Tabb’s Poetry XXXV

The Grave-Digger

Here underneath the sod,
   Where night till now hath been,
With every lifted clod
   I let the sunshine in.

How dark soe’er the gloom
   Of Death’s approaching shade,
The first within the tomb
   Is light, that cannot fade.

And from the deepest grave
   I banish it in vain;
For, like a tidal wave,
   Anon ’twill come again. 


I knew the flowers had dreamed of you,
   And hailed the morning with regret;
For all their faces with the dew
   Of vanished joy were wet.

I knew the winds had passed your way,
   Though not a sound the truth betrayed;
About their pinions all the day
   A summer fragrance stayed.

And so, awaking or asleep,
   A memory of lost delight
By day the sightless breezes keep,
   And silent flowers by night.

I envy not the sun
   His lavish light;
But O to be the one
   Pale orb of night,
In silence and alone
Communing with mine own!

I envy not the rain
   That freshens all
The parching hill and plain;
   But O the small
Night-dewdrop now to be,
My noonday flower, for thee! 


The interval
We both recall,
To each was all—

A moment’s space
That time nor place
Can e’er efface.

’Tis all our own—
A secret known
To us alone:

My life to thee,
As thine to me,


O to be with thee sinking to thy rest,
                     Thy journey done;
The world thou leavest blessing thee and blest,
                     O setting sun;
The clouds, that ne’er the morning joys forget,
                     Again aglow,
And leaf and flower with tears of twilight wet
                     To see thee go.

John B. Tabb

For a recitation, click the play button:

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“The Grave-Digger”: Later Poems, p. 86; Poetry, p. 186. March 1907. Anon means soon.

“Intimations”: Poems, p. 24; Poetry, p. 153. May 1891.

“Aspiration”: Later Lyrics, p. 2; Poetry, p. 250. September 1900.

“Consummation”: Later Lyrics, p. 14; Poetry, p. 252. 1902. Consummation is completion or finalization.

“Finis”: Later Poems, p. 51; Poetry, p. 249. 1910. Finis: Latin, the end.

A convert to the Catholic faith, Rev. John Banister Tabb (1845-1909) was a priest of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, and Professor of English at St. Charles’ College, Ellicott City, Maryland. Poems selected, arranged, and annotated by E.L. Core.
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