In Memory of John Fairfax [poem by Henry Kendall]

[Editor: This poem by Henry Kendall was published in Songs from the Mountains (1880).]

In Memory of John Fairfax.

(Written after reading a touching poem by Mrs. Browning).

Because this man fulfilled his days,
Like one who walks with steadfast gaze
Averted from forbidden ways
With lures of fair false flowerage deep,
Behold the Lord whose throne is dim
With fires of flaming seraphim —
The Christ that suffered sent for him:
“He giveth His beloved, sleep.”

Think not that souls, whose deeds august
Put sin to shame and make men just,
Become at last the helpless dust
That wintering winds through wastelands sweep!
The higher life within us cries,
Like some fine spirit from the skies,
“The Father’s blessing on us lies —
‘He giveth His beloved, sleep.’”

Not human sleep — the fitful rest
With evil shapes of dreams distressed,
But perfect quiet, unexpressed
By any worldly word we keep.
The dim Hereafter framed in creeds
May not be this; but He who reads
Our lives, sets flowers on wayside weeds —
“He giveth His beloved, sleep.”

Be sure this hero who has passed
The human space — the outer vast —
Who worked in harness to the last,
Doth now a hallowed harvest reap.
Love sees his grave, nor turns away —
The eyes of Faith are like the day,
And Grief has not a word to say —
“He giveth His beloved, sleep.”

That fair rare spirit, Honour, throws
A light, which puts to shame the rose,
Across his grave, because she knows
The son whose ashes it doth keep.
And, like far music, this is heard —
“Behold the man who never stirred
By word of his an angry word!
‘He giveth His beloved, sleep.’”

He earned his place. Within his hands,
The Power which counsels and commands,
And shapes the social life of lands,
Became a blessing pure and deep.*
Through thirty years of turbulence
Our thoughts were sweetened with a sense
Of his benignant influence —
“He giveth His beloved, sleep.”

No splendid talents which excite
Like music, songs, or floods of light,
Were his; but rather all those bright,
Calm qualities of soul which reap
A mute but certain fine respect
Not only from a source elect,
But from the hearts of every sect —
“He giveth His beloved, sleep.”

He giveth His beloved rest!
The faithful soul that onward pressed
Unswerving from Life’s east to west
By paths austere and passes steep,
Is past all toil; and, over Death,
With reverent hands and prayerful breath,
I plant this flower alive with faith —
“He giveth His beloved, sleep.”

* The Press.

Henry Kendall, Songs from the Mountains, Sydney: William Maddock, 1880, pages 117-121

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