November 20, 2010

Shall I fall in love with death?

George Henry Boker concluded his 1864 collection Poems of the War with "Dirge," a poem dated November 20, 1863.

  Annie's dead, Annie's dead!
In that sentence all is said.
Lily form and rosy head,
Still and cold, yet half divine;
Though the lights no longer shine
Whence her gentle soul looked through
Its clear essence, calmly true:
Ah! the solemn inward view
Those inverted eyeballs cast,
Ere her spirit heavenward passed!
     Annie 's dead!

  Annie's dead, Annie's dead!
Sister angels, overhead,
Have your greeting hands outspread;
Let a welcome cry be given,
As she treads the skirts of heaven;
For a soul from earth more free,
More of your own purity,
Never joined your company.
Match her ye of heavenly mould,
Even thus, thus mortal cold!
     Annie's dead!

  Annie's dead, Annie's dead!
Why should this be oversaid?
Why should I abase my head? —
I who loved her from afar,
As the dreamer may the star;
I who bowed my humble eye,
Scarcely bold enough to sigh,
When she chanced to pass me by;
Trembling lest a word might stir
The high calm that reigned in her.
     Annie's dead!

  Annie's dead, Annie's dead!
But a gleam of light hath sped
Through death's shadow close and dread;
For wherever such as thou
Wanderest, must be sunshine now.
Dweller of some aery isle,
Floating up to God the while,
If I read aright that smile;
Hear aright my heart that saith,
"Shall I fall in love with death?"
     Annie's dead!

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