The Female Martyr

'BRING out your dead!' The midnight street
Heard and gave back the hoarse, low call;
Harsh fell the tread of hasty feet,
Glanced through the dark the coarse white sheet,
Her coffin and her pall.
'What--only one!' the brutal hack-man said,
As, with an oath, he spurned away the dead.

How sunk the inmost hearts of all,
As rolled that dead-cart slowly by,
With creaking wheel and harsh hoof-fall!
The dying turned him to the wall,
To hear it and to die!
Onward it rolled; while oft its driver stayed,
And hoarsely clamored, 'Ho! bring out your dead.'

It paused beside the burial-place;
'Toss in your load!' and it was done.
With quick hand and averted face,
Hastily to the grave's embrace
They cast them, one by one,
Stranger and friend, the evil and the just,
Together trodden in the churchyard dust.

And thou, young martyr! thou wast there;
No white-robed sisters round thee trod,
Nor holy hymn, nor funeral prayer
Rose through the damp and noisome air,
Giving thee to thy God;
Nor flower, nor cross, nor hallowed taper gave
Grace to the dead, and beauty to the grave!

Yet, gentle sufferer! there shall be,
In every heart of kindly feeling,
A rite as holy paid to thee
As if beneath the convent-tree
Thy sisterhood were kneeling,
At vesper hours, like sorrowing angels, keeping
Their tearful watch around thy place of sleeping.

For thou wast one in whom the light
Of Heaven's own love was kindled well;
Enduring with a martyr's might,
Through weary day and wakeful night,
Far more than words may tell
Gentle, and meek, and lowly, and unknown,
Thy mercies measured by thy God alone!

Where manly hearts were failing, where
The throngful street grew foul with death,
O high-souled martyr! thou wast there,
Inhaling, from the loathsome air,
Poison with every breath.
Yet shrinking not from offices of dread
For the wrung dying, and the unconscious dead.

And, where the sickly taper shed
Its light through vapors, damp, confined,
Hushed as a seraph's fell thy tread,
A new Electra by the bed
Of suffering human-kind!
Pointing the spirit, in its dark dismay,
To that pure hope which fadeth not away.

Innocent teacher of the high
And holy mysteries of Heaven!
How turned to thee each glazing eye,
In mute and awful sympathy,
As thy low prayers were given;
And the o'er-hovering Spoiler wore, the while,
An angel's features, a deliverer's smile!

A blessed task! and worthy one
Who, turning from the world, as thou,
Before life's pathway had begun
To leave its spring-time flower and sun,
Had sealed her early vow;
Giving to God her beauty and her youth,
Her pure affections and her guileless truth.

Earth may not claim thee. Nothing here
Could be for thee a meet reward;
Thine is a treasure far more dear
Eye hath not seen it, nor the ear
Of living mortal heard
The joys prepared, the promised bliss above,
The holy presence of Eternal Love!

Sleep on in peace. The earth has not
A nobler name than thine shall be.
The deeds by martial manhood wrought,
The lofty energies of thought,
The fire of poesy,
These have but frail and fading honors; thine
Shall Time unto Eternity consign.

Yea, and when thrones shall crumble down,
And human pride and grandeur fall,
The herald's line of long renown,
The mitre and the kingly crown,--
Perishing glories all!
The pure devotion of thy generous heart
Shall live in Heaven, of which it was a part.

Rate this poem:(0.00 / 0 votes)
92 Views

John Greenleaf Whittier

John Greenleaf Whittier was an influential American Quaker poet and ardent advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States. more…

All John Greenleaf Whittier poems | John Greenleaf Whittier Books

FAVORITE (1 fan)

Translation

Find a translation for this poem in other languages:

Select another language:

  • - Select -
  • Chinese - Simplified 简体中文 (Chinese - Simplified)
  • Chinese - Traditional 繁體中文 (Chinese - Traditional)
  • Spanish Español (Spanish)
  • Esperanto Esperanto (Esperanto)
  • Japanese 日本語 (Japanese)
  • Portuguese Português (Portuguese)
  • German Deutsch (German)
  • Arabic العربية (Arabic)
  • French Français (French)
  • Russian Русский (Russian)
  • Kannada ಕನ್ನಡ (Kannada)
  • Korean 한국어 (Korean)
  • Hebrew עברית (Hebrew)
  • Ukrainian Український (Ukrainian)
  • Urdu اردو (Urdu)
  • Hungarian Magyar (Hungarian)
  • Hindi मानक हिन्दी (Hindi)
  • Indonesian Indonesia (Indonesian)
  • Italian Italiano (Italian)
  • Tamil தமிழ் (Tamil)
  • Turkish Türkçe (Turkish)
  • Telugu తెలుగు (Telugu)
  • Thai ภาษาไทย (Thai)
  • Vietnamese Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)
  • Czech Čeština (Czech)
  • Polish Polski (Polish)
  • Indonesian Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian)
  • Romanian Românește (Romanian)
  • Dutch Nederlands (Dutch)
  • Greek Ελληνικά (Greek)
  • Latin Latinum (Latin)
  • Swedish Svenska (Swedish)
  • Danish Dansk (Danish)
  • Finnish Suomi (Finnish)
  • Persian فارسی (Persian)
  • Yiddish ייִדיש (Yiddish)
  • Armenian հայերեն (Armenian)
  • Norwegian Norsk (Norwegian)
  • English English (English)

Discuss this John Greenleaf Whittier poem with the community:

Citation

Use the citation below to add this poem to your bibliography:

Style:MLAChicagoAPA

"The Female Martyr" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 16 Oct. 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/23096/the-female-martyr>.

We need you!

Help us build the largest poetry community and poems collection on the web!

Our favorite collection of

Famous Poets

»

Thanks for your vote! We truly appreciate your support.