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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Middle States: Brooklyn, N. Y.

Greenwood Cemetery

By William Ross Wallace (1819–1881)


HERE are the houses of the dead. Here youth

And age and manhood, stricken in his strength,

Hold solemn state and awful silence keep,

While Earth goes murmuring in her ancient path,

And troubled Ocean tosses to and fro

Upon his mountainous bed impatiently,

And many stars make worship musical

In the dim-aisled abyss, and over all

The Lord of Life, in meditation sits

Changeless, alone, beneath the large white dome

Of Immortality.
I pause and think

Among these walks lined by the frequent tombs;

For it is very wonderful. Afar

The populous city lifts its tall, bright spires,

And snowy sails are glancing on the bay,

As if in merriment,—but here all sleep;

They sleep, these calm, pale people of the past:

Spring plants her rosy feet on their dim homes,—

They sleep! Sweet Summer comes and calls, and calls

With all her passionate poetry of flowers

Wed to the music of the soft south-wind,—

They sleep! The lonely Autumn sits and sobs

Between the cold white tombs, as if her heart

Would break,—they sleep! Wild Winter comes and chants

Majestical the mournful sagas learned

Far in the melancholy North, where God

Walks forth alone upon the desolate seas,—

They slumber still! Sleep on, O passionless dead!

Ye make our world sublime: ye have a power

And majesty the living never hold.

Here Avarice shall forget his den of gold!

Here Lust his beautiful victim, and hot Hate

His crouching foe. Ambition here shall lean

Against Death’s shaft, veiling the stern, bright eye

That, overbold, would take the height of gods,

And know Fame’s nothingness. The sire shall come,

The matron and the child, through many years,

To this fair spot, whether the pluméd hearse

Moves slowly through the winding walks, or Death

For a brief moment pauses: all shall come

To feel the touching eloquence of graves.

And therefore it was well for us to clothe

The place with beauty. No dark terror here

Shall chill the generous tropic of the soul,

But Poetry and her starred comrade Art

Shall make the sacred country of the dead

Magnificent. The fragrant flowers shall smile

Over the low, green graves; the trees shall shake

Their soul-like cadences upon the tombs;

The little lake, set in a paradise

Of wood, shall be a mirror to the moon

What time she looks from her imperial tent

In long delight at all below; the sea

Shall lift some stately dirge he loves to breathe

Over dead nations, while calm sculptures stand

On every hill, and look like spirits there

That drink the harmony. Oh, it is well!

Why should a darkness scowl on any spot

Where man grasps immortality? Light, light,

And art, and poetry, and eloquence,

And all that we call glorious are its dower.