My Last Will

When I am safely laid away,

Out of work and out of play,

Sheltered by the kindly ground

From the world of sight and sound,

One or two of those I leave

Will remember me and grieve,

Thinking how I made them gay

By the things I used to say;

— But the crown of their distress

Will be my untidiness.

What a nuisance then will be

All that shall remain of me!

Shelves of books I never read,

Piles of bills, undocketed,

Shaving-brushes, razors, strops,

Bottles that have lost their tops,

Boxes full of odds and ends,

Letters from departed friends,

Faded ties and broken braces

Tucked away in secret places,

Baggy trousers, ragged coats,

Stacks of ancient lecture-notes,

And that ghostliest of shows,

Boots and shoes in horrid rows.

Though they are of cheerful mind,

My lovers, whom I leave behind,

When they find these in my stead,

Will be sorry I am dead.

They will grieve; but you, my dear,

Who have never tasted fear,

Brave companion of my youth,

Free as air and true as truth,

Do not let these weary things

Rob you of your junketings.

Burn the papers; sell the books;

Clear out all the pestered nooks;

Make a mighty funeral pyre

For the corpse of old desire,

Till there shall remain of it

Naught but ashes in a pit:

And when you have done away

All that is of yesterday,

If you feel a thrill of pain,

Master it, and start again.

This, at least, you have never done

Since you first beheld the sun:

If you came upon your own

Blind to light and deaf to tone,

Basking in the great release

Of unconsciousness and peace,

You would never, while you live,

Shatter what you cannot give;

— Faithful to the watch you keep,

You would never break their sleep.

Clouds will sail and winds will blow

As they did an age ago

O’er us who lived in little towns

Underneath the Berkshire downs.

When at heart you shall be sad,

Pondering the joys we had,

Listen and keep very still.

If the lowing from the hill

Or the tolling of a bell

Do not serve to break the spell,

Listen; you may be allowed

To hear my laughter from a cloud.

Take the good that life can give

For the time you have to live.

Friends of yours and friends of mine

Surely will not let you pine.

Sons and daughters will not spare

More than friendly love and care.

If the Fates are kind to you,

Some will stay to see you through;

And the time will not be long

Till the silence ends the song.

Sleep is God’s own gift; and man,

Snatching all the joys he can,

Would not dare to give his voice

To reverse his Maker’s choice.

Brief delight, eternal quiet,

How change these for endless riot

Broken by a single rest?

Well you know that sleep is best.

We that have been heart to heart

Fall asleep, and drift apart.

Will that overwhelming tide

Reunite us, or divide?

Whence we come and whither go

None can tell us, but I know

Passion’s self is often marred

By a kind of self-regard,

And the torture of the cry

“You are you, and I am I.”

While we live, the waking sense

Feeds upon our difference,

In our passion and our pride

Not united, but allied.

We are severed by the sun,

And by darkness are made one.


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