(Author note: I wrote this over eight years ago on the death of an acquaintance. I am feeling maudlin with the death of a close cousin, Thomas Moore. His funeral is today and serendipitously I found the poem I had thought lost)
Poem on the Death of a Young Friend
What can you say when one dies out of time?
When promise of years yields a handful of days?
The adventure of death is best led by those,
Who are wrought full with deeds both the great and the small
Or with gall;
Thus making, of Death a surcease from the trials
Of trophies brief, lost and triumphs cheap, brazen;
And damned defeats, profound, shameful and sure,
Which death’s seal finds finished, the entire forsaken.
But blooms (for girls be our kindred’s fair blossoms),
Should unfold and ripened with time and with love.
Nor should they fall dying,
Neglected and withering.
More, what malign wraith bids a body play rebel,
And unmakes its mistress to hideous death,
To leave us all Jill-less thenceforward forever;
Bereft of Jill’s wit, her wonder, her way?
Would not it be better, more proper and right-some,
Old Mentor to die, young Atlas to live?
In like, aged I should have ashes mine scattered,
While Jill gladdens hearts right and left as she’s wont?
I feel a great river of Me has come slower,
Yet wider and slighter to fade out in swamp;
While Jill’s, snow-melt cascade of running bright water,
Should canyons cut deeply long way on its course.
E’en yet, we old rivers, embanked and embedded
Find us made new in the meeting of streams,
Revital, renew and restock with her will
We old ones once more may be crystalline kills.
Jill’s like that, you know, she inhabits our lives;
Invigors our thoughts and engenders our laughs.
She is gone.
And I grieve for my loss and her leaving,
Both selfish and sanguine these sentiments mine.
But the truth is, we know, when our tears are abated,
It’s she still is here ‘moungst us, thought, motive and mime.
She will colour our goings, our comings, our triumphs,
But better yet into our faults, failings and fears,
For she’s shown us the way it is to be done,
To wring us a living from losing and pain,
We all will die likewise (as Jill has done first-wise)
Not a one of us gets to leave here alive,
While we wait we’ve a model of what is it to us
Much better than art or conceit may contrive.