Tabb’s Poetry XLIII


This selection commemorates the day of Father Tabb’s death, November 19th.

The Old Pastor

How long, O Lord, to wait
Beside this open gate?
   My sheep with many a lamb
   Have entered, and I am
Alone, and it is late. 


I passed him daily, but his eyes,
   On others musing, missed me,
Till suddenly, with pale surprise,
   He caught, & clasped, & kissed me.
Since then his long-averted glance
Is fixed upon my countenance. 

Leaf and Soul


Let go the Limb?
My life in him
   Alone is found.
Come night, come day,
’Tis here I stay
   Above the sapless ground.


Let go the warm
Life-kindled form,
   And upward fly?
Come joy, come pain,
I here remain
   Despite the yearning sky.

A sudden frost, and, lo!
Both Leaf and Soul let go!
In Extremis

Lord, as from Thy body bleeding,
Wave by wave is life receding
   From these limbs of mine:
As it drifts away from me
To the everlasting sea,
   Blend it, Lord, with Thine. 


      Here buried side by side
We long have waited with between us two
         A place for you.

      The powers of darkness tried
To chill our hearts to ashes; but behold
         They grew not cold.

      You journey far and wide;
Our eyes were on you till they turned your way
         To where we lay.

      Henceforth, all fate defied,
Our kindred dust commingling, three in one—
         We slumber, son. 

A Stone’s Throw

Lo, Death another pebble far doth fling
   Into the midmost sea,
To leave of Life an ever-widening ring
   Upon Eternity. 

The Soul’s Quest

I laid my vesture by
   Upon this spot,
And here returning, I
   Behold it not.
Dost thou, O Earth, resume
The relics of the tomb?

Whereto the Earth replies:
   “Be not afraid;
Safe in my keeping lies
   What here was laid:
A thousand forms refine
What shall again be thine.”

John B. Tabb

For a recitation, click the play button:

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“The Old Pastor”: Later Lyrics, p. 129; Poetry, p. 216. 1902. Pastor: Latin, shepherd; that is, one who herds sheep.

“Death”: Later Poems, p. 72; Poetry, p. 129. 1910. Long-averted means long-turned-away; one’s countenance is one’s face.

“Leaf and Soul”: Later Lyrics, p. 107; Poetry, p. 31. November 1902.

“In Extremis”: Later Poems, p. 27; Poetry, p. 250. July 9, 1908. In Extremis: Latin, to the furthest reaches; thus, figuratively, near the point of death. The poem was written two days before the death of Father Tabb’s friend Rt. Rev. Alfred Allen Paul Curtis, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore.

“United”: Father Tabb, p. 80; Poetry, p. 271. October 25, 1902. The poem was written the day after the death of Father Tabb’s ward Edward J. Carroll.

“A Stone’s Throw”: Poems, p. 125; Poetry, p. 357. 1894.

“The Soul’s Quest”: Later Poems, p. 90; Poetry, p. 160. October 1896. Vesture is clothing or raiment; by analogy, what the body is to the soul.


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