Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Praiser of Generous Thought and Noble Deed

Charles Dickens
by Harriett Stockall

He lived among us, holding in his hand
The heart of England like an instrument,
From whose great strings his absolute command
Drew mingled sound of sobs and laughter blent.
He lived among us, weaving subtler spells
Than grey magician of the bygone days;
Wearing by turns the jester's cap and bells,
The mourner's cypress wreath, the scholar's bays.
But evermore, in every changing mood,
We found him faithful to a lofty creed,
Prophet and preacher of the power of Good,
Praiser of generous thought and noble deed,
Lover of Nature, beautiful and free,
Priest of the sacrament of Charity!

He died among us -- straightway through the land
Swept moan instead of music all that day,
Because from England's great enchanter's hand
The pen -- his magic rod -- had dropped away;
Because that busy life's rich, golden prime,
In the mid-strife of battle had gone down;
Because from throbbing brows before the time
Were reft the laurels of an earthly crown.
We wept for him as we but weep for those
Who dearest, nearest to our hearts have lain;
He seemed of kin to us, by sweet and close
And holy ties of human heart and brain.
A friend, a brother, well-beloved alway,
Lay dead among the Kentish bills that day.

He sleeps among us -- England opened wide
Her grandest sepulchre to give him room,
So with the great and holy ones who died
For England's glory, he has found a tomb.
But in our grateful hearts for evermore
Must live the best memorial of his worth,
Those hearts that bless him for the goodly store
He gave to us of beauty and of mirth.
Sweet as the music of our island birds
His stories are, and deathless is their fame,
'Familiar in our mouths as household words,'
While England owns a language and a name;
Dearer and sweeter as the years go by,
Till human lips no longer smile or sigh!

"Familiar in our mouths as household words", from Shakespeare's Henry V, was the motto for Dickens's magazine, Household Words, in which Hard Times was serialized.