To Live or Die [poem by Menie Parkes]

[Editor: This poem by Menie Parkes was published in Poems (1867).]

To Live or Die.

To live! I ask not a boon so poor!
What is this thing ye call Life,
Where nothing is perfect, where nothing is pure,
Nought certain but trouble and strife;
Where the soul may be sad with a sorrow ideal,
And the heart may be glad and its joy be unreal?

To live! where love, in its noblest form,
Is arid and strange to your sight,
And ye bind the wingéd mind to earth like a worm,
Seeking diamond gleams for sunlight;
Where the hand must struggle, ever labor the panting head,
Sadly in weariness seeking — poor daily bread.

To live! I can bear it as doom for guilt,
Waiting in patience the end;
Knowing how swift and steady the days will melt
Till life and eternity blend:
If it were not so, oh, my soul ne’er could bear the thought
Of life with a sorrow so stern and terrible fraught.

To die! Have you known the sweet word
In all its true tones of gladness?
Why couple ye it with a thought stern and hard?
Why speak it only in sadness?
Oh, encourage the thought with an earnest endeavor —
To die — it is birth into life — life for ever.

To die! Why, the flowers fade away,
Pouring their beautiful sweets out in death,
Blessed to have run thro’ their life’s little day,
Breathing forth love with Life’s latest breath;
Gladly they bend their frail forms to the earth,
Gladly return whence they came at their birth.

To die! Why, the day shrinketh back,
With its burthen of records to angels above,
Glad to have reached the end of its track,
Passing away in a calm still love;
Tired of the glare and the glitter of light,
Happily, happily fades into night.

To die! Oh, what a joy I shall feel
When my soul shall burst its bands;
When heavenly visions o’er my terrors steal,
And my new-born spirit stands
In the dawn of eternal peace and rest,
And clings in love and joy to a dear Saviour’s breast!

Menie Parkes, Poems, F. Cunninghame, Sydney, [1867], pages 56-57

Editor’s notes:
burthen = (archaic) burden

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