On the Death of a Sister

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On the Death of a Sister


I KNEW that we must part; day after day

I saw the dread Destroyer win his way.
That hollow cough first rang the fatal knell,
As on my ear its prophet-warning fell;
Feeble and slow the once light footstep grew,
Thy wasting cheek put on death's pallid hue,
Thy thin, hot hand to mine more weakly clung,
Each sweet 'Good night' fell fainter from thy tongue,
I knew that we must part - no power could save,
Thy quiet goodness from an early grave;
Those eyes so dull, though kind each glance they cast,
Looking a sister's fondness to the last;
Thy lips so pale, that gently pressed my cheek,
Thy voice - alas! thou couldst but try to speak;
All told thy doom; I felt it at my heart;
The shaft had struck - I knew that we must part.

And we have parted, Mary - thou art gone!

Gone in thine early bloom, meek suffering one!
Thy weary spirit breathed itself to sleep,
So peacefully, it seemed a sin to weep,
In those fond watchers who around thee stood,
And felt, even then, that God was greatly good,
Like starts that struggle through the clouds of night,
Thine eyes one moment caught a glorious light,
As if to thee, in that dread hour, 'twere given
To know on earth what faith believes of Heaven;
Then like tired breezes didst thou sink to rest,
Nor one, one pang the awful change confessed.
Death stole in softness o'er that lovely face,
And touched each feature with a new born grace;
On cheek and brow unearthly beauty lay,
And told that life's poor cares had passed away.
In my last hour be Heaven so kind to me,
I ask no more than this - to die like thee.

But we have parted - Mary - thou art dead!

On its last-resting place I laid thy head,
Then by the coffin-side knelt down, and took
A brother's farewell kiss and farewell look;
Those marble lips no kindred kiss returned;
From those veiled orbs no glance responsive burned;
Ah! then I felt that thou hadst passed away,
That the sweet face I gazed on was but clay.
And then came memory, with her busy throng
Of tender images, forgotten long;
Years hurried back, and as they swiftly rolled,
I saw thee - heard thee, as in days of old;
Sad and more sad each sacred feeling grew,
Manhood was moved, and sorrow claimed her due;
Thick, thick and fast the burning tear drops started,
I turned away, and felt that we had parted.

But nor forever - in the silent tomb,

Where thou art laid, thy kindred shall find room;
A little while - a few short years of pain,
And, one by one we'll come to thee again.
The kind old Father shall seek out the place,
And rest with thee, the youngest of the race;
The dear, dear Mother, - bent with age and grief -
Shall lay her head by thine, in sweet relief;
Sister and Brother, and that faithful Friend -
True from the first, and tender to the end -
All, all, in His good time - who placed us here, -
To live, to love, to die, and disappear -
Shall come and make their quiet bed with thee.
Beneath the shadow of that spreading tree;
With thee to sleep, through death's long dreamless night,
With thee rise up and bless the morning light.


Charles Sprague


3:8, p. 4




Charles Sprague, “On the Death of a Sister,” Periodical Poets, accessed April 14, 2024, https://periodicalpoets.com/items/show/310.


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