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Alfred H. Miles, ed. The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.

By Hymns and Sacred Poems. III. The Burial of Moses

Cecil Frances Alexander (1823–1895)

  • “And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-Peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.”
  • —Deut. xxxiv. 6.

  • BY Nebo’s lonely mountain,

    On this side Jordan’s wave,

    In a vale of the land of Moab

    There lies a lonely grave;

    And no man knows that sepulchre,

    And no man saw it e’er,

    For the angels of God upturned the sod,

    And laid the dead man there.

    That was the grandest funeral

    That ever pass’d on earth;

    But no man heard the trampling,

    Or saw the train go forth—

    Noiselessly as the daylight

    Comes back when night is done,

    And the crimson streak on ocean’s cheek

    Grows into the great sun;

    Noiselessly as the spring-time

    Her crown of verdure weaves,

    And all the trees on all the hills

    Open their thousand leaves;

    So without sound of music,

    Or voice of them that wept,

    Silently down from the mountain’s crown

    The great procession swept.

    Perchance the bald old eagle

    On grey Beth-Peor’s height,

    Out of his lonely eyrie

    Looked on the wondrous sight;

    Perchance the lion stalking

    Still shuns that hallowed spot,

    For beast and bird have seen and heard

    That which man knoweth not.

    But when the warrior dieth,

    His comrades in the war,

    With arms reversed and muffled drum,

    Follow his funeral car;

    They show the banners taken;

    They tell his battles won,

    And after him lead his masterless steed,

    While peals the minute-gun.

    Amid the noblest of the land

    Men lay the sage to rest,

    And give the bard an honour’d place

    With costly marble dress’d,

    In the great minster transept,

    Where lights like glories fall,

    And the organ rings, and the sweet choir sings

    Along the emblazon’d wall.

    This was the truest warrior

    That ever buckled sword;

    This, the most gifted poet

    That ever breath’d a word.

    And never earth’s philosopher,

    Traced with his golden pen

    On the deathless page truths half so sage

    As he wrote down for men.

    And had he not high honour,—

    The hill-side for a pall,

    To lie in state, while angels wait

    With stars for tapers tall;

    And the dark rock pines, like tossing plumes,

    Over his bier to wave,

    And God’s own hand, in that lonely land,

    To lay him in the grave?

    In that strange grave without a name,

    Whence his uncoffin’d clay

    Shall break again—O wondrous thought!—

    Before the Judgment Day;

    And stand, with glory wrapped around,

    On the hills he never trod;

    And speak of the strife, that won our life,

    With the Incarnate Son of God.

    O lonely grave in Moab’s land!

    O dark Beth-Peor’s hill!

    Speak to these curious hearts of ours,

    And teach them to be still.

    God hath His mysteries of grace,

    Ways that we cannot tell;

    He hides them deep, like the hidden sleep

    Of him He loved so well.