The Burial of Moses

By Nebo's lonely mountain,
   On this side Jordan's wave,
In a vale in the land of Moab,
   There lies a lonely grave:
But no man dug that sepulcher,
   And no man saw it e'er;
For the angels of God upturned the sod,
   And laid the dead man there.

Thus was the grandest funeral
   That ever passed on earth;
But no man heard the tramping,
   Or saw the train go forth.
Noiselessly as the daylight
   Comes when the night is done,
And the crimson streak on ocean's cheek
   Grows into the great sun;

Noiselessly as the springtime
   Her crown of verdure waves,
And all the trees on all the hills
   Open their thousand leaves, —
So, without sound of music,
   Or voice of them that wept,
Silently down from the mountain's crown
   The great procession swept.

Perchance the bald old eagle,
   On gray Beth-peor's height,
Out of his rocky eyrie,
   Looked on the wondrous sight;
Perchance the lion stalking
   Still shuns that hallowed spot:
For beast and bird have seen and heard
   That which man knoweth not.

But when the warrior dieth,
   His comrades in the war,
With arms reversed, and muffled drum,
   Follow the funeral car;
They show the banners taken,
   They tell his battles won,
And after him lead his masterless steed,
   While peals the minute gun.

Amid the nobles of the land
   Men lay the sage to rest,
And give the bard an honored place,
   With costly marble drest,
In the great minster transept,
   Where lights like glories fall,
And the choir sings, and the organ rings,
   Along the emblazoned wall.

This was the truest warrior
   That ever buckled sword;
This the most gifted poet
   That ever breathed a word;
And never earth's philosopher
   Traced with his golden pen
On the deathless page, truths half so sage
   As he wrote down for men.

And had he not high honor?
   The hillside for his pall;
To lie in state while angels wait
   With stars for tapers tall;
And the dark rock pines, like tossing plumes,
   Over his bier to wave;
And God's own Hand, in that lonely land,
   To lay him in the grave, —

In that strange grave, without a name,
   Whence his uncoffined clay
Shall break again — O wondrous thought ! —
   Before the Judgment Day,
And stand with glory wrapped around,
   On the hills he never trod,
And speak of the strife, that won our life,
   With the incarnate Son of God.

O lonely grave in Moab's land !
   O dark Beth-peor's hill !
Speak to these curious hearts of ours,
   And teach them to be still.
God hath His mysterious of grace, —
   Ways that we cannot tell:
He hides them deep, like the hidden sleep
   Of him He loved so well.


-- Cecil Frances Alexander





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