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

Middle States: Philadelphia, Pa.

Laurel Hill

By Sallie Bridges

  • In this cemetery are deposited the mortal remains of Joseph C. Neal, over whose last resting-place a beautiful and emblematic monument has been erected to his memory, by friends “who had loved him as a man and admired him as an author.”

  • WITH chastened spirit wandering mid the graves,

    I passed an hour afar from worldly sound,

    Where earthly care no longer Toil enslaves,

    Where silence only, and Death’s types, abound.

    The soothing stillness of the summer air,

    The waving trees that shadowed sculptured stone,

    The unknown names of those who mouldered there,

    Subdued my soul like music’s solemn tone.

    I marked the token that Affection rears

    Above the buried dust so loved in life;

    Where fragrant flowers, nursed by Sorrow’s tears,

    Adorn the sod where rests a child or wife;

    And paused a moment by a lonely spot,

    The unrecorded mound wherein may sleep

    Some nameless waif, whose unremembered lot

    Found naught to hope and left no friend to weep.

    How many minds unconquered by their fate,

    How many brains that throbbed with feverish thought,

    How many wordless yearnings for the great,

    Have found beyond this bourn the goal they sought!

    What garnered wisdom, what unwritten lore,

    What glowing visions, and what noble worth,

    Have shone unvalued, then dropped back once more

    Like unset jewels into mines of earth!

    Here stately monuments of graceful art

    Proclaim the virtues of the flattered dead:

    How oft an epitaph exalts a heart

    Whose deeds no lustre on its lifetime shed!

    Yet here, apart, mid calm, sequestered glade,

    A pathway winds, by pilgrim homage worn,

    Where generous Love and Friendship’s tasteful aid

    Have shrined the relics whose repose they mourn.

    Rough from the quarry hewn, in shapeless grace

    The unpolished block of virgin marble stands,

    And forms the massive but unmodelled base

    Where chiselled urn admiring praise commands.

    Expressive symbol of the mind unwrought,

    Till Time to Labor’s work perfection brings,

    And kindred souls, fulfilling Nature’s thought,

    Undying laurels carve where ivy clings.

    ’T was minstrel’s truest type, that needs no words,

    The stringless lyre leaning on thy grave!

    Death early loosed thy spirit’s “silver chords,”

    And stilled the music that thy being gave.

    Yet Hope’s proud dreams might ask no more of Fame

    Than such a tribute for an honored tomb,

    Where tears of grief bedew the cherished name,

    And glory spreads her bays of fadeless bloom!