October 24, 2012

Death of Webster: he laboureth still

The Massachusetts statesman Daniel Webster was recognized as one of the greatest orators of his day, though his reputation as a senator was slightly tarnished by his attempts at political compromise with the South. When he died on October 24, 1854, however, poet and author Epes Sargent honored him with the poem "Webster." Sargent, whose father was born in the same year as Webster, had become acquainted with elder statesman through his role as a political journalist in Washington, D.C. and through their mutual Whig affiliations. In his poem, Sargent emphasizes his political role and his speech-making ability and, further, he elevates Webster to a level comparable with the messiah:

Night of the Tomb! He has entered thy portal;
     Silence of Death! He is wrapped in thy shade;
All of the gifted and great that was mortal,
     In the earth where the ocean-mist weepeth, is laid.

Lips, whence thy voice that held Senates proceeded,
     Form, lending argument aspect august,
Brow, like the arch that a nation’s weight needed,
     Eyes, wells unfathomed of thought—all are dust.

Night of the Tomb! Through thy darkness is shining
     A light, since the Star in the East never dim;
No joy’s exultation, no sorrow’s repining
     Could hide it in life or life’s ending from him.

Silence of Death! There were voices from heaven,
     That pierced the quick ear of Faith through the gloom;
The rod and the staff that he asked for were given,
     And he followed the Saviour’s own track to the tomb.

Beyond it, above, in an atmosphere finer,
     Lo, infinite ranges of being to fill!
In that land of the spirit, that region diviner,
     He liveth, he loveth, he laboureth still.

1 comment:

  1. "Comparable with the messiah?" Sargent wasn't the only one. Indeed, I have a 1930 biography about Webster by Samuel Hopkins Adams, with the title "The Godlike Daniel."

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