The Old Harpsichord

A poem by Francis Orray Ticknor

“In one room of this deserted mansion we came upon an old harpsichord
with a single unbroken string.  Evoking the last sound from it, we extracted
the key, which you will find herewith.” – Letter from the Old Dominion

What of the night, old sleeper?
     What of thy watch so lone?
Of the darkness and dust, and deeper,
     The silence that shrouds thine own?
What song for the tuneless Reaper
     Who binds all songs in one?
Crown thou his sheaf, oh sleeper,
     With a requiem monotone!

One chord in thy heart unbroken!
     One key to that chord alone!
A touch – and thy thought hath spoken;
     A sound – and thy song hath flown!
A sigh for the single token
     Of all who have sung and flown!
Of symphonies ceased forever,
     Of harmonies heard no more;
Of chords that have ceased to quiver
     Or ever thy task was o’er:
Songs and their symphonies never
     Dying in requiems more.

Silence and darkness blended,
     Dust on a desolate shore,
Footprints of angels ascended
     Around us forevermore.
When the lips of the beautiful singers
     With the silvery chords lie cold,
And only an echo lingers
     Of the melodies sweet and old,
To blend ‘neath their seraph fingers
     With a hymn from their harps of gold. 

Source: The Poems of Francis Orray Ticknor
Ed. Michelle Cutliff Ticknor 
The Neale Publishing Company
New York & Washington, 1911