William Ernest Henley’s “Margaritae Sorori” – A Poem About Accepting Death

“Night with Her Train of Stars and Her Great Gift of Sleep”

(This Edward Robert Hughes painting was inspired by William Ernest Henley’s poem “Margaritae Sorori.” The title of the poem is Latin for “Sister Margaret.” Henley’s daughter Margaret died when she was five years old.)

Yesterday’s post praised Henley’s poem, “Invictus.” But this lesser-known Henley poem radiates with a contemplative acceptance of death and dying. Its mood vividly contrasts with the defiance of Invictus.

“Margaritae Sorori,”

A late lark twitters from the quiet skies:
And from the west,
Where the sun, his day’s work ended,
Lingers as in content,
There falls on the old, gray city
An influence luminous and serene,
A shining peace.

The smoke ascends
In a rosy-and-golden haze. The spires
Shine and are changed. In the valley
Shadows rise. The lark sings on. The sun,
Closing his benediction,
Sinks, and the darkening air
Thrills with a sense of the triumphing night—
Night with her train of stars
And her great gift of sleep.

So be my passing!
My task accomplish’d and the long day done,
My wages taken, and in my heart
Some late lark singing,
Let me be gather’d to the quiet west,
The sundown splendid and serene,

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