge or intent,

So those who enter death must go as little children sent.

Nothing is known. But I believe that God is overhead;

And as life is to the living, so death is to the dead.