The Pauper's Death-Bed

Tread softly - bow the head -
In reverent silence bow -
No passing-bell doth toll -
Yet an immortal soul
Is passing now.

Stranger! however great,
With lowly reverence bow;
There's one in that poor shed -
One by that paltry bed -
Greater than thou.

Beneath that Beggar's roof,
Lo!  Death doth keep his state;
Enter - no crowds attend -
Enter - no guards defend
This palace-gate.

That pavement damp and cold
No smiling courtiers tread;
One silent woman stands
Lifting with meager hands
A dying head.

No mingling voices sound -
An infant wail alone;
A sob suppressed - again
That short deep gasp, and then
The parting groan.

O change - O wondrous change!
Burst are the prison bars -
This moment there, so low,
So agonized, and now
Beyond the stars!

O change - stupendous change!
There lies the soulless clod!
The sun eternal breaks -
The new immortal wakes -
Wakes with his God.

-- Caroline Anne Bowles Southey






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