THE TOMB

by James Meikle

My thoughts, recalled from every flattering scene, 
Survey the tomb with pleasure—or with pain;
The tomb my bed—or my dark jail at last,
Where I imprisoned rot—or softly rest.

How sad the thought! (sadder so few are sad!)
That for mere trifles the whole world runs mad!
And crowns are trifles, when we cast our eye
On crowns of glory and the seats on high.

Life's but a journey, and the silent tomb 
To every traveler is the destined home.
Methuselah, a human phoenix, rears
His head through near a thousand years;
But now all mankind seem as made in vain,
Scarce entered on the stage, God shuts the scene.
Thousands appear, and take a peep at light,
And then retire to rest in death's long night.
But, O! how mourn we when our friends called hence!
Yes, dare arraign the plan of Providence,
As if injustice to our house were done,
When death deprives us of an only son.

But what must travelers mean, who can complain
Of a short journey, and respite from pain?
Why should the mariner calm seas deplore,
Or mourn, 'cause wafted quick from shore to shore?
So we, the sooner we arrive at rest,
While others toil, should own that we are blest.
This we would own, were that blessed rest but known;
But we'll avow it, when that rest's our own.

Why, reader, stare and tremble at the tomb,
Where you, and I, and all must shortly come!
Ten thousand, who can boast a later birth,
Are there before us, while we tread the earth.

Surely, worldly men are backward to believe
That their last lodging is the silent grave,
Where all is changed ah! what a midnight gloom
Hangs on the gay who glance the gaping tomb!
It spoils their mirth, and mars their sensual joys,
Kills their false hopes, their airy dreams destroys,
And raises a fierce tempest in the soul,
Akin to that where damned wretches howl!

None but the saint with an unshaken faith,
Can storm the tomb, and thrust his head through death,
To the bright regions of eternal day,
Where endless glories seize the soul away
Through the dear regions of dread Deity,
Whose opening stores their every power supply.

Strange! what a crowd assembles in the grave,
From mighty Caesar to the lowest slave!
The cunning statesman, and the simple swain,
The varied knave that's everything for gain;
The wretch that conscience and his country sold,
The rich, the poor, the timorous and the bold;
The wise, the fool, the feeble and the strong;
The good, the bad—all nations, old and young.
And I must amongst them shortly hide my head,
And go be numbered with the silent dead.
Farewell, false world, 'tis time to part with you,
And even bid darling relatives adieu.

How comes it that funerals are a kind of show?
Or we find pleasure in another's woe?
See boys and girls, and even gray hairs convene,
To see, (but, Sirs, pray what is to be seen?)
A hearse or casket a lifeless corpse convey
To its long home, beyond the verge of day.
But when the sad procession comes along,
Instead of mingling with a thoughtless throng,
Retire to meditate on your last end,
And some few moments in your closet spend.
Since the same scene you in another view,
Shall soon be acted over again on you.

Come, now, attend, and see a sinner lie
Stretched on a sick bed; see a sinner die.
Ah! 'tis a sad and melancholy scene!
Lo! every limb is racked with gnawing pain.
The purple drops (I feel, O fellow-worm!)
Rush down your veins like waves before a storm!
The tendons stretch, and every pulse beats high,
And gnawing anguish shoots from every eye!
Cold sweats bedew the pale disfigured face,
That lately shone with every manly grace.
His eyes grow dimmer, till they set in death;
He breathes, and breathes, till he can't draw a breath;
With quivering lips he gives the fatal groan,
And now the soul is gone, for ever gone!

But what's the inward anguish of his soul,
While hell and flames before his eyes roll?
When all his sins, like marshaled legions rise,
And pour upon him terror and surprise;
When dark despair hangs gloomy on his brow
And endless ages open to his view;
When every sense is agonized with pain,
And wrath begins to kindle hell within;
When conscience seared, or, silent before,
Awakes, roars loud, and shall for ever roar.
Now there's no comfort for his drooping mind,
'Mongst all his friends not one that can be kind.
He calls for mercy;—mercy is no more!
 —On God, but lo! his day of grace is o'er!
'Tis fear that cries, he cannot breathe a prayer,
Wrapt up in darkness, terror, and despair!

Now, who can paint this skeleton of woe?
What heart conceive how fast his sorrows grow?
And what a hell gapes for the wretch below?
Attending fiends his parting spirit tear,
And plunge it deep; where, we dare not inquire!

Thus dies the wicked!—turn away your eye,
And see a saint upon a death-bed lie,
Celestial joys and angels standing by!
His conflict's sharp, his comforts are divine;
The warfare's hot, but there is peace within.
He pants, he prays, he longs, and he believes, 
Struggles, triumphs, and over his weakness grieves!
The peace of God is spread through every power,
And conscience smiles, whatever tempests roar.
Now he of every providence approves;
Even where the works fix pain, the Worker loves,
If he can speak, he speaks for God alone;
Commends true religion and the life unknown;
Commands, exhorts, persuades, implores, requests,
Friends and spectators, to make sure of Christ;
To seek their treasure not in things that fly,
"But lay your treasure up in heaven on high;
"For what," says he, "can the whole world avail,
"When you, like me, to other shores must sail?"

The Savior's righteousness, through life his prop,
In his last moments is his only hope.
And when his sins, marshaled by Satan, rise,
To daunt his faith, he hither casts his eyes,
And sin, and hell, and every foe defies.

'Midst sharp disease, and unremitting pain,
His mind's composed, his countenance serene.
No tongue can tell his joys which inward rise;
Celestial transport sparkles in his eyes,
And day eternal brightens all his skies.
Now heaven expands, and glories teem from high,
Through every sense, and wafts his soul away
From time, to worship at the highest throne,
And feast on joys and ecstasies unknown!

As fitting tenants look through every room
Of their new house—so would I view the tomb,
Which I must tenant soon; the solemn day
Approaches, when I must put off my clay.
It well becomes the old to write of death,
To speak of heaven with their expiring breath.
And death unstinged, and heaven in faith's bright view,
Will pour pure joys, and every pang subdue.

Why are sepulchers thought a place of dread;
Though our dear friends lie mingling with the dead?
Of old the man who carried half a hell
Of fiends within, loud among the tombs did yell;
Lo! from the tombs he to the mountains flies,
And makes the hills to echo with his cries:
So, as we know that all the dead are gone,
Not into nothing, but to worlds unknown,
Weak minds may think their spirits visits pay
To their cold dust, and hover round their clay,
The place may, too, recall the mournful scene
Of parting friends, and fill the mind with pain:
But if to see one spirit so affright,
How shall we stand when thousands crowd our sight?
When legions without number, circling, rise
Around, and far beyond our wondering eyes—
The eye of our minds! But may my soul
Fly through the throng, regardless of the whole,
And fix on God, who all his hosts excels,
On God in whom infinite fullness dwells.

Affliction's children often wish to lie
Within the tomb, till the sharp storms blow by:
"O hide me in the grave, (cries sorrow's son,)
"And keep me secret till my wrath be gone."
For there the mourner sheds no briny tears;
The oppressed no more the fierce oppressors fears;
The wicked cease to vex, the weary rest,
And even the slave's of liberty possessed.
Base sin no more the sleeping dust defiles,
Nor Satan vexes with infernal wiles. 
Mingled in death, no human ties remain,
And kindred sinners give no farther pain;
The pious parent and abandoned boy
Together sleep, nor mutually annoy.
But those who sleep in Christ at last shall rise,
And, crowned with glory, mount to higher skies;
While the poor sinner, shrouded with despair,
Awakes to torments, and descends to fire! 

When I reflect on friends and neighbors gone,
Their lifeless dust reposed beneath the stone,
Their souls removed far, far to worlds unknown,
Somehow I dream their souls are fast asleep,
Or in a state of strange inaction keep;
Ah! but their souls are actively employed.
Sharp pangs endured—or boundless bliss enjoyed.
Yes, since the hour they were disrobed of clay,
No moment ever idly passed away;
Nor ever shall through everlasting day.

Now I am writing, but I soon must go
To dwell with dust in the dark tomb below.
'Tis serious, weighty, awful work to die,
And plunge at once into eternity!
Ah! who can tell me what 'tis to be there,
Ravished with joys—or tortured with despair!
Let others toil to rise, and to be great,
Be this my labor—to secure my state.
My state secured, what peace shall rule within,
In spite of sorrows, yes, in spite of sin!
But sad to live in an uncertainty!
And sadder still in dark suspense to die!
Why so much thought, since I'm so near my tomb,
About a life that has not much to come?
Is it prudent to employ life's latter end
In anxious cares that can't the matter mend?
When I reflect upon my periods past,
Whatever is future on your care I cast 
With confidence, and claim your conduct still,
Through life's rough ways, and even in death's dark vale.

See the young babe from the pregnant womb
Just peeps on time—and tumbles in the tomb!
How vain the world to it! how vain to all!
The life of any—is so very small.
For one short day—compared to eighty years,
Whatever we think, still some proportion bears;
But ages, numerous as the starry sky,
Bear no proportion to eternity.
Why, then, should parents bitterly deplore?
For hark you, Sirs, the child's but gone before,
Where you, and I, and all, must shortly come,
To our last state, to our eternal home!

Here the sad widow, drowned in briny tears,
Bewails the husband of her youthful years
Torn from her arms; she casts her eyes around
On the young babes, and each renews the wound;
While every feature fixes on her mind,
Their father's image, now to dust consigned
But while she mourns her honored husband gone,
She finds another in her oldest son;
The pious youth supplies his father's place,
Supports his mother and her tender race.
This somewhat comfortable makes her lot,
'Till by degrees, her loss and griefs forgot.
But ah! when some few moons have waxed and waned,
(Even to repeat it, how my breast is pained!)
The widow-mother loses her dear son;
He sickens, dies, and is for ever gone!
A widow twice; her husband's death returns,
And grief rekindled in her bosom burns!
She hangs her head amidst her weeping train!
Looks piteous round, and hangs her head again!

See too sad parents to the stream repair;
The rumor spread, their son has perished there;
The pretty boy that played about the door
With his young brothers scarce an hour before!
How swift they fly to the unhappy place,
While various passions flush their anxious face!
Hope fain would think, perhaps he's yet alive,
While fear infers he never can revive.
But now the boy's laid lifeless on the shore,
And the sad parents their dear son deplore!
They gaze, and grieve, and groan with growing pain
Reflect, regret, and wish—but all in vain! 
Their joints are loosed, and some kind neighbor's hand
Supports them, trembling, else they could not stand.
The sad procession slowly moves along,
Home with the corpse; the parents close the throng, 
Who call for skill; in vain for skill they call,
The soul is fled, 'tis this that baffles all.

A sadder scene presents itself to view,
(May scenes so sad, kind Lord, be always few!)
The lovely dear, beloved bosom-wife,
Grows discontent, and puts an end to her life;
Displays vast cunning in the wicked scene,
Lest friends break in, and make the attempt prove vain.
The husband first does the fair culprit find,
But words are lacking to describe his mind;
He cuts the cord! she drops, extreme distress!
He staggers, shakes, and groans, through an excess
Of grief and anguish; O how deep the wound!
And fierce reflections every thought confound!
He fears her state, nor dares give fancy flight,
But checks it, and in black oblivion's night
Wraps up the scene, which still returns again,
Like restless waves, and every wave strikes pain!
A few kind friends convey the corpse away;
No funeral-pomp must mark this funeral-day;
Concealed in night, or lighted by the moon,
To some wild spot where lands or counties join,
And there conceal her—Let us leave her there;
No common death can strike us so severe;
Where all the grief must gnaw on his own soul,
Because when met, 'twere cruel to condole,
Or call the deed to mind—then be forgot
Such death, though death be every mortal's lot.

How many entering-places of the tomb
Are filled round with sorrow's sable gloom!
One pants, and groans, and daily pines away,
Who for whole years has never seen a day.
The anguish of the mind makes light offend,
And clouds of sorrow on his day descend.
The gout, the gravel, or the torturing stone,
Compels him to complain, and loud bemoan
His lingering death! O how his throbbing breast
Would welcome death, and sink in downy rest! 

There lies a young man brought down by slow degrees,
While flattering symptoms the poor patient please.
He ails—and yet he knows not what ails,
But every day his constitution fails;
Meanwhile he dreams he daily grows some better,
Which fond delusion oft his thoughts doth fetter,
And distant sets his end: Alas! that man
Should build upon a bubble or a span!
How cruel oft the parent's conduct here!
No serious themes must grate the patient's ear!
The youth, though dying, must not hear of death,
As if the very word might stop his breath!
Strange charm! by banishing a world to come,
To break death's scythe, and bribe the gaping tomb!
O fools be wise, at length religion try,
No comforts like the comforts of the sky,
No death like theirs, who are prepared to die
But the disease upon him gains at last,
Attacks his lungs, and holds him prisoner fast.
Now remedies and medicines in vain are tried;
Riding, new climates, and voyages defied;
As that disease will every art defy,
Which comes enjoined—Go make yon mortal die!

A young woman there complains of every pain
To call it imagination—is all in vain.
A troop of strange disorders through her rise,
Which gather strength, if you their strength despise,
Yes, what is imagined first, grows real at last,
The vaporish woman dies, while friends, aghast,
Stand gazing round, and shed a sudden tear,
Who never thought that death could be so near.

In funeral-state see there a silent throng,
In whose sad train the husband walks along
Close by the casket where his Sophia lies,
A manly sorrow fixes in his eyes.
But who can tell the tumult of his breast,
While his loved spouse is entered on her rest.
The kind endearments of their married life
(To exceed in kindness was their mutual strife)
Roll through his mind, his mind can do no more,
But think the sad disaster o'er and o'er:
"Alas! my dear Sophia is no more!
"What tongue or pen can such a death deplore!
"How terrible the tumult of my breast!
"What power can bid my struggling passions rest
"This thought alone can the fierce tumult still,
"The hand that strikes will never do me ill!
"And Sophia's soul, set free from all annoy,
"Now swims in oceans of eternal joy."

There comes a corpse round which sad friends attend,
But amongst them all I miss the nearest friend;
The aged father lies confined at home,
Nor can attend his daughter to the tomb;
But lies and views a once far distant land,
The world of spirits, that now seems near at hand,
How few attend us when we are undressed,
No matter, or by whom we're laid to rest;
The pious soul, whenever loosed from clay,
Is well attended on the fields of day.

What fond delusion holds us one and all!
While 'midst our flowery schemes we mortals fall,
And rise no more! and yet our rising sun,
Proof against reproof; in the same course runs on,
How strange that we, though dying every day,
Are not prepared for putting off our clay!

The men that seventy annual suns have told,
Not many are, and always counted old; 
And but a few can boast ten seasons more,
While thousands, millions, myriads die before!
What noble would walk before the palace-gate
For weeks, when he might enter in, in state,
To converse with the royal persons there,
And largely in the royal favor share!
So, saints, for shame! is earth to you so dear,
And heaven not worth a wish, a prayer, a tear?

Thrice happy souls, whose faith grim death can brave.
Because unstinged, and smile at the cold grave!

What scenes of sorrow every day I see,
Of grief and anguish in variety!
No man's exempt, (not he who lives alone,)
From the poor cottage to the prince's throne.
The sovereign dies! the sovereign is no more!
And what avails it, that all lands deplore
His death? perhaps it was a hopeless death,
Beset with anguish and pursued with wrath.
The brightest grandeur of his transient reign
Affords no comfort to an age of pain;
An age? O no, a vast eternity!
And every thought is swallowed up of thee,
O dark abyss think deep, it waits for me!

To look around, and see the eager chase
For fleeting trifles, amongst the human race,

Would man believe it, proves mankind gone quite mad!
A truth, alas! as certain as 'tis sad!
The human soul can act herself no more,
For sin has poisoned every mental power;
Paints this world fair, conceals the world to come,
And among roses hides the gloomy tomb.
But O the anguish of that awful day,
When life declines, and roses fade away,
The tomb disclosed, a future world in view,
And all his pleasures bid a long adieu!
And now his soul encounters such a storm,
As none can picture but the suffering worm,
Who feels the vengeance of an angry God
Through ages all, in burning wrath's abode.
Yet among the frantic multitude I spy
A few wise people, in whose enlightened eye
Heaven glorious shines, and darkens all below,
Sweetens their comforts, mitigates their woe,
Supports their spirits, makes them long to fly,
Through death's dark passage to the realms on high. 

A widow there, who dwells at the next door,
Had buried all her family before,
But one; that one the object of her cares,
Companion of her life, and partner of her prayers.
For many a year, the mother and the maid,
On the same pittance with contentment fed,
Sat at one fire, and slept in the same bed.
Their lives entwined until they seemed but one,
At length the mother could not sleep alone.
Her daughter's welfare all her thoughts employs;
Her cares, her fears, her comforts, and her joys;
But cruel death lays siege, for many a day,
To her frail castle, to her house of clay,
And batters to the ground; the damsel dies!
The mother feels severest tempests rise
Through all her throbbing breast—a mournful scene!
No painting can do justice to her pain;
Her melted heart comes streaming through her eyes,
And her sad soul dissolves in groans and sighs!

May my best comforts be in heaven above,
And my Comforter be—whose name is Love!
Blessed with his presence, I'll not dwell alone,
Although my dearest friends should all be gone.
My couch shall ease me while I sing his grace,
And see by faith his reconciled face.
Then wait with patience—happy day,
When death shall waft my longing soul away,
To join the hosts that stand before the throne,
Where death and sorrow never more are known.

There two young hearts unite in virtuous love,
And all the friends the intended match approve;
The day is set that shall their wishes crown,
Which, though time flies, seems slowly to come on.
Bridegroom and bride do both invite their guests,
To honor them, and grace their marriage-feast;
The guests attend upon that very day—
Attend, but 'tis with tears in every eye!
The maid had sickened—to her bed he flies;
All help proves vain—in his fond arms she dies!
Now what he feels no language can convey;
But she is buried on their bridal-day!
Yet let the mourners still attend to this,
That there's a future world, a state of bliss
For pious souls, to balance all annoy,
And crown the afflicted with eternal joy,
The hapless pair shall meet in fields above
In nearer union, and a purer love.

There sits a mother drowned in briny tears,
Still to her fancy her dead babe appears.
The pleasing frolics of her pretty child,
Who smiled and sucked, and sucked again and smiled,
Dance through her mind, and give her daily pain,
And clearly prove the whole creation vain!
Caressed and dandled, with a harmless glee,
He meets the fondness of his mother's eye;
Draws out his mother's love, his mother's heart
Is glued to him, she knows not how to part—
But part they must, and day and night returns
The rueful scene, and day and night she mourns.

There the laborer has obeyed death's call,
Left a poor widow, and some children small;
A pregnant widow! O! the wound is sore,
To bear a child whose father is no more!
But there is comfort even in such a case 
"Upon me leave your children fatherless,
"I'll them preserve alive, they safe shall be;
"And let your widows put their trust in me."

There at his table one reclines his head—
To sleep? O no! to mingle with the dead!
The friendly meal just finished, and no more,
When all the guests the sudden stroke deplore!
He leaves this world in twinkling of an eye,
And to the land of spirits swift does fly.
Thrice happy he whose treasure is above,
And always ready for the last remove!
At death set free from every enemy,
He'll change his place, but not his company.

There the adulteress flies her native place,
To shun her friends, and hide her foul disgrace.
A child is born! and death anon attends,
And on the parent lays his leaden hands!
She's daily worse, and feels she must die away,
But knows not how to meet her dying-day;
Her sins are ranged tremendous in her sight,
And Sinai's thunders make a dismal night;
Eternal ages fearful swell before—
Ages, and anguish ever growing more!
But O the riches of forgiving grace!
She sees a Savior only suits her case;
And by true faith she to the Savior flies,
And on him for her every need relies.
She dies, repentant of her foul offence,
Indignant at her ill-spent life; then hence
She wings, triumphing in redeeming love,
To join the heavenly multitudes above!

Now to conclude, for 'tis, as mourners know,
An endless task to tell the tales of woe
That darken every day; and who can claim
Exemption from some sad disastrous theme?
How humbling and distressing to look round,
And glance the lifeless nations under ground!
Bankrupts and beggars, their's could nothing call,
Now they possess for ever all in all!
O how they feast before the throne above,
On all the wonders of redeeming love!
O how their breasts with sacred ardors glow,
While they the sweets of full communion know!
And neither sin nor sorrow, death nor pain,
Shall interrupt their heavenly bliss again!

Yes, all mankind! why should I stay to name
Of every faith, of every age and frame.
For sea and land, and every mount and plain,
As true as strange, do lifeless crowds contain.
Thus earth's a burying-ground, each spot a grave,
And millions rot beneath the swelling wave.

This is death's reign; but there's a glorious day,
When death, as vanquished, quite shall flee away.
At your dread call, incarnate God and King,
The numerous nations into life shall spring.
'Tis true, the wicked shall with horror rise,
And wish to hide for ever from their eyes;
But all your saints triumphing shall attend
On your blessed throne; and, placed on your right-hand,
Shall sing defiance to the tyrant death,
And bless their Savior with new-kindled breath. 

The dead, when freed from their dreary home,
Like large swarms come teeming from the tomb.
Not one is lost, not one forgot behind,
Not one is left that sprung of human kind.
First the blessed saints to boundless glory rise,
Heaven in their face, and rapture in their eyes;
Their mind serene, and every transport strong,
Love flaming high, and Jesus all their song.

But, wretched sinners! how the wicked rise!
Hell in their looks, and horror in their eyes!
And cruel furies all their steps attend,
Tormenting must be their miserable end!
Without a friend! the Friend they scorned before,
Is now their judge, and will befriend no more.
Loud in their ears he cries—You cursed depart
To flames—a word must pierce the stoutest heart.
In death and darkness, fire and flame, (I shiver!)
The wicked plunged, and bolted in for ever!

The saints, who witness all this while the scene,
With ravished soul and countenance serene,
Ascend to bliss, and shout with rapturous breath,
Eternal victory over hell and death!
Amazing change! late tenants of the tomb,
Immortalized, and highest heaven their home
Lately harassed with Satan and with sin,
Now holy all, and not a stain within!




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