HABEUS CORPUS - Leigh Hunt Poems


Poems » leigh hunt » habeus corpus


My body, eh? Friend Death, how now?
  Why all this tedious pomp of writ?
Thou hast reclaimed it sure and slow
  For half a century bit by bit.

In faith thou knowest more to-day
  Than I do, where it can be found!
This shrivelled lump of suffering clay,
  To which I am now chained and bound,

Has not of kith or kin a trace
  To the good body once I bore;
Look at this shrunken, ghastly face:
  Didst ever see that face before?

Ah, well, friend Death, good friend thou art;
  Thy only fault thy lagging gait,
Mistaken pity in thy heart
  For timorous ones that bid thee wait.

Do quickly all thou hast to do,
  Nor I nor mine will hindrance make;
I shall be free when thou art through;
  I grudge thee nought that thou must take!

Stay! I have lied; I grudge thee one,
  Yes, two I grudge thee at this last,--
Two members which have faithful done
  My will and bidding in the past.

I grudge thee this right hand of mine;
  I grudge thee this quick-beating heart;
They never gave me coward sign,
  Nor played me once the traitor's part.

I see now why in olden days
  Men in barbaric love or hate
Nailed enemies' hands at wild crossways,
  Shrined leaders' hearts in costly state:

The symbol, sign and instrument
  Of each soul's purpose, passion, strife,
Of fires in which are poured and spent
  Their all of love, their all of life.

O feeble, mighty human hand!
  O fragile, dauntless human heart!
The universe holds nothing planned
  With such sublime, transcendent art!

Yes, Death, I own I grudge thee mine
  Poor little hand, so feeble now;
Its wrinkled palm, its altered line,
  Its veins so pallid and so slow --

   *   *   *   (Unfinished here.)

Ah, well, friend Death, good friend thou art;
  I shall be free when thou art through.
Take all there is -- take hand and heart;
  There must be somewhere work to do.