William Ross Wallace

Last Words of Washington

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--So had the hero lain all night,
With folded arms, and large white brow serene,
Like the calm stature of a deity,
Reposing after some benignant work,
That Grecian genius wrought adoringly,
When Greece, as yet with harp of serious touch,
And agonies divine in Delphic deeps,
And trumpets blown along Olympian peaks,
Worshipped the grander Gods. So lay the chief.
O! how unlike the time when he rode forth
To battle, or when he in council sate,
Mailed in the supreme splendor of his supreme strength,
And bearing on his front a nation’s will.
But power, as if it only slumbered, lay
Upon his presence yet, and waiting there
For some great circumstance to bid it wake:
And in his eyes the glory lingered still,
When looking round, he saw the stately shapes
Which were unseen by those that near the couch
Kept weeping watch: for all the ample room,
And long dim corridors, and passages
Remote, were filled with the majestic ghosts
Of ancient heroes—come to see him die:
And all the space was breathless with its awe.
So Night went heavily on, with her old pomp
Of spangling stars and dusk magnificence
Unmarked by our sad people: well they knew
That he, the sire and savior of the land,
Was taking death. But when the morning came,
The hero rose, as if at his command
Life flushed his stately forehead; and his face
Put on that mild but awful look that bowed
The wills of men, and made the loftiest kings
Rise up to do him reverence; and his voice
Went down like solemn music to the Land.
And all the space was breathless with its awe.
“Not that I shall so soon consent to death;
Not that ye nevermore may hear my voice,
O, men! who dwell where freedom dwells, and Thought
Hath chartered right to sound the Universe
I call to ye; for that which I would speak,
So touches your firm weal and majesty,
It hath no need of solemn circumstance,
And yet the time may dignify my speech,
And truths ranged in the spectral shade of death
May hold a grander hue; as mountains loom
More glorious and awful when eclipse
Broods a dread darkness, and all eyes
Are large with expectations and a fear.
So listen that I may die in calm content;
Not trembling lest the Past—troubled by war,
And deeds of high renown, and freedom won,
And clarions sweetly blown for victory,
And Peace at blissful summer on the hills,
Singing a stately hymn, and Government
By thought served and acclamation built—
Was but a dream: but knowing that all things
Were ordered goldenly—things which a world,
Worn out by crowns and chains and agonies,
Might haply take and so renew its youth.
Nor at the last shall such fruition fail
If ye are wise; nor shall ye know how hard
A Tyrant is—free speech, free thought, free homes
Beat down to make full space for one mad will—
If ye are true, while not a single jar
Comes in to break that august harmony
Made by a hundred States at triumph calm.
Nor fear ambition’s loss of ample scope,
Nor lapse of power in that forbearance made
Each unto each. What were the worlds if moved
Alone? and where the light, the symmetry
Without one common love, one common sun
Burning for all? By these the Universe
Is ordered every way; and married orbs
In that bright union there serenely roll
Eternal music to the thrones of God.

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William Ross Wallace