Skeletons and Other Relics: On a quiet afternoon, I spent a few relaxing hours, browsing through the old, unwanted, forgotten books that populate our shelves. (Note to perspective customers: We have nothing you would want to buy. Please stay away.)
The volume you see here is one such book. It was published in 1875, and contains poetry by Dickens, Coleridge, Tennyson, Procter, Keats, and a host of others. There is also exactly one poem by an anonymous author.
The poem is reproduced in its entirety, below:
Lines on a Skeleton
Behold this ruin! ‘Twas a skull
Once of ethereal spirit full.
This narrow cell was Life’s retreat,
This space was Thought’s mysterious seat.
What beauteous visions filled this spot,
What dreams of pleasure long forgot,
Nor hope, nor joy, nor love, nor feat,
Have left one trace of record here.
Beneath this mouldering canopy
Once shone the bright and busy eye,
But start not at the dismal void, –
If social love that eye employed,
If with no lawless fire it gleamed,
But through the dews of kindness beamed,
That eye shall be forever bright
When stars and sun are sunk in night.
Within this hollow cavern hung
The ready, swift, and tuneful tongue;
If Falsehood’s honey it disdained,
And when it could not praise was chained;
If bold in Virtue’s cause it spoke,
Yet gentle concord never broke, –
This silent tongue shall plead for thee
When Time unveils Eternity!
Say, did these fingers delve the mine?
Or with the envied rubies shine?
To hew the rock or wear a gem
Can little now avail to them.
But if the page of Truth they sought,
Or comfort to the mourner brought,
These hands a richer meed shall claim
Than all that wait on Wealth and Fame.
Avails it whether bare or shod
These feet the paths of duty trod?
If from the bowers of Ease they fled,
To seek Affliction’s humble shed;
If Grandeur’s guilty bribe they spurned,
And home to Virtue’s cot returned, –
These feet with angel wings shall vie,
And treat the palace of the sky!
Perhaps it is fitting that the unknown author of this poem is now a skeleton.