My body, eh? Friend Death, how now?
Why all this tedious pomp of writ?
Thou hast reclaimed it sure and slow
For half a century, bit by bit.
In faith thou knowest more to-day
Than I do, where it can be found!
This shriveled lump of suffering clay,
To which I now am chained and bound,
Has not of kith or kin a trace
To the good body once I bore;
Look at this shrunken, ghastly face:
Didst ever see that face before?
Ah, well, friend Death, good friend thou art;
Thy only fault thy lagging gait,
Mistaken pity in thy heart
For timorous ones that bid thee wait
Do quickly all thou hast to do,
Nor I nor mine will hindrance make;
I shall be free when thou art through;
I grudge thee naught that thou must take!
Stay! I have lied: I grudge thee one,
Yes, two I grudge thee at this last,—
Two members which have faithful done
My will and bidding in the past.
I grudge thee this right hand of mine;
I grudge thee this quick-beating heart;
They never gave me coward sign,
Nor played me once a traitor’s part.
I see now why in olden days
Men in barbaric love or hate
Nailed enemies’ hands at wild crossways,
Shrined leaders’ hearts in costly state:
The symbol, sign, and instrument
Of each soul’s purpose, passion, strife,
Of fires in which are poured and spent
Their all of love, their all of life.
O feeble, mighty human hand!
O fragile, dauntless human heart!
The universe holds nothing planned
With such sublime, transcendent art!
Yes, Death, I own I grudge thee mine
Poor little hand, so feeble now;
Its wrinkled palm, its altered line,
Its veins so pallid and so slow—
Ah, well, friend Death, good friend thou art:
I shall be free when thou art through.
Take all there is—take hand and heart:
There must be somewhere work to do.