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Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Birds of Passage

CHARLES SUMNER

  Garlands upon his grave,
  And flowers upon his hearse,
And to the tender heart and brave
  The tribute of this verse.

  His was the troubled life,
  The conflict and the pain,
The grief, the bitterness of strife,
  The honor without stain.

  Like Winkelried, he took
  Into his manly breast
The sheaf of hostile spears, and broke
  A path for the oppressed.

  Then from the fatal field
  Upon a nation's heart
Borne like a warrior on his shield!--
  So should the brave depart.

  Death takes us by surprise,
  And stays our hurrying feet;
The great design unfinished lies,
  Our lives are incomplete.

  But in the dark unknown
  Perfect their circles seem,
Even as a bridge's arch of stone
  Is rounded in the stream.

  Alike are life and death,
  When life in death survives,
And the uninterrupted breath
  Inspires a thousand lives.

  Were a star quenched on high,
  For ages would its light,
Still travelling downward from the sky,
  Shine on our mortal sight.

  So when a great man dies,
  For years beyond our ken,
The light he leaves behind him lies
  Upon the paths of men.