Poems and Essays

by Joseph Howe




Not with the general crowd, behind thy bier,
    In mourning weeds, lost Artist, could I tread,
Nor can I now enforce one fruitless tear,
    Though standing by thy moist and narrow Bed.

I would not, if I could, thy Form restore,
    To toils that task’d it far beyond its strain;
Nor win thy Spirit back, now free to soar,—
    To struggle in the world’s harsh strife again.

Unfitted thou the thorny steeps to dare,
    Where Lucre dazzles, and where Fame is won,
Not thine the vaunt that makes the vulgar stare:
    Art’s unpretending, artless, genuine son.

Self-taught, without the coarseness which betrays
    The sturdy nurture humble life imparts;
Self-poised, yet shrinking from the flickering rays,
    Which Fortune flung thee but by fits and starts. [Page 128]

Loving the Pencil for its innate power,
    To seize and consecrate what others love—
Pure thoughts, and childlike, were thy richest dower,
    Thou noble man, yet gentle as the Dove.

Poor Valentine! The easel vacant seems,
    A Rembrandt shadow clouds thy dwelling place,
But, breaking through, a light from Heaven still beams
    To soothe us with the blended tints we trace.

Thou art not lost: like odors breathing round,
    Thy modest virtues still shall grace thy home;
And praise of thee shall ever sweetly sound
    To those you cherish’d wheresoe’r they roam.

What they have lost, perhaps, I better know
    That o’er me bends the Father’s face and form
You rescued for me, many a year ago,
    Benignly smiling through Life’s ev’ry storm.

Would I could trace a likeness that should last,
    For them to gaze upon in after years,
For then the bitterness of Death were past
    And Hope would spring exulting from their tears. [Page 129]

* The Artist who painted his Father’s Picture. [back]