“Stanzas” by H. W. H. [Attributed to Henry William Herbert]

by Ann Neilson

I came across this poem by accident, while seeking out a parody epitaph by Nathaniel Parker Willis, in the Ladies’ Companion. The simple, bleak lines are signed by H. W. H., and although there is not any evidence of this poem being published elsewhere, in book, online, or otherwise, it was undoubtedly written by Henry William Herbert, who often signed off poems and short stories with the three modest initials.

Stanzas
H. W. H.
Ladies’ Companion, January, 1840

“The setting of a Great Hope is like the setting of the sun.”—LONGFELLOW’S HYPERION

WELL did the poet say or sing
The setting of a mighty hope is like the close of day,
When the bright warm sun has sunk to rest,
And the night comes chill and grey.

The flower of life doth pass away,
The music and the tone depart with the hope that disappears,
And nothing more remains behind,
But the darkness and the tears.

The sun may sink behind the hill,
The flowers upon the valley’s brink, may wither, wane and die,
But the day-god shall come forth again,
The world to beautify.

The day-god shall come forth again,
And Earth shall leap to life again, in presence of her King;
The hills shall laugh in glorious light—
The vales, with mirth, shall ring.

But when the hope that gilt our life,
Hath vanished into outer night, despairing and forlorn,
There comes to it, no rising more,
To us, no second morn.

We wander darkling on our way,
We mark no freshness on the earth, no brightness on the wave;
Repining ever, till we find
Rest in the quiet grave.