Paul Hamilton Hayne

At Last

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In youth, when blood was warm and fancy high,
I mocked at death. How many a quaint conceit
I wove about his veiled head and feet,
Vaunting aloud, Why need we dread to die?
But now, enthralled by deep solemnity,
Death's pale phantasmal shade I darkly greet:
Ghostlike it haunts the hearth, it haunts the street,
Or drearier makes drear midnight's mystery.
Ah, soul-perplexing vision! oft I deem
That antique myth is true which pictured death
A masked and hideous form all shrank to see;
But at the last slow ebb of mortal breath,
Death, his mask melting like a nightmare dream,
Smiled,--heaven's high-priest of Immortality!

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Paul Hamilton Hayne