Saturday, October 10, 2009

On Donna Burke

This morning the song "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" was an ear-worm. As it turned out, there was a reason for that: a grand lady left us late last night.

Emily Dickinson wrote something which speaks about Donna.

Because I could not stop for Death
He kindly stopped for me
The Carriage held but just Ourselves
And Immortality

That captures Mrs. Burke; she could not stop for Death. This was a woman whose love was intensely active. She loved her boys, her husband, her daughter who preceded her--and she loved God and His creature, man. Actively.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility

He was civil indeed, taking her only after that last wedding. Her labor was put away; the flowers she grew for the wedding were in place, mementoes of beauty that she left for her family, and all of us.

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain
We passed the Setting Sun
Or rather – He passed us

The children, the grains, the flower-garden, the sunsets on Lake Michigan.

The Dews drew quivering and chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –

Since then – 'tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses' Heads
Were toward Eternity

Dickinson's chariot swung low and took Donna home.

Requiescat in pace.

In paradisum deducant te Angeli, deducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem.

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