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Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1804-1864


By Herman Melville


To have known him, to have loved him
After loneness long;
And then to be estranged in life,
And neither in the wrong;
And now for death to set his seal--
Ease me, a little ease, my song!

By wintry hills his hermit-mound
The sheeted snow-drifts drape,
And houseless there the snow-bird flits
Beneath the fir-trees' crape:
Glazed now with ice the cloistral vine
That hid the shyest grape.

[Online editor's note: This poem was published in 1891, the year Melville died. But it must have been written in the shock of visiting Hawthorne's grave, perhaps as early as the winter of 1864-5. According to Mellow [Mell80 582-3], Melville returned to his copy of Mosses from an Old Manse exactly one year after Hawthorne died and marked some passages.

In "Monsieur du Miroir" he wrote "What a revelation" next to the phrase, "Will he linger where I have lived to remind the neglectful world of one who staked much to win a name. . .?" And next to, "He will pass to the dark realm of Nothingness, but will not find me there," Melville commented, "This trenches upon the uncertain and the terrible."

Melville in a passage in "The Celestial Rail-road" noted "Nothing can be finer than this". Vanity Fair residents had been accustomed to people dying and vanishing like soap bubbles, and went on with their business. Hawthorne's narrator said, "But it was otherwise with me." ]

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