O DEATH! thou grim destroyer of our race,
When, one by one, thou seizest on thy prey,
With sudden summons, or with stealthy pace,
We bow before thy undisputed sway.
A tyrant king, " the king of terrors" thou ; [Note 737.1]
Yet, having no alternative, we bow.
Or when in war we read of thousands slain,
(Alas! too frequent are such honors now !) [Note 737.3]
Of mangled corpses scattered o'er the plain,
To plant the laurel on some victor's brow,-
We read the sickening details, yet we yield
Thy right to reign upon the battle-field.
Or when yon fiery cars, at lightning speed,
Dash into some obstruction by the way,
While in their train the hapless victims bleed,
And thou, O death, art gloating o'er thy prey,
We stand agast [sic], appalled, and hold our breath,
Yet scarcely wonder at thy victories, Death.
Or when, from sudden storm while out at sea,
A vessel founders in the mighty deep,
We recognise but little mystery,
Though it affords us some relief to weep:
For though, 0 Death, thou sway'st an iron rod,
Still we discern in it the hand of God.
But when, as recently, so near the shore,
A vessel freighted with a joyous throng,
Eight or nine hundred precious souls, or more,
Were wrecked-alike the aged and the young-
So near to land, yet few bad power to save
Themselves or others from a watery grave,-
Nature rebels, for nature must recoil
At this thy fatal work, thou king of dread,
More than where human blood has stained the soil
Of battle-fields now covered with the dead-
More than the wreckage of the railway train-
More than the vessel foundered on the main. [Note 737.2]
Imagination reels at such a scene-
All human language is at once too mean-
What pencil can pourtray [sic], what pen can write
The untold horrors of that fatal night !
When that fair vessel with its living freight
Was doomed to such an unexpected fate.
The vessel struck ! confusion reigns supreme ;
In vain,with piercing cries, for " help " they scream;
The wildest shrieks of absolute despair
Just for a moment echo through the air;
Then all are still in death-the waters close
O'er hundreds carried as the current flows.
O Death ! is this thy spoil ? and canst thou gloat
Over thy victims in a pleasure boat !
Cannot a day in recreation spent
Escape thee, eager on destruction bent ?
Must homes be robbed, and households swept away,
To gratify thy burning lust for prey !
We turn from thee, and strive to look above,
To Him whose very appellation- Love
Invites our love, our confidence and trust,
Although, as purblind creatures of the dust,
We cannot hope His wisdom to explore ;
Yet, where we fail, we may, and should, adore.
The universe is under His control
He watches over every human soul ;
Though none can either love or hatred know
By aught that happens in this world below ;
Yet Ho who deigns to mark the sparrow's fall,
Extends His providence to each and all.
But man has sinned, and sinful man must die ;
Yet how or when is veiled in mystery :
But he is wise who lives prepared for death,
Knowing each day uncertain is his breath :
To such a man, whatever be his end,
Death, though unwillingly, becomes his friend.
To those prepared, the terrors of that night
Soon disappeared in glory's vision bright:
They sank in death, then rose to heaven above,
To bathe in that eternal sea of love :
We take the comfort which their lives afford,
And know that they are "present with the Lord."
But is there not a warning also given
To those who love the world, nor think of heaven?
What would it profit, could they gain the whole,
And then at last should die, and lose their soul !,
The body soon returns again to earth:
The soul - the soul - oh who can tell its worth ?
Salvation was the universal theme
Of all who then were struggling in the stream :
Salvation be our theme from day to day,
The Saviour's presence our support and stay ;
Like servants waiting till their Lord shall come,
So may we live, till Christ shall call us home.