Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections.
~WH Auden, “In Memory of WB Yeats”
The clicking on of my morning radio alarm rarely makes me all that happy–more rarely still does what I hear make me want to cry. The world, the nation, and the state of Massachusetts have all lost a great friend today. I’ve always been proud to live in Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts, and I wish him peace and his family comfort. Countless people a lot more famous, important, and well-spoken than I will be delivering messages of thanks and sorrow today, remembering his generosity of spirit, dedication, and huge contributions to causes both immense and individual.
I’m just going to borrow from the words of one of my favorite poets, who wrote these verses in memory of his good friend, another great liberal senator, Charles Sumner.
Death takes us by surprise,
And stays our hurrying feet;
The great design unfinished lies
Our lives are incomplete.
But in the dark unknown
Perfect their circles seem,
Even as a bridge’s arch of stone
Is rounded in the stream.
Alike are life and death
When life in death survives,
And the uninterrupted breath
Inspires a thousand lives.
Were a star quenched on high,
For ages would its light,
Still travelling downward from the sky
Shine on our mortal sight.
So when a great man dies,
For years beyond our ken,
The light he leaves behind him lies
Upon the paths of men.
~Henry W. Longfellow, “Charles Sumner”