Hymn for the Man

POEMS BY EDWARD A. RICHARDS
NOT all who die may touch again
Upon the crowded shores of being;
Once that they are launched unseeing
From this salt and bitter coast
They may love that current most
That bears the burden of their fleeing
From this torn and grim terrain.
But they were born with the race behind their eyes;
No man is dead until the last man dies.
Their hearts, once born to surge and lift,
Had fallen, bare of what had stayed them,
They had heard the hours upbraid them,
For their unintended birth.
They could recall no thing on earth
That could ever have delayed them
In their peaceful outward drift.
And they forgot the image in their eyes
And that no man is dead until the last man dies.
They had heard the creatures call
Through the colored wildernesses
Behind the mountain wall that presses
Down to meet the waiting sea.
They were willing to be free
Of jungle sounds and jungle dresses.
They made no sign of grief at all,
But the native color living in their eyes
Shines in all men till the last man dies.
Ready for the light that flows
Through the curving farther spaces
They spread a calm upon their faces
Deeper than a buried star.
They were gazing for the far
Remote of heaven and the places
Open to the soul that goes —
Forgetting the many eyes behind their eyes
That never close until the last man dies.
How should they expect that flight
Should be any less than glory
Away from those malign and gory
Hands that gripped them while they slept?
Why should memory be kept?
Why the unspeakable untold story
Of men, of wildness, and of night?
They did not know their own eternal eyes
That die in no man till the last man dies.
Flee as they will we draw them back
Completer than a resurrection;
We can allow no insurrection
In the regiments of the dead.
Never is the last word said,
Never comes the last correction.
We will not allow the lack
Of those who bear our image in their eyes.
No man is dead until the last man dies.
Terrible the path we walk
Through the colored wildernesses;
Every vine and leaf expresses
The magic motion of a charm,
But for us there is no harm
In the caverns and recesses;
While the others lean to us and talk
They speak the lidded language of the eyes
And how none dies until the last man dies.
Some of us still feel the sun
And some are absent from all feeling
Together rising up or kneeling
In our temple without walls.
Each hears the other when he calls
And keeps the long sweet language pealing
Without beginning, never done.
We are all one for what is in our eyes.
We all are men until the last man dies.