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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

The Seaside and the Fireside

By the Fireside. Resignation

  • Written in the autumn of 1848, after the death of his little daughter Fanny. There is a passage in the poet’s diary, under date of November 12, in which he says: “I feel very sad to-day. I miss very much my dear little Fanny. An inappeasable longing to see her comes over me at times, which I can hardly control.”

  • THERE is no flock, however watched and tended,

    But one dead lamb is there!

    There is no fireside, howsoe’er defended,

    But has one vacant chair!

    The air is full of farewells to the dying,

    And mournings for the dead;

    The heart of Rachel, for her children crying,

    Will not be comforted!

    Let us be patient! These severe afflictions

    Not from the ground arise,

    But oftentimes celestial benedictions

    Assume this dark disguise.

    We see but dimly through the mists and vapors;

    Amid these earthly damps

    What seem to us but sad, funereal tapers

    May be heaven’s distant lamps.

    There is no Death! What seems so is transition;

    This life of mortal breath

    Is but a suburb of the life elysian,

    Whose portal we call Death.

    She is not dead,—the child of our affection,—

    But gone unto that school

    Where she no longer needs our poor protection,

    And Christ himself doth rule.

    In that great cloister’s stillness and seclusion,

    By guardian angels led,

    Safe from temptation, safe from sin’s pollution,

    She lives, whom we call dead.

    Day after day we think what she is doing

    In those bright realms of air;

    Year after year, her tender steps pursuing,

    Behold her grown more fair.

    Thus do we walk with her, and keep unbroken

    The bond which nature gives,

    Thinking that our remembrance, though unspoken,

    May reach her where she lives.

    Not as a child shall we again behold her;

    For when with raptures wild

    In our embraces we again enfold her,

    She will not be a child;

    But a fair maiden, in her Father’s mansion,

    Clothed with celestial grace;

    And beautiful with all the soul’s expansion

    Shall we behold her face.

    And though at times impetuous with emotion

    And anguish long suppressed,

    The swelling heart heaves moaning like the ocean,

    That cannot be at rest,—

    We will be patient, and assuage the feeling

    We may not wholly stay;

    By silence sanctifying, not concealing,

    The grief that must have way.