This is the first poem in a series of six.
Read the second poem here, the third here,
the fourth here, the fifth here, and the sixth here.

I.
The Telegrams.

Bring the hearse to the station,
When one shall demand it, late;
For that dark consummation
The traveler must not wait.
Men say not by what connivance
He slid from his weight of woe,
Whether sickness or weak contrivance,
But we know him glad to go.
On, and on, and ever on!
What next?

Nor let the priest be wanting
With his hollow eyes of prayer,
While the sexton wrenches, panting,
The stone from the dismal stair.
But call not the friends who left him,
When Fortune and Pleasure fled;
Mortality hath not bereft him,
That they should confront him, dead.
On, and on, and ever on!
What next?

Bid my bother be ready:
We are coming home to-night:
Let my chamber be still and shady,
With the softened nuptial light.
We have travelled so gayly, madly,
No shadow hath crossed our way;
Yet we come back like children, gladly,
Joy-spent with our holiday.
On, and on, and ever on!
What next?

Stop the train at the landing,
And search every carriage through;
Let no one escape your handing,
None shiver or shrink from view.
Three blood-stained guests expect him,
Three murders oppress his soul;
Be strained every never to detect him
Who feasted, and killed, and stole.
On, and on, and ever on!
What next?

Be rid of the notes they scattered;
The great house is down at last;
The image of gold is shattered,
And never can be recast.
The bankrupts show leaden features,
And weary, distracted looks,
While harpy-eyed, wolf-souled creatures
Pry through their dishonored books.
On, and on, and ever on!
What next?

Let him hasten, lest worse befall him,
To look on me, ere I die:
I will whisper one curse to appall him,
Eve the black flood carry me by.
His bridal? the friends forbid it;
I have shown them his proofs of guilt:
Let him hear, with my laugh, who did it;
Then hurry, Death, as thou wilt!
On, and on, and ever on!
What next?

Thus the living and dying daily
Flash forward their wants and words,
While still on Thought’s slender railway
Sit scathless the little birds:
They heed not the sentence dire
By magical hands exprest,
And only the sun’s warm fire
Stirs softly their happy breast.
On, and on, and ever on!
God next!

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