“The barley-harvest was nodding white,
When my children died on the rocky height,
And the reapers were singing on hill and plain,
When I came to my task of sorrow and pain.
But now the season of rain is nigh,
The sun is dim in the thickening sky,
And the clouds in sullen darkness rest
Where he hides his light at the doors of the west.
I hear the howl of the wind that brings
The long drear storm on its heavy wings;
But the howling wind and the driving rain
Will beat on my houseless head in vain:
I shall stay, from my murdered sons to scare
The beasts of the desert, and fowls of air.”
I saw an aged man upon his bier,
His hair was thin and white, and on his brow
A record of the cares of many a year;—
Cares that were ended and forgotten now.
And there was sadness round, and faces bowed,
And woman’s tears fell fast, and children wailed aloud.
Then rose another hoary man and said,
In faltering accents, to that weeping train,
“Why mourn ye that our aged friend is dead?
Ye are not sad to see the gathered grain,
Nor when their mellow fruit the orchards cast,
Nor when the yellow woods shake down the ripened mast.
“Ye sigh not when the sun, his course fulfilled,
His glorious course, rejoicing earth and sky,
In the soft evening, when the winds are stilled,
Sinks where his islands of refreshment lie,
And leaves the smile of his departure, spread
O’er the warm-coloured heaven and ruddy mountain head.
“Why weep ye then for him, who, having won
The bound of man’s appointed years, at last,
Life’s blessings all enjoyed, life’s labours done,
Serenely to his final rest has passed;
While the soft memory of his virtues, yet,
Lingers like twilight hues, when the bright sun is set?
“His youth was innocent; his riper age
Marked with some act of goodness every day;
And watched by eyes that loved him, calm, and sage,
Faded his late declining years away.
Cheerful he gave his being up, and went
To share the holy rest that waits a life well spent.
“That life was happy; every day he gave
Thanks for the fair existence that was his;
For a sick fancy made him not her slave,
To mock him with her phantom miseries.
No chronic tortures racked his aged limb,
For luxury and sloth had nourished none for him.
“And I am glad that he has lived thus long,
And glad that he has gone to his reward;
Nor can I deem that nature did him wrong,
Softly to disengage the vital cord.
For when his hand grew palsied, and his eye
Dark with the mists of age, it was his time to die.”