The king stood still
Till the last echo died: then throwing off
The sackcloth from his brow, and laying back
The pall from the still features of his child,
He bowed his head upon him and broke forth
In the resistless eloquence of woe:—
"Alas! my noble boy! that thou should'st die
Thou, who wert made so beautifully fair!
That death should settle in thy glorious eye,
And leave his stillness in this clustering hair.
How could he mark thee for the silent tomb,
My proud boy, Absalom!
"Cold is thy brow, my son! and I am chill,
As to my bosom I have tried to press thee;
How was I wont to feel my pulses thrill,
Like a rich harp-string, yearning to caress thee,
And hear thy sweet 'my father' from these dumb
And cold lips, Absalom!
"The grave hath won thee. I shall hear the gush
Of music, and the voices of the young;
And life will pass me in the mantling blush,
And the dark tresses to the soft winds flung;
But thou no more, with thy sweet voice, shall come
To meet me, Absalom!
"And, oh! when I am stricken, and my heart,
Like a bruised reed, is waiting to be broken,
How will its love for thee, as I depart,
Yearn for thine ear to drink its last deep token!
It were so sweet, amid death's gathering gloom,
To see thee, Absalom!
"And now, farewell! 'Tis hard to give thee up,
With death so like a gentle slumber on thee:—
And thy dark sin!—Oh! I could drink the cup,
If from this woe its bitterness had won thee.
May God have called thee, like a wanderer, home,
My erring Absalom!"
He covered up his face, and bowed himself
A moment on his child: then, giving him
A look of melting tenderness, he clasped
His hands convulsively, as if in prayer;
And, as a strength were given him of God,
He rose up calmly, and composed the pall
Firmly and decently, and left him there,
As if his rest had been a breathing sleep.