How Softly Death Walks
How softly Death walks
among infant pines;
it is strange
you do not notice him
winding his way
as wind whips around him.
Perhaps you cannot see him
because your eyes, too weak,
cannot see the dryads,
his cousins once removed,
with whom he gossips.
The wind you feel,
sharp and chill,
spirates from frozen mountains,
breathed out like love,
some frigid dove,
to rest on Jordan's fountains,
but cold with rage.
It forms the age
with subtle inspiration;
it pours down death
on souls in every nation.
From age to age fathers' words
have been spoken, have been heard,
perhaps ignored, yet laid away
to be spoken again some other day
by the sons, now fathers too,
who wish to speak the word anew:
Seek the good and shun the vile,
mix dovelike grace with snakelike wiles.
Protect all those who need protection,
provide for those who need provision.
Be not afraid yourself to doubt,
or when uncertain to bow out;
be not afraid yourself to trust,
or ever to do the thing you must.
To aid of the weak give ceaseless thought,
and to aid of women, weak or not;
with such women, old or young,
listen well, control your tongue,
learn courtesy and kind restraint:
such chivalry is never quaint.
Be loyal to wife and child and friend;
let such loyalty never end.
Accept without grumble the lesser part;
no glory seek save greatness of heart.
Avoid the idle, use well your time,
rarely shout and never whine.
Do the work that must be done;
in crisis be the patient one.
Never hard-working men despise.
Keep your mouth from filth of lies.
Do well all things that come to hand:
act, in short, as befits a man.
Fire-brilliance in reason born
through the veil of time has torn,
felt the sun of the silent morn
of heaven in silence streaming
above the Sleepers dreaming.
Sevenfold in drifting sleep
they secrets find and secrets keep,
secreted in the caverns deep
beyond the starlight gleaming
of heaven in silence streaming.
The angels, each in silent course,
move with love's all-moving force
to shape the tides of time's recourse
in realms of truth and seeming
beyond the starlight gleaming.
But one stands silent in the night,
bears the horn whose note in might
will wake all sleep to morning light,
above the Sleepers dreaming
from sun of justice beaming.