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

Birds of Passage

Flight the Fourth. Charles Sumner

  • The first draft of the first poem was made March 30, 1874. It did not satisfy the poet, for he wrote, April 2: “I have been trying to write something about Sumner, but to little purpose. I cannot collect my faculties.”

  • GARLANDS upon his grave

    And flowers upon his hearse,

    And to the tender heart and brave

    The tribute of this verse.

    His was the troubled life,

    The conflict and the pain,

    The grief, the bitterness of strife,

    The honor without stain.

    Like Winkelried, he took

    Into his manly breast

    The sheaf of hostile spears, and broke

    A path for the oppressed.

    Then from the fatal field

    Upon a nation’s heart

    Borne like a warrior on his shield!—

    So should the brave depart.

    Death takes us by surprise,

    And stays our hurrying feet;

    The great design unfinished lies,

    Our lives are incomplete.

    But in the dark unknown

    Perfect their circles seem,

    Even as a bridge’s arch of stone

    Is rounded in the stream.

    Alike are life and death,

    When life in death survives,

    And the uninterrupted breath

    Inspires a thousand lives.

    Were a star quenched on high,

    For ages would its light,

    Still travelling downward from the sky,

    Shine on our mortal sight.

    So when a great man dies,

    For years beyond our ken,

    The light he leaves behind him lies

    Upon the paths of men.