Our sun hath gone down at the noonday,
The heavens are black;
And over the morning the shadows
Of night-time are back.
Stop the proud boasting mouth of the cannon,
Hush the mirth and the shout;
God is God! and the ways of Jehovah
Are past finding out.
Lo! the beautiful feet on the mountains,
That yesterday stood;
The white feet that came with glad tidings
Are dabbled in blood.
The Nation that firmly was settling
The crown on her head,
Sits, like Rizpah, in sackcloth and ashes,
And watches her dead.
Who is dead? who, unmoved by our wailing
Is lying so low?
O, my Land, stricken dumb in your anguish,
Do you feel, do you know?
Once this good man we mourn, overwearied,
Worn, anxious, oppressed,
Was going out from his audience chamber
For a season to rest;
Unheeding the thousands who waited
To honor and greet,
When the cry of a child smote upon him
And turned back his feet.
“Three days hath a woman been waiting,”
Said they, “patient and meek.”
And he answered, “Whatever her errand,
Let me hear; let her speak!”
So she came, and stood trembling before him
And pleaded her cause;
Told him all; how her child’s erring father
Had broken the laws.
Humbly spake she: “I mourn for his folly,
His weakness, his fall”;
Proudly spake she: “he is not a TRAITOR,
And I love him through all!”
Then the great man, whose heart had been shaken
By a little babe’s cry;
Answered soft, taking counsel of mercy,
“This man shall not die!”
Why, he heard from the dungeons, the rice-fields,
The dark holds of ships;
Every faint, feeble cry which oppression
Smothered down on men’s lips.
In her furnace, the centuries had welded
Their fetter and chain;
And like withes, in the hands of his purpose,
He snapped them in twain.
Who can be what he was to the people;
What he was to the State?
Shall the ages bring to us another
As good and as great?
Our hearts with their anguish are broken,
Our wet eyes are dim;
For us is the loss and the sorrow,
The triumph for him!
For, ere this, face to face with his Father
Our Martyr hath stood;
Giving into his hand the white record
With its great seal of blood!
That the hand which reached out of the darkness
Hath taken the whole?
Yea, the arm and the head of the people—
The heart and the soul!
And that heart, o’er whose dread awful silence
A nation has wept;
Was the truest, and gentlest, and sweetest
A man ever kept!
© Phoebe Cary