[from Island Minstrelsy, 1839]


Leaves have their time to fall,
And flowers to wither at the north wind's breath,
And stars to set ;—but all
Thou hast, all seasons, for thine own, O Death!

OLD King Death made a grand promenade
Over the billows and over the earth,
With a spear in one hand, in the other a spade,
He clang'd them together in boisterous mirth;
And he laughed in his glee at the stricken souls
Whom his spear had sped to their destin'd goals ;
And he shouted,—" Hurra, hurra, hurra !
Hurra : for old King Death!"

Old King Death held a revel one night,
And he bade to his hall the ghastly train
Of ruthless cohorts, whose power and might
Swell'd his kingdom and lauded his reign;
And he told them all of his wild promenade,
And how he had gather'd from every grade
And they shouted,—" Hurra, hurra, hurra!
Hurra ! for Old King Death !"

Old King Death made a glorious speech,
And he told them all, as now I tell,—
How he had cheated the solemn leech,
And how he had pull'd at the old church bell,
And how he had wrought for the hungry grave,
And how he had brought it the fair and brave
And he shouted,—" Hurra, hurra, hurra!
Hurra! for Old King Death!"

" I've been to the festal hall," quoth he,
"And pointed my spear at the bounding breast
Of one, in her girlhood's felicity,
Amid jewels and gems,—and lov'd the best;
And I stole the light from her bright blue eye,
And now she is gone to her home to die!"
Then they shouted,—" Hurra, hurra, hurra!
Hurra! for Old King Death!"

" I've won from revels a glorious host!—.
I've look'd on the laughing, the young, the proud;—
Beautiful things that were priz'd the most
The soonest were snatch'd to the pallid shroud;
And the eye grew dim, and the heart grew cold—
O, mine are the lovely, the brave, the bold !"
And he shouted,—" Hurra, hurra, hurra!
Hurra, for Old King Death!"

" A nation was roaring in horrible sort,
Deafening my ear with a bridal peal,
Like host of mad devils let out for sport,
Thinking Death had no care for their Charlotte's weal;
They shouted, and worship'd their future Queen,
But with fatherly forethought I step'd between,
And chaunted,—'Hurra, hurra, hurra!
I'll save her—that will Death!'

" It tortured my ear, that turbulent joy,
And mocking, I muttered, 'O boasted Isle !
One breath of mine will your revels destroy;
Mad mortals! tho' now ye securely smile,
I hover for ever on sleepless wing,
And I am your Monarch—your despot—King!'
And I shouted,—'Hurra, hurra, hurra!
Ye smile !—Hah ! so does Death!'

" The bride still bloom'd, and the months flew by,
And the bridegroom's soul was a depth of bliss—
Aye, a world of untroubled ecstacy
Thinks I, ' Twill but heighten the contrast—this
The' Hope suspendeth her garlanded crown,
One brush of my dark wing will smite her down:'
And I shouted,—' Hurra, hurra, hurra!
Proud Hope, retreat from Death!'

" Aye, the months flew by, and the dark hour came
When the nation's soul on one breathing hung;
Then I gave the mandate that none may name,
And the great nation's hope—drunk heart was wrong ;
For I blighted the bud, and I smote the flower !
Aha, aha ! 'twas Death's revelling hour!
And I chaunted,— Hurra, hurra, hurra !
Your heir is won by Death!'

" Then I smote the pride of the world of song;
I seized my victim in Fame's proud hour,
And Silence reign'd o'er the vocal. throng,
For their syren lay hush'd in my icy bower;
And they plac'd a wreath on that marble brow,
But said 1, `What heedeth your songstress now ?'
And I chaunted,—' Hurra, hurra, hurra !
'Tis prime good sport for Death !'

" I stole the rose—bloom from a gentle bride,
And wreath'd my pale lilies 'mid her dark hair,
And carried her off from her lover's side—
How the poor mad dotard did rave and swear !
But I froze my ice o'er her gurgling breath,
And I made her my own—the Bride of Death !"
Then he shouted,—" Hurra, hurra, hurra !
Hurra ! for Old King Death !"

" I journeyed to peaceful household homes,
Where I threw my spear 'mid old and young
Hurra, my brave boys!—in the island domes
Such requiem to Death was never sung.
But where hearts were weary, and pin'd to die,
O think yo not there we were more than shy'?"
And he shouted,—" Hurra, hurra, hurra '.
Hurra ! for wily Death !"

" I went to a cottage among green hills
Where ten young urchins were busy at play,
Undreaming of life's distracting ills,
But deeming it all a fair holiday
So says I, ' Young imps, I seek your mother;
I'm not King Death, if she rears another !'
And I shouted,—`Hurra, hurra, hurra
Hurra ! for bold King Death !'

" I marked her well for the coming hour;
And when that she gave them another babe
I level'd my spear with desperate power,
And quickly had work for my good old spade ;
And I bade the sexton make goodly room,
For I had resolved on the baby's doom :"
Then all shouted,—" Hurra, hurra, hurra !
Hurra! for Old King Death!"

" Poor soul! she had fixed the bridal day
Of her first born daughter. Aha ! I ween
She thought it hard to be snatched away,
And faith! such another is seldom seen
But I mock'd the grief of the meek blue eye,
And says I, `Old Death, she's your's by—and—bye!'
Then they shouted,—" Hurra, hurra, hurra!
Hurra! for courtier Death ! "

" I saw an old couple, O doting fond
Of a goodly stripling— a noble boy;
And they seemed to heed not ought beyond
That beautiful clay, that ruost brittle toy
So I said to myself', ''Tis worse than bad;
Why I myself will take charge of the lad.'
And I shouted,— Hurra, hurra, hurra !
Ho ! yield your boy to Death! '

"And I tip'd him a touch.—How he did shrink!
And how they writh'd as I made him my own!
O, how they did wail then!—and, only think,
Upbraided your Monarch upon his throne,
Daring to ask,—'Why come for another ?
Af'ric's earth is just laid o'er his brother.'
But I shouted,—' Hurra, hurra, hurra!
Not half enough for Death!'

"'then I next made friends with a widow's son,
An idolised being—an only one,
Whilst she was dreaming her sorrowings done—
Aye, dreaming that sorrow would soon be gone
And hast,—in his promise; her hope, her joy;
So I took good aim at the widow's boy ;
And I shouted,—` Hurra, hurra, hurra!
Good speed'to Old King Death !'

A youth came back from the far—off seas
To his native isle, for an island bride,
(Oh, I revel to plague such folks as these!)
And his heart was bounding in hope and pride:
But thinks I, 'Oh, ho! he'll go wailing back
With a sadder brow o'er his ocean track;'
And I shouted,—' Hurra, hurra, hurra!
Who'll conquer ?—You or Death ?'

"He came to his childhood's cherish'd love,
And he won the vows and the love of years
But I knew marriage was made above—
For him there was nothing writ there but tears;
So I crept to her heart on evening's air,
And the lovely betroth'd grew still more fair,
As I chaunted,—`Hurra, hurra, hurra!
Hurra! you must be Death's !'

" Then, loveliest, fly not, for you are mine;
Lover, to thy breast hope not to press her;—
O dream not, :ond lover, to call her thine ;—
Priest, at the altar thou shalt not bless her;—
Banners, your gayest float;—bright pennons wave ;—
I bear her my bride to our home—the grave!'
And I shouted,—'Hurra, hurra, hurra!
Hurra ! who'll cope with Death ?'

" Then they laid her low,—aye, they laid her low;
And did I not :;hory over my prize
As they placed the earth o'er her breast of snow,
And envied my throne in her radiant eyes !
But I bade the youth from nay treasure depart,
So he turn'd and fled with a broken heart,
Whilst I shouted,—' Hurra, hurra, hurra !
Hurra! for conquering Death !'

'` Then I marked two unrivall'd queens of song,
Whose beautiful harping,s enthrall'd the world;
So thinks I, 'This doth me a grievous wrong ;
Am I unheeded, despised, hurled
From my ancient realm, and by woman's verse ?
I shall give them a grave and a plumed hearse !'
So I shouted,—'Hurra, hurra, hurry !
Sweethearts, sing loud for Death !'

" So I bade the Sorrows do well their part,
As they chuckl'd in glee to hear theirs sing ;
And I planted my minions in each true heart,
For woman's breast is a delicate thing
And I, their lover, stood fondly by,
And I read my hopes in each lightning eye
And I channted,— Hurra, hurra, hurra !
This trio pleaseth Death !'

" They pass'd,—they faded! I heard the last sigh ;
'Affection's harp' grew a desolate thing;
Then all earth's children, with watery eye,
Took desperate draughts from griefs bitter spring.
How I laugh'd o'er Felicia's broken spell !
O, m'y cohort's had done my bidding well!
So I shouted,—` Hnrra, hurra, hurry !
Success to ye and Death !'

" And then the other—the weaker heart_
'Neath the fiery sun of a burning sky,—
Men dream'd not that she should soon depart
So suddenly into eternity.
I mocked the deep anguish, the wond'ring grief;
I la, ha !—Wet ye not that the `bright are brief ?'
O, I shouted,—' Hurra, hurra, hurra !
The secret is Old Death's !'

" Then off I went to the dark blue seas,
To gambol awhile with the winds and waves;
But lots of ridiculous things like these
One sees in the depths of old Ocean's caves,
Where oft I've lurk'd in a comical sort,
Like a school—boy lying in wait for sport;—
Aye, shouting—` Hurra, hurra, hurra !
Here's prime good sport for Death!'

" But I bid ye all, on the morrow's night,
To revel with me in my kingly hall,
And then shall ye hear the refin'd delight
Of your monarch's mad ocean festival.
Good Booth, had ye heard the exquisite groans.
And tire poor drowning wretches' babbling moans.
Ye would shout for ever,—'Hurra, hurra !
And laud me, prime Old Death!'

Tho',—would ye believe it ?—a woman dared
To brave me upon my old ocean throne
Fearless she faced me, undaunted, unscared,
And bore off the prize I had deem'd my own.
Most astounded, I let go my prey, good friends,
But think ye not Death shall have large amends ?
O chaunt me a loud and long hurra !
Ye shall not blush for Death !"

Good sooth, but the hideous things grew proud
To think they were lords of all human breath;
And they chorus'd like mad fiends, long and lend,
Dancing in rings round the old monster Death
And away they went hobbling round and round,
Till the dry bones rattle and skulls rebound,
Shouting,—" Hurra, hurra, hurra !
We laud thee, prime Old Death!"


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Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2004