SO is a year passed of the quiet life,
Their lives henceforth I would not have it tell;
Since each tale's ending needs must be the same:
And we men call it Death. Howe’er it came
To those, whose bitter hope hath made this book,
With other eyes, I think, they needs must look
On its real face, than when so long agone
They thought that every good thing would be won,
If they might win a refuge from it. Lo,
A long life gone, and nothing more they know,
Why they should live to have desire and foil,
And toil, that overcome, brings yet more toil,
Than that day of their vanished youth, when first
They saw Death clear, and deemed all life accurst
By that cold overshadowing threat,—the End.
That night, when first they ’gan their way to wend,
And each dash in the moonlight of the sweep,
That broke the green bay's little-resting sleep,
Drew their stern further from the plague-cursed shore,
Did no cold doubt their gathering hope cross o’er
Of sweet rest fled from? Or that day of days,
When first the sun the veil of mist did raise,
And showed the new land real before them there,
Did no shame blot the victory over fear,
(Ah, short-lived victory!) that, whate’er might grow
And change, there changeless were they fettered now,
And with blind eyes must gaze upon the earth,
Forgetting every word that tells of birth,
And still be dead-alive, while all things else
Beat with the pulse that mid the struggle dwells?
 Ah, doubt and shame they well might have indeed.
Cry out upon them, ye who have no need
Of life to right the blindness and the wrong!
Think scorn of these, ye, who are made so strong,
That with no good-night ye can loose the hand
That led you erst through love's sweet flowery land!
Laugh, ye whose eyes are piercing to behold
What makes the silver seas and skies of gold!
Pass by in hate, ye folk, who day by day
Win all desires that lie upon your way!
Yet mid your joyous wisdom and content,
Methinks ye know not what those moments meant,
When ye, yet children, mid great pleasure stayed,
Wondering for why your hearts were so downweighed;
Or if ye ever loved, then, when her eyes
In happiest moments changed in sudden wise,
And nought ye knew what she was thinking of;
Yet, O belike, ye know not much of love,
Who know not that this meant the fearful threat,
The End, forgotten much, remembered yet
Now and again, that all perfection mocks.
"And yet the door of many a tale unlocks,
It is because we evermore should cry,
If we had words, that we might never die:
Words fail us: therefore, "O thou Death," we say,
"Thus do we work that thou mayst take away!
Look at this beauty of young children's mirth,
Soon to be swallowed by thy noiseless dearth!
Look at this faithful love that knows no end
Unless thy cold thrill through it thou shouldst send!
Look at this hand ripening to perfect skill
Unless the fated measure thou didst fill;
This eager knowledge that would stop for nought,
Unless thy net both chase and hunter caught!
—O Death! with deeds like these ’gainst thee we pray,
That thou, like those thou slewest, mayst pass away!"
 And these folk—these poor tale-tellers, who strove
In their wild way the heart of Death to move,
E’en as we singers, and failed, e’en as we,—
Surely on their side I at least will be,
And deem that when at last, their fear worn out,
They fell asleep, all that old shame and doubt,
Shamed them not now, nor did they doubt it good,
That they in arms against that Death had stood.
Ah me! all praise and blame, they heed it not
Wrought as the year did wax, perfect, and wane,
If they were verily loving there alive,
No pleasure to their tale-tellers could give.
And thou, O tale of what these sleepers were,
Wish one good-night to them thou holdest dear,
Then die thyself, and let us go our ways,
And live awhile amid these latter days!
 HERE are we for the last time face to face,
Good reason why I love thee, e’en if thou
I love thee; yet this last time must it be
But though this land desired thou never reach,
That land's name, say’st thou? and the road thereto?
 Nay, let it pass, and hearken! Hast thou heard
Well, think of him, I bid thee, on the road,
"O Master, O thou great of heart and tongue,
"For this he ever said, who sent me forth
"I have beheld him tremble oft enough
"Thou, keen-eyed, reading me, mayst read him through,
"Children we twain are, saith he, late made wise
"Death have we hated, knowing not what it meant;
"O Master, if thine heart could love us yet,
Fearest thou, Book, what answer thou mayst gain
Then let the others go! and if indeed
Page numbers are from The Earthly Paradise, edited Florence S. Boos, New York: Routledge, 2001. The "Epilogue" appears in the 1870 edition, Part III, pages 434-442; in the 1890 edition, pages 442-445; and in the Kelmscott Press edition 1896-97, Vol. VIII, pages 178-186.