At the Funeral of Phillips Brooks

— The day was a winter day with a spring sky, when sudden glooms darkened the great church, and were followed by instant sunlight that made the windows glow, and shone again from the faces that were turned upward. Upon all the black hangings were great triumphal wreaths of laurel ; the people sat waiting as if to welcome a victor. If old men sobbed as they sat in their places, it was as if they were weighed down with a remembrance of those sorrows through which they had passed, and of the great fight of life in which he who had died had led them to victory, and healed them of their hurts by his own courage and sight of the peace to come.

That simple way of meeting a great moment, which is the finest flower of our New England behavior, was shown now as perhaps it had never been shown before. The city laid aside its work and hushed its noise. From narrow courts and high houses the people came out, and gathered at the place of mourning ; they made a mighty mourning crowd about the church. The sense of a solemn rite pervaded every mind, as if an old inheritance of ancient days had waked again, and the compelling mysteries of a great triumphal scene were joined to the Christian service. The grave pageantry of white gowns and black, the altar heaped with flowers, the scarlet trophy that hung upon the empty pulpit of the great leader and inspirer of men, the weeping crowd, — all lifted themselves into emblems and mysteries of symbolic shape high toward the spiritual, high above the material plane. The scene grew into that unreality which is the true reality, the life of the world to come.

Expectancy spent itself, and tears ceased to fall; there came a moment that was full of the glory of remembrance, when each heart counted its treasures and renewed its vows. The sunlight came and went. There was a noise at the door, and sorrow fell again upon the place. The people rose to greet the work of death that was coming in. Then the heavy burden, borne shoulder-high on a purple pall, the sacrifice to mortality, the empty armor of God’s warrior, was carried, with pride and tears, up the long aisle. The bearers, young in face, who felt their future uncompanioned ; the old in face, who followed, whose past was now bereft ; every heart that cried to itself, My friend ! my friend ! knew again in spirit the voice of him who had spoken words of hope so often in that place, and sorrowed most of all that they should see his face no more.

When the last hymn was sung, a great hymn of praise and courage, it began with a noble outburst, and the light came again to many a tear-dimmed eye. Then the burden was lifted, and with slow steps the young bearers went their way. The leavetaking was too much : the voices that tried to sing were stopped ; they faltered one by one with grief, as when the sudden frost of autumn makes the shrill brave notes of summer twilight one by one to cease. A mighty chill of silence crept about ; and when the eye could look once more at that which made such sorrow, the burden, with its purple and its lilies, had forever passed.