February 7, 2013

The rainbow comes but with the cloud

As she was on her death bed, Alice Cary allegedly wished she could live only ten more years. "I wouldn't ask for more time [than that]. I would live such a different life," she said, according to her sister Phoebe Cary, "I would never shut myself up in myself again." Her friends became her greatest delight. Shut out from the world in the final stage of tuberculosis, she took solace in hearing what others were doing, particularly their plans for the future. She began to see God in her friends, and anticipated meeting them again in the afterlife.

At the same time, Alice stayed committed to her role as a poet. One local publication expected a contribution from her every month and, diligently, on the first of every month she wrote a new poem. On the first of February that year, however, she was unable to write, nor even dictate a new poem. Finally, after a few days, she asked to be helped into a chair. It was February 7, 1871, and it was to be Alice Cary's last poem. Her hand trembled and she dropped her pen in the attempt. She only finished one stanza:

As the poor panting hart to the water-brook runs,
   As the water-brook runs to the sea,
So earth's fainting daughters and famishing sons,
   O Fountain of Love, run to Thee!

She attempted another poem which ended, "The rainbow comes but with the cloud." But Alice died peacefully in her sleep five days later. She was 51 years old. Her younger sister Phoebe joined her in death only a few months later.

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