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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

When I am Dead

By Ella Dietz Clymer (b. 1856?)

WHEN I am dead what man will say

She used to smile in such a way,

Her eyes were dark and strangely bright

As are the solemn stars of night?

What man will say her voice’s tone

Was like the far-off winds that moan

Through forest trees? O voice and eyes

That brought me dreams of Paradise!

I think no man, when I am dead,

Will say these things that thou hast said

Unto my living human face,

And all the bloom and all the grace

Will then be buried out of sight,

Thought of no more, forgotten quite,

As are the flowers of other springs,

Upon whose grave the wild bird sings.

O flowers and songs of other days!

What sweet new voice will sing your praise?

What choir will celebrate the spring

When love and I went wandering

Between the glades, beneath the trees,

Or by the calm blue summer seas,

And thought no thing beneath the skies

So lovely as each other’s eyes?

When we are dead, when both are gone,

Buried in separate graves alone,

Perchance the restless salt sea wave

Will sing its dirge above my grave,

While you, on some far foreign shore,

May hear the distant ocean roar,

And long at last your arms to twine

About this cold dead form of mine.

When we are dead, when both are cold,

When love is as a tale that’s told,

Will not our lips so still and mute

Still long for love’s untasted fruit?

Though lands and seas hold us apart

Will not my dead heart reach thy heart,

And call to thee from farthest space

Until we both stand face to face?

When we are dead, yea, God doth know

When that shall be, if it were so

This moment now, if thou and I

Lay dead together ’neath this sky,

Could any future to us bring

So sad and desolate a thing

As this sad life? nay, can there be

Such sorrow in eternity?

O long sad days! we need in truth

Some recompense for our lost youth:

By woes forlorn, and sins forborne,

By joys renounced or from us torn,

By thorns that bore no single rose,

By loving hands that dealt us blows;

We pray that when this life shall cease

We then may know eternal peace.

When we are dead, when sea and air

Have claimed the forms that once were fair,

Will joys of Heaven compensate

For two lone hearts left desolate

On earth so long? Will all these years

Of anxious love and burning tears

Be as the water turned to wine,

The best of all that feast divine?