February 12, 2013

Death of Cary: I want to go away

Alice Cary was 51 when she died on February 12, 1871, never able to finish her final poem. Her last words were recorded as, "I want to go away." She was buried in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery; her pallbearers included showman P. T. Barnum and newspaperman Horace Greeley. Her sister and fellow poet Phoebe Cary died a few months later.

Alice knew her death from tuberculosis was coming soon and many of her later writings (and recorded conversations) refer to her readiness to die and her religious conviction. In a collection of her works published shortly after her death,  her last completed poem, excluding the incomplete one written a few days before her death, was included with the title "Her Last Poem":

Earth with its dark and dreadful ills,
    Recedes and fades away;
Lift up your heads, ye heavenly hills;
    Ye gates of death, give way!

My soul is full of whispered song,—
    My blindness is my sight;
The shadows that I feared so long
    Are full of life and light.

My pulses faint and fainter beat,
    My faith takes wider bounds;
I feel grow firm beneath my feet
    The green, immortal grounds.

The faith to me a courage gives.
    Low as the grave to go, —
I know that my Redeemer lives, —
    That I shall live I know.

The palace walls I almost see
    Where dwells my Lord and King.
O grave, where is thy victory?
    O death, where is thy sting?

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