IN THE CITY OF THE DEAD
It was but yesterday I escaped the tumult of the city
And went forth to walk in the silent fields;
And I came upon a lofty hill
Where nature had bestowed the gifts of her bountiful hand.
I ascended the hill and looked back upon the city.
And lo, the city appeared, with all its towers and temples,
To lie beneath a cloud of thick dark smoke that
rose up from its forges and its factories.
As I sat contemplating from afar the works of man,
It seemed that most of them are vain and futile.
And heartily I turned my mind away from
all that the sons of Adam have wrought,
And looked upon the fields, the seat of God's great glory.
And in their midst I beheld a graveyard with
tombstones of fair marble, and with cypress trees.
There, between the city of the living
and the city of the dead, I sat
And mused upon the endless struggle and
the ceaseless turbulence in life,
And the enveloping silence and vast dignity in death.
On the one side I beheld hope and despair, love and hate,
riches and poverty, belief and unbelief;
And on the other, dust in dust which nature intermingles,
Fashioning therefrom its world of green and growing things
that thrive in the deep silence of the night.
While thus I pondered, behold, a great crowd,
marching slowly, caught my vision,
And I heard music filling the air with dreary tunes.
Before my eyes passed a procession of the
great and the lowly of mankind,
Walking together in procession at the funeral of
a man who had been rich and powerful,
The dead followed by the living.
And these wept and cried aloud, filling the day
with their wailings and their lamentations,
Even unto the burial-place.
And here the priests offered up prayers
and swung their censers,
And the pipers blew mournfully upon their pipes.
The orators stood forth with sounding words of eulogy,
And the poets, bemoaning with their studied verses,
Until all had come unto a weary end.
And then the crowd dispersed, revealing a
proud tombstone which the stone-
cutters had vied in making,
And many wreaths of flowers, and garlands
woven by deft and skilful fingers.
Then the procession returned toward the city,
while I sat watching from afar, and musing.
And now the sun was sinking toward the west,
and the shadows of the rocks and trees began to
lengthen and discard their raiment of light.
At that moment I looked, and lo, two men bearing
upon their shoulders a coffin of plain wood;
And after them a woman came in ragged garments,
A babe at her breast, and at her feet a dog that
looked now to the woman, now to the wooden casket.
Only these, in the procession at the funeral
of a man who had been poor and humble ---
The wife whose silent tears bespoke her sorrow,
A baby crying because his mother wept, and a faithful beast
who would follow also in his dumb grief.
And when these reached the place of graves,
They lowered the coffin down into a pit in the far corner,
well removed from the lofty marble tombs.
Then they turned back in silence and in desolation,
And the dog's eyes looked oftentimes toward the last
dwelling-place of his friend and master,
Until they had disappeared from sight behind the trees.
Thereupon I bent my eyes first upon the
city of the living, and said to myself:
"This is for the rich and powerful men";
Then I looked upon the city of the dead, saying:
"And this is for the rich and powerful men."
And I cried aloud: "Where, then, is the abiding-place of
those who are weak and poor, O Lord?"
This I said, and gazed up toward the heaven of clouds,
glorious with the golden rays of the great sun.
And I heard a voice within me saying: " It is there ! "
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