By John Greenleaf Whittier
(1807 - 1892)
 
 
An Autograph
 
 
I WRITE my name as one,
On sands by waves o’errun
Or winter’s frosted pane,
Traces a record vain.
 
Oblivion’s blankness claims
Wiser and better names,
And well my own may pass
As from the strand or glass.
 
Wash on, O waves of time!
Melt, noons, the frosty rime!
Welcome the shadow vast,
The silence that shall last!
 
When I and all who know
And love me vanish so,
What harm to them or me
Will the lost memory be?
 
If any words of mine,
Through right of life divine,
Remain, what matters it
Whose hand the message writ?
 
Why should the “crowner’s quest”
Sit on my worst or best?
Why should the showman claim
The poor ghost of my name?
 
Yet, as when dies a sound
Its spectre lingers round,
Haply my spent life will
Leave some faint echo still.
 
A whisper giving breath
Of praise or blame to death,
Soothing or saddening such
As loved the living much.
 
Therefore with yearnings vain
And fond I still would fain
A kindly judgment seek,
A tender thought bespeak.
 
And, while my words are read,
Let this at least be said:
“Whate’er his life’s defeatures,
He loved his fellow-creatures.
 
“If, of the Law’s stone table,
To hold he scarce was able
The first great precept fast,
He kept for man the last.
 
“Through mortal lapse and dulness
What lacks the Eternal Fulness,
If still our weakness can
Love Him in loving man?
 
“Age brought him no despairing
Of the world’s future faring;
In human nature still
He found more good than ill.
 
“To all who dumbly suffered,
His tongue and pen he offered;
His life was not his own,
Nor lived for self alone.
 
“Hater of din and riot
He lived in days unquiet;
And, lover of all beauty,
Trod the hard ways of duty.
 
“He meant no wrong to any,
He sought the good of many,
Yet knew both sin and folly,—
May God forgive him wholly!”
 
 
Astræa
 
 
              “JOVE means to settle
Astræa in her seat again,
And let down from his golden chain
      An age of better metal.”—BEN JONSON, 1615.
 
 
O POET rare and old!
  Thy words are prophecies;
Forward the age of gold,
  The new Saturnian lies.
 
The universal prayer
  And hope are not in vain;
Rise, brothers! and prepare
  The way for Saturn’s reign.
 
Perish shall all which takes
  From labor’s board and can;
Perish shall all which makes
  A spaniel of the man!
 
Free from its bonds the mind,
  The body from the rod;
Broken all chains that bind
  The image of our God.
 
Just men no longer pine
  Behind their prison-bars;
Through the rent dungeon shine
  The free sun and the stars.
 
Earth own, at last, untrod
  By sect, or caste, or clan,
The fatherhood of God,
  The brotherhood of man!
 
Fraud fail, craft perish, forth
  The money-changers driven,
And God’s will done on earth,
  As now in heaven!
 
 
Centennial Hymn
 
 
OUR fathers’ God! from out whose hand
The centuries fall like grains of sand,
We meet to-day, united, free,
And loyal to our land and Thee,
To thank Thee for the era done,
And trust Thee for the opening one.
 
Here, where of old, by Thy design,
The fathers spake that word of Thine
Whose echo is the glad refrain
Of rended bolt and falling chain,
To grace our festal time, from all
The zones of earth our guests we call.
 
Be with us while the New World greets
The Old World thronging all its streets,
Unveiling all the triumphs won
By art or toil beneath the sun;
And unto common good ordain
This rivalship of hand and brain.
 
Thou, who hast here in concord furled
The war flags of a gathered world,
Beneath our Western skies fulfil
The Orient’s mission of good-will,
And, freighted with love’s Golden Fleece,
Send back its Argonauts of peace.
 
For art and labor met in truce,
For beauty made the bride of use,
We thank Thee; but, withal, we crave
The austere virtues strong to save,
The honor proof to place or gold,
The manhood never bought nor sold!
 
Oh make Thou us, through centuries long,
In peace secure, in justice strong;
Around our gift of freedom draw
The safeguards of thy righteous law:
And, cast in some diviner mould,
Let the new cycle shame the old!
1876.
 
 
From “Snow-Bound”
 
 
THE WORLD TRANSFORMED

UNWARMED by any sunset light
The gray day darkened into night,
A night made hoary with the swarm
And whirl-dance of the blinding storm,
As zigzag, wavering to and fro,
Crossed and recrossed the wingëd snow:
And ere the early bedtime came
The white drift piled the window-frame,
And through the glass the clothes-line posts
Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts.
 
So all night long the storm roared on:
The morning broke without a sun;
In tiny spherule traced with lines
Of Nature’s geometric signs,
In starry flake, and pellicle,
All day the hoary meteor fell;
And, when the second morning shone,
We looked upon a world unknown,
On nothing we could call our own.
Around the glistening wonder bent
The blue walls of the firmament,
No cloud above, no earth below,—
A universe of sky and snow!
The old familiar sights of ours
Took marvellous shapes; strange domes and towers
Rose up where sty or corn-crib stood,
Or garden-wall, or belt of wood;
A smooth white mound the brush-pile showed,
A fenceless drift what once was road;
The bridle-post an old man sat
With loose-flung coat and high cocked hat;
The well-curb had a Chinese roof;
And even the long sweep, high aloof,
In its slant splendor, seemed to tell
Of Pisa’s loaning miracle.
 
FIRELIGHT

SHUT in from all the world without,
We sat the clean-winged hearth about,
Content to let the north-wind roar
In baffled rage at pane and door,
While the red logs before us beat
The frost-line back with tropic heat;
And ever, when a louder blast
Shook beam and rafter as it passed,
The merrier up its roaring draught
The great throat of the chimney laughed;
The house-dog on his paws outspread
Laid to the fire his drowsy head,
The cat’s dark silhouette on the wall
A couchant tiger’s seemed to fall;
And, for the winter fireside meet,
Between the andirons’ straddling feet,
The mug of cider simmered slow,
The apples sputtered in a row,
And, close at hand, the basket stood
With nuts from brown October’s wood.
 
What matter how the night behaved?
What matter how the north-wind raved?
Blow high, blow low, not all its snow
Could quench our hearth-fire’s ruddy glow.
O Time and Change!—with hair as gray
As was my sire’s that winter day,
How strange it seems, with so much gone
Of life and love, to still live on!
Ah, brother! only I and thou
Are left of all that circle now,—
The dear home faces whereupon
That fitful firelight paled and shone.
Henceforward, listen as we will,
The voices of that hearth are still;
Look where we may, the wide earth o’er,
Those lighted faces smile no more.
We tread the paths their feet have worn,
  We sit beneath their orchard-trees,
  We hear, like them, the hum of bees
And rustle of the bladed corn;
We turn the pages that they read,
  Their written words we linger o’er,
But in the sun they cast no shade,
No voice is heard, no sign is made,
  No step is on the conscious floor!
Yet Love will dream, and Faith will trust,
(Since He who knows our need is just,)
That somehow, somewhere, meet we must.
Alas for him who never sees
The stars shine through his cypress-trees!
Who, hopeless, lays his dead away,
Nor looks to see the breaking day
Across the mournful marbles play!
Who hath not learned, in hours of faith,
  The truth to flesh and sense unknown,
That Life is ever lord of Death,
  And Love can never lose its own!
 
MOTHER

Our mother, while she turned her wheel
Or run the new-knit stocking-heel,
Told how the Indian hordes came down
At midnight on Cocheco town,
And how her own great-uncle bore
His cruel scalp-mark to fourscore.
Recalling, in her fitting phrase,
  So rich and picturesque and free,
  (The common unrhymed poetry
Of simple life and country ways,)
The story of her early days,—
She made us welcome to her home;
Old hearths grew wide to give us room;
We stole with her a frightened look
At the gray wizard’s conjuring-book,
The fame whereof went far and wide
Through all the simple country-side;
We heard the hawks at twilight play,
The boat-horn on Piscataqua,
The loon’s weird laughter far away;
We fished her little trout-brook, knew
What flowers in wood and meadow grew,
What sunny hillsides autumn-brown
She climbed to shake the ripe nuts down,
Saw where in sheltered cove and bay
The ducks’ black squadron anchored lay,
And heard the wild geese calling loud
Beneath the gray November cloud.
 
SISTER

AS one who held herself a part
Of all she saw, and let her heart
  Against the household bosom lean,
Upon the motley-braided mat
Our youngest and our dearest sat,
Lifting her large, sweet, asking eyes,
  Now bathed in the unfading green
And holy peace of Paradise.
Oh, looking from some heavenly hill,
  Or from the shade of saintly palms,
  Or silver reach of river calms,
Do those large eyes behold me still?
With me one little year ago:—
The chill weight of the winter snow
  For months upon her grave has lain;
And now, when summer south-winds blow
  And brier and harebell bloom again,
I tread the pleasant paths we trod,
I see the violet-sprinkled sod
Whereon she leaned, too frail and weak
The hillside flowers she loved to seek,
Yet following me where’er I went
With dark eyes full of love’s content.
The birds are glad; the brier-rose fills
The air with sweetness; all the hills
Stretch green to June’s unclouded sky;
But still I wait with ear and eye
For something gone which should be nigh,
A loss all familiar things,
In flower that blooms, and bird that sings.
And yet, dear heart! remembering thee,
  Am I not richer than of old?
Safe in thy immortality,
  What change can reach the wealth I hold?
  What chance can mar the pearl and gold
Thy love hath left in trust with me?
And while in life’s late afternoon,
  Where cool and long the shadows grow,
I walk to meet the night that soon
  Shall shape and shadow overflow,
I cannot feel that thou art far,
Since near at need the angels are;
And when the sunset gates unbar,
  Shall I not see thee waiting stand,
And, white against the evening star,
  The welcome of thy beckoning hand?
 
PROPHETESS

ANOTHER guest that winter night
Flashed back from lustrous eyes the light.
Unmarked by time, and yet not young,
The honeyed music of her tongue
And words of meekness scarcely told
A nature passionate and bold,
Strong, self-concentred, spurning guide,
Its milder features dwarfed beside
Her unbent will’s majestic pride.
She sat among us, at the best,
A not unfeared, half-welcome guest,
Rebuking with her cultured phrase
Our homeliness of words and ways.
A certain pard-like, treacherous grace
Swayed the lithe limbs and dropped the lash,
Lent the white teeth their dazzling flash;
And under low brows, black with night,
Rayed out at times a dangerous light;
The sharp heat-lightnings of her face
  Presaging ill to him whom Fate
  Condemned to share her love or hate.
A woman tropical, intense
In thought and act, in soul and sense,
She blended in a like degree
The vixen and the devotee,
Revealing with each freak or feint
  The temper of Petruchio’s Kate,
The raptures of Siena’s saint.
Her tapering hand and rounded wrist
Had facile power to form a fist;
The warm, dark languish of her eyes
Was never safe from wrath’s surprise.
Brows saintly calm and lips devout
Knew every change of scowl and pout;
And the sweet voice had notes more high
And shrill for social battle-cry.
 
Since then what old cathedral town
Has missed her pilgrim staff and gown,
What convent-gate has held its lock
Against the challenge of her knock!
Through Smyrna’s plague-hushed thorough-fares,
Up sea-set Malta’s rocky stairs,
  Gray olive slopes of hills that hem
  Thy tombs and shrines, Jerusalem,
Or startling on her desert throne
The crazy Queen of Lebanon
With claims fantastic as her own,
Her tireless feet have held their way;
And still, unrestful, bowed, and gray,
She watches under Eastern skies,
  With hope each day renewed and fresh,
  The Lord’s quick coming in the flesh,
Whereof she dreams and prophesies!
 
 
Ichabod
 
 
SO fallen! so lost! the light withdrawn
    Which once he wore!
The glory from his gray hairs gone
    Forevermore!
 
Revile him not, the Tempter hath
    A snare for all;
And pitying tears, not scorn and wrath,
    Befit his fall!
 
Oh, dumb be passion’s stormy rage,
    When he who might
Have lighted up and led his age,
    Falls back in night.
 
Scorn! would the angels laugh, to mark
    A bright soul driven,
Fiend-goaded, down the endless dark,
    From hope and heaven!
 
Let not the land once proud of him
    Insult him now,
Nor brand with deeper shame his dim,
    Dishonored brow.
 
But let its humbled sons, instead,
    From sea to lake,
A long lament, as for the dead,
    In sadness make.
 
Of all we loved and honored, naught
    Save power remains;
A fallen angel’s pride of thought,
    Still strong in chains.
 
All else is gone; from those great eyes
    The soul has fled:
When faith is lost, when honor dies,
    The man is dead!
 
Then, pay the reverence of old days
    To his dead fame;
Walk backward, with averted gaze,
    And hide the shame!
 
 
In School-Days
 
 
STILL sits the school-house by the road,
  A ragged beggar sunning;
Around it still the sumachs grow,
  And blackberry vines are running.
 
Within, the master’s desk is seen,
  Deep scarred by raps official;
The warping floor, the battered seats,
  The jack-knife’s carved initial;
 
The charcoal frescos on its wall;
  Its door’s worn sill, betraying
The feet that, creeping slow to school,
  Went storming out to playing!
 
Long years ago a winter sun
  Shone over it at setting;
Lit up its western window-panes,
  And low eaves’ icy fretting.
 
It touched the tangled golden curls,
  And brown eyes full of grieving,
Of one who still her steps delayed
  When all the school were leaving.
 
For near her stood the little boy
  Her childish favor singled:
His cap pulled low upon a face
  Where pride and shame were mingled.
 
Pushing with restless feet the snow
  To right and left, he lingered;—
As restlessly her tiny hands
  The blue-checked apron fingered.
 
He saw her lift her eyes; he felt
  The soft hand’s light caressing,
And heard the tremble of her voice,
  As if a fault confessing.
 
“I ’m sorry that I spelt the word:
  I hate to go above you,
Because,”—the brown eyes lower fell,—
  “Because, you see, I love you!”
 
Still memory to a gray-haired man
  That sweet child-face is showing.
Dear girl! the grasses on her grave
  Have forty years been growing!
 
He lives to learn, in life’s hard school,
  How few who pass above him
Lament their triumph and his loss,
  Like her,—because they love him.
1870.
 
 
In the “Old South”
 
 
SHE came and stood in the Old South Church
  A wonder and a sign,
With a look the old-time sibyls wore,
  Half-crazed and half-divine.
 
Save the mournful sackcloth about her wound,
  Unclothed as the primal mother,
With limbs that trembled and eyes that blazed
  With a fire she dare not smother.
 
Loose on her shoulders fell her hair,
  With sprinkled ashes gray;
She stood in the broad aisle strange and weird
  As a soul at the judgment day.
 
And the minister paused in his sermon’s midst,
  And the people held their breath,
For these were the words the maiden spoke
  Through lips as the lips of death:
 
“Thus saith the Lord, with equal feet
  All men my courts shall tread,
And priest and ruler no more shall eat
  My people up like bread!
 
“Repent! repent! ere the Lord shall speak
  In thunder and breaking seals!
Let all souls worship Him in the way
  His light within reveals.”
 
She shook the dust from her naked feet,
  And her sackcloth closer drew,
And into the porch of the awe-hushed church
  She passed like a ghost from view.
 
They whipped her away at the tail o’ the cart
  Through half the streets of the town,
But the words she uttered that day nor fire
  Could burn nor water drown.
 
And now the aisles of the ancient church
  By equal feet are trod,
And the bell that swings in its belfry rings
  Freedom to worship God!
 
And now whenever a wrong is done
  It thrills the conscious walls;
The stone from the basement cries aloud
  And the beam from the timber calls.
 
There are steeple-houses on every hand,
  And pulpits that bless and ban,
And the Lord will not grudge the single church
  That is set apart for man.
 
For in two commandments are all the law
  And the prophets under the sun,
And the first is last and the last is first,
  And the twain are verily one.
 
So long as Boston shall Boston be,
  And her bay-tides rise and fall,
Shall freedom stand in the Old South Church
  And plead for the rights of all!
 
 
Maud Muller
 
 
MAUD MULLER on a summer’s day
Raked the meadow sweet with hay.
 
Beneath her torn hat glowed the wealth
Of simple beauty and rustic health.
 
Singing, she wrought, and her merry glee
The mock-bird echoed from his tree.
 
But when she glanced to the far-off town,
White from its hill-slope looking down,
 
The sweet song died, and a vague unrest
And a nameless longing filled her breast,—
 
A wish that she hardly dared to own,
For something better than she had known.
 
The Judge rode slowly down the lane,
Smoothing his horse’s chestnut mane.
 
He drew his bridle in the shade
Of the apple-trees, to greet the maid,
 
And asked a draught from the spring that flowed
Through the meadow across the road.
 
She stooped where the cool spring bubbled up,
And filled for him her small tin cup,
 
And blushed as she gave it, looking down
On her feet so bare, and her tattered gown.
 
“Thanks!” said the Judge; “a sweeter draught
From a fairer hand was never quaffed.”
 
He spoke of the grass and flowers and trees,
Of the singing birds and the humming bees;
 
Then talked of the haying, and wondered whether
The cloud in the west would bring foul weather.
 
And Maud forgot her brier-torn gown
And her graceful ankles bare and brown;
 
And listened, while a pleased surprise
Looked from her long-lashed hazel eyes.
 
At last, like one who for delay
Seeks a vain excuse, he rode away.
 
Maud Muller looked and sighed: “Ah me!
That I the Judge’s bride might be!
 
“He would dress me up in silks so fine,
And praise and toast me at his wine.
 
“My father should wear a broadcloth coat;
My brother should sail a painted boat.
 
“I ’d dress my mother so grand and gay,
And the baby should have a new toy each day.
 
“And I ’d feed the hungry and clothe the poor,
And all should bless me who left our door.”
 
The Judge looked back as he climbed the hill,
And saw Maud Muller standing still.
 
“A form more fair, a face more sweet,
Ne’er hath it been my lot to meet.
 
“And her modest answer and graceful air
Show her wise and good as she is fair.
 
“Would she were mine, and I to-day,
Like her, a harvester of hay;
 
“No doubtful balance of rights and wrongs,
Nor weary lawyers with endless tongues,
 
“But low of cattle and song of birds,
And health and quiet and loving words.”
 
But he thought of his sisters, proud and cold,
And his mother, vain of her rank and gold.
 
So, closing his heart, the Judge rode on,
And Maud was left in the field alone.
 
But the lawyers smiled that afternoon,
When he hummed in court an old love-tune;
 
And the young girl mused beside the well
Till the rain on the unraked clover fell.
 
He wedded a wife of richest dower,
Who lived for fashion, as he for power.
 
Yet oft, in his marble hearth’s bright glow,
He watched a picture come and go;
 
And sweet Maud Muller’s hazel eyes
Looked out in their innocent surprise.
 
Oft, when the wine in his glass was red,
He longed for the wayside well instead;
 
And closed his eyes on his garnished rooms
To dream of meadows and clover-blooms.
 
And the proud man sighed, with a secret pain,
“Ah, that I were free again!
 
“Free as when I rode that day,
Where the barefoot maiden raked her hay.”
 
She wedded a man unlearned and poor,
And many children played round her door
 
But care and sorrow, and childbirth pain,
Left their traces on heart and brain.
 
And oft, when the summer sun shone hot
On the new-mown hay in the meadow lot,
 
And she heard the little spring brook fall
Over the roadside, through the wall,
 
In the shade of the apple-tree again
She saw a rider draw his rein;
 
And, gazing down with timid grace,
She felt his pleased eyes read her face.
 
Sometimes her narrow kitchen walls
Stretched away into stately halls;
 
The weary wheel to a spinet turned,
The tallow candle an astral burned,
 
And for him who sat by the chimney lug,
Dozing and grumbling o’er pipe and mug,
 
A manly form at her side she saw,
And joy was duty and love was law.
 
Then she took up her burden of life again,
Saying only, “It might have been.”
 
Alas for maiden, alas for Judge,
For rich repiner and household drudge!
 
God pity them both! and pity us all,
Who vainly the dreams of youth recall.
 
For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”
 
Ah, well! for us all some sweet hope lies
Deeply buried from human eyes;
 
And, in the hereafter, angels may
Roll the stone from its grave away!
 
 
Mulford
 
 
UNNOTED as the setting of a star
  He passed; and sect and party scarcely knew
  When from their midst a sage and seer withdrew
To fitter audience, where the great dead are
In God’s republic of the heart and mind,
Leaving no purer, nobler soul behind.
 
 
Proem
 
(Written to Introduce the First General Collection of His Poems)
 
 
    I LOVE the old melodious lays
Which softly melt the ages through,
    The songs of Spenser’s golden days,
    Arcadian Sidney’s silvery phrase,
Sprinkling our noon of time with freshest morning dew.
 
    Yet, vainly in my quiet hours
To breathe their marvellous notes I try;
    I feel them, as the leaves and flowers
    In silence feel the dewy showers,
And drink with glad, still lips the blessing of the sky.
 
    The rigor of a frozen clime,
The harshness of an untaught ear,
    The jarring words of one whose rhyme
    Beat often Labor’s hurried time,
Or Duty’s rugged march through storm and strife, are here.
 
    Of mystic beauty, dreamy grace,
No rounded art the lack supplies;
    Unskilled the subtle lines to trace,
    Or softer shades of Nature’s face,
I view her common forms with unanointed eyes.
 
    Nor mine the seer-like power to show
The secrets of the heart and mind;
    To drop the plummet-line below
    Our common world of joy and woe,
A more intense despair or brighter hope to find.
 
    Yet here at least an earnest sense
Of human right and weal is shown;
    A hate of tyranny intense,
    And hearty in its vehemence,
As if my brother’s pain and sorrow were my own.
 
    O Freedom! if to me belong
Nor mighty Milton’s gift divine,
    Nor Marvell’s wit and graceful song,
    Still with a love as deep and strong
As theirs, I lay, like them, my best gifts on thy shrine!
 
 
Skipper Ireson’s Ride
 
 
OF all the rides since the birth of time,
Told in story or sung in rhyme,—
On Apuleius’s Golden Ass,
Or one-eyed Calendar’s horse of brass,
Witch astride of a human back,
Islam’s prophet on Al-Borák,—
The strangest ride that ever was sped
Was Ireson’s, out from Marblehead!
  Old Floyd Ireson, for his hard heart,
  Tarred and feathered and carried in a cart
    By the women of Marblehead!
 
Body of turkey, head of owl,
Wings adroop like a rained-on fowl,
Feathered and ruffled in every part,
Skipper Ireson stood in the cart.
Scores of women, old and young,
Strong of muscle, and glib of tongue,
Pushed and pulled up the rocky lane,
Shouting and singing the shrill refrain:
  “Here ’s Flud Oirson, fur his horrd horrt,
  Torr’d an’ futherr’d an’ corr’d in a corrt
    By the women o’ Morble’ead!”
 
Wrinkled scolds with hands on hips,
Girls in bloom of cheek and lips,
Wild-eyed, free-limbed, such as chase
Bacchus round some antique vase,
Brief of skirt, with ankles bare,
Loose of kerchief and loose of hair,
With conch-shells blowing and fish-horns’ twang,
Over and over the Mænads sang:
  “Here ’s Flud Oirson, fur his horrd horrt,
  Torr’d an’ futherr’d an’ corr’d in a corrt
    By the women o’ Morble’ead!”
 
Small pity for him!—He sailed away
From a leaking ship in Chaleur Bay,—
Sailed away from a sinking wreck,
With his own town’s-people on her deck!
“Lay by! lay by!” they called to him.
Back he answered, “Sink or swim!
Brag of your catch of fish again!”
And off he sailed through the fog and rain!
  Old Floyd Ireson, for his hard heart,
  Tarred and feathered and carried in a cart
    By the women of Marblehead!
 
Fathoms deep in dark Chaleur
That wreck shall lie forevermore.
Mother and sister, wife and maid,
Looked from the rocks of Marblehead
Over the moaning and rainy sea,—
Looked for the coming that might not be!
What did the winds and the sea-birds say
Of the cruel captain who sailed away?—
  Old Floyd Ireson, for his hard heart,
  Tarred and feathered and carried in a cart
    By the women of Marblehead.
 
Through the street, on either side,
Up flew windows, doors swung wide;
Sharp-tongued spinsters, old wives gray,
Treble lent the fish-horn’s bray.
Sea-worn grandsires, cripple-bound,
Hulks of old sailors run aground,
Shook head, and fist, and hat, and cane,
And cracked with curses the hoarse refrain:
  “Here ’s Flud Oirson, fur his horrd horrt,
  Torr’d an’ futherr’d an’ corr’d in a corrt
    By the women o’ Morble’ead!”
 
Sweetly along the Salem road
Bloom of orchard and lilac showed.
Little the wicked skipper knew
Of the fields so green and the sky so blue.
Riding there in his sorry trim,
Like an Indian idol glum and grim,
Scarcely he seemed the sound to hear
Of voices shouting, far and near:
  “Here ’s Flud Oirson, fur his horrd horrt,
  Torr’d an’ futherr’d an’ corr’d in a corrt
    By the women o’ Morble’ead!”
 
“Hear me, neighbors!” at last he cried,—
“What to me is this noisy ride?
What is the shame that clothes the skin
To the nameless horror that lives within?
Waking or sleeping, I see a wreck,
And hear a cry from a reeling deck!
Hate me and curse me,—I only dread
The hand of God and the face of the dead!”
  Said old Floyd Ireson, for his hard heart,
  Tarred and feathered and carried in a cart
    By the women of Marblehead!
 
Then the wife of the skipper lost at sea
Said, “God has touched him! why should we!”
Said an old wife mourning her only son,
“Cut the rogue’s tether and let him run!”
So with soft relentings and rude excuse,
Half scorn, half pity, they cut him loose,
And gave him a cloak to hide him in,
And left him alone with his shame and sin.
  Poor Floyd Ireson, for his hard heart,
  Tarred and feathered and carried in a cart
    By the women of Marblehead!
 
 
The Barefoot Boy
 
 
BLESSINGS on thee, little man,
Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!
With thy turned-up pantaloons,
And thy merry whistled tunes;
With thy red lip, redder still
Kissed by strawberries on the hill;
With the sunshine on thy face,
Through thy torn brim’s jaunty grace;
From my heart I give thee joy,—
I was once a barefoot boy!
Prince thou art,—the grown-up man
Only is republican.
Let the million-dollared ride!
Barefoot, trudging at his side,
Thou hast more than he can buy
In the reach of ear and eye,—
Outward sunshine, inward joy:
Blessings on thee, barefoot boy!
 
Oh for boyhood’s painless play,
Sleep that wakes in laughing day,
Health that mocks the doctor’s rules,
Knowledge never learned of schools,
Of the wild bee’s morning chase,
Of the wild flower’s time and place,
Flight of fowl and habitude
Of the tenants of the wood;
How the tortoise bears his shell,
How the woodchuck digs his cell,
And the ground-mole sinks his well;
How the robin feeds her young,
How the oriole’s nest is hung;
Where the whitest lilies blow,
Where the freshest berries grow,
Where the ground-nut trails its vine,
Where the wood-grape’s clusters shine;
Of the black wasp’s cunning way,
Mason of his walls of clay,
And the architectural plans
Of gray hornet artisans!
For, eschewing books and tasks,
Nature answers all he asks;
Hand in hand with her he walks,
Face to face with her he talks,
Part and parcel of her joy,—
Blessings on the barefoot boy!
 
Oh for boyhood’s time of June,
Crowding years in one brief moon,
When all things I heard or saw,
Me, their master, waited for.
I was rich in flowers and trees,
Humming-birds and honey-bees;
For my sport the squirrel played,
Plied the snouted mole his spade;
For my taste the blackberry cone
Purpled over hedge and stone;
Laughed the brook for my delight
Through the day and through the night,—
Whispering at the garden wall,
Talked with me from fall to fall;
Mine the sand-rimmed pickerel pond,
Mine the walnut slopes beyond,
Mine, on bending orchard trees,
Apples of Hesperides!
Still as my horizon grew,
Larger grew my riches too;
All the world I saw or knew
Seemed a complex Chinese toy,
Fashioned for a barefoot boy!
 
Oh for festal dainties spread,
Like my bowl of milk and bread;
Pewter spoon and bowl of wood,
On the door-stone, gray and rude!
O’er me, like a regal tent,
Cloudy-ribbed, the sunset bent,
Purple-curtained, fringed with gold,
Looped in many a wind-swung fold;
While for music came the play
Of the pied frogs’ orchestra;
And, to light the noisy choir,
Lit the fly his lamp of fire.
I was monarch: pomp and joy
Waited on the barefoot boy!
 
Cheerily, then, my little man,
Live and laugh, as boyhood can!
Though the flinty slopes be hard,
Stubble-speared the new-mown sward,
Every morn shall lead thee through
Fresh baptisms of the dew;
Every evening from thy feet
Shall the cool wind kiss the heat:
All too soon these feet must hide
In the prison cells of pride,
Lose the freedom of the sod,
Like a colt’s for work be shod,
Made to tread the mills of toil,
Up and down in ceaseless moil:
Happy if their track be found
Never on forbidden ground;
Happy if they sink not in
Quick and treacherous sands of sin.
Ah! that thou couldst know thy joy,
Ere it passes, barefoot boy!
 
 
The Eternal Goodness
 
 
O FRIENDS! with whom my feet have trod
  The quiet aisles of prayer,
Glad witness to your zeal for God
  And love of man I bear.
 
I trace your lines of argument;
  Your logic linked and strong
I weigh as one who dreads dissent,
  And fears a doubt as wrong.
 
But still my human hands are weak
  To hold your iron creeds:
Against the words ye bid me speak
  My heart within me pleads.
 
Who fathoms the Eternal Thought?
  Who talks of scheme and plan?
The Lord is God! He needeth not
  The poor device of man.
 
I walk with bare, hushed feet the ground
  Ye tread with boldness shod;
I dare not fix with mete and bound
  The love and power of God.
 
Ye praise His justice; even such
  His pitying love I deem:
Ye seek a king; I fain would touch
  The robe that hath no seam.
 
Ye see the curse which overbroods
  A world of pain and loss;
I hear our Lord’s beatitudes
  And prayer upon the cross.
 
More than your schoolmen teach, within
  Myself, alas! I know:
Too dark ye cannot paint the sin,
  Too small the merit show.
 
I bow my forehead to the dust,
  I veil mine eyes for shame,
And urge, in trembling self-distrust,
  A prayer without a claim.
 
I see the wrong that round me lies,
  I feel the guilt within;
I hear, with groan and travail-cries,
  The world confess its sin.
 
Yet, in the maddening maze of things,
  And tossed by storm and flood,
To one fixed trust my spirit clings;
  I know that God is good!
 
Not mine to look where cherubim
  And seraphs may not see,
But nothing can be good in Him
  Which evil is in me.
 
The wrong that pains my soul below
  I dare not throne above,
I know not of His hate,—I know
  His goodness and His love.
 
I dimly guess from blessings known
  Of greater out of sight,
And, with the chastened Psalmist, own
  His judgments too are right.
 
I long for household voices gone,
  For vanished smiles I long,
But God hath led my dear ones on,
  And He can do no wrong.
 
I know not what the future hath
  Of marvel or surprise,
Assured alone that life and death
  His mercy underlies.
 
And if my heart and flesh are weak
  To bear an untried pain,
The bruisëd reed He will not break,
  But strengthen and sustain.
 
No offering of my own I have,
  Nor works my faith to prove;
I can but give the gifts He gave,
  And plead His love for love.
 
And so beside the Silent Sea
  I wait the muffled oar;
No harm from Him can come to me
  On ocean or on shore.
 
I know not where His islands lift
  Their fronded palms in air;
I only know I cannot drift
  Beyond His love and care.
 
O brothers! if my faith is vain,
  If hopes like these betray,
Pray for me that my feet may gain
  The sure and safer way.
 
And Thou, O Lord! by whom are seen
  Thy creatures as they be,
Forgive me if too close I lean
  My human heart on Thee!
 
 
The Farewell
 
Of a Virginia Slave Mother to Her Daughters Sold into Southern Bondage
 
 
    GONE, gone,—sold and gone,
    To the rice-swamp dank and lone.
Where the slave-whip ceaseless swings,
Where the noisome insect stings,
Where the fever demon strews
Poison with the falling dews,
Where the sickly sunbeams glare
Through the hot and misty air;
    Gone, gone,—sold and gone,
    To the rice-swamp dank and lone,
    From Virginia’s hills and waters;
    Woe is me, my stolen daughters!
 
    Gone, gone,—sold and gone,
    To the rice-swamp dank and lone.
There no mother’s eye is near them,
There no mother’s ear can hear them;
Never, when the torturing lash
Seams their back with many a gash,
Shall a mother’s kindness bless them,
Or a mother’s arms caress them.
    Gone, gone,—sold and gone,
    To the rice-swamp dank and lone,
    From Virginia’s hills and waters;
    Woe is me, my stolen daughters!
 
    Gone, gone,—sold and gone,
    To the rice-swamp dank and lone.
O, when weary, sad, and slow,
From the fields at night they go,
Faint with toil, and racked with pain,
To their cheerless homes again,
There no brother’s voice shall greet them;
There no father’s welcome meet them.
    Gone, gone,—sold and gone,
    To the rice-swamp dank and lone,
    From Virginia’s hills and waters;
    Woe is me, my stolen daughters!
 
    Gone, gone,—sold and gone,
    To the rice-swamp dank and lone.
From the tree whose shadow lay
On their childhood’s place of play;
From the cool spring where they drank;
Rock, and hill, and rivulet bank;
From the solemn house of prayer,
And the holy counsels there;
    Gone, gone,—sold and gone,
    To the rice-swamp dank and lone,
    From Virginia’s hills and waters;
    Woe is me, my stolen daughters!
 
    Gone, gone,—sold and gone,
    To the rice-swamp dank and lone;
Toiling through the weary day,
And at night the spoiler’s prey.
Oh, that they had earlier died,
Sleeping calmly, side by side,
Where the tyrant’s power is o’er,
And the fetter galls no more!
    Gone, gone,—sold and gone,
    To the rice-swamp dank and lone,
    From Virginia’s hills and waters;
    Woe is me, my stolen daughters!
 
    Gone, gone,—sold and gone,
    To the rice-swamp dank and lone.
By the holy love He beareth;
By the bruisëd reed He spareth;
Oh, may He, to whom alone
All their cruel wrongs are known,
Still their hope and refuge prove,
With a more than mother’s love.
    Gone, gone,—sold and gone,
    To the rice-swamp dank and lone,
    From Virginia’s hills and waters;
    Woe is me, my stolen daughters!
 
 
The Swan Song of Parson Avery
 
 
WHEN the reaper’s task was ended, and the summer wearing late,
Parson Avery sailed from Newbury, with his wife and children eight,
Dropping down the river-harbor in the shallop “Watch and Wait.”
 
Pleasantly lay the clearings in the mellow summer-morn,
With the newly planted orchards dropping their fruits first born,
And the home-roofs like brown islands amid a sea of corn.
 
Broad meadows reached out seaward the tided creeks between,
And hills rolled wave-like inland, with oaks and walnuts green:
A fairer home, a goodlier land, his eyes had never seen.
 
Yet away sailed Parson Avery, away where duty led,
And the voice of God seemed calling, to break the living bread
To the souls of fishers starving on the rocks of Marblehead.
 
All day they sailed: at nightfall the pleasant land-breeze died,
The blackening sky, at midnight, its starry lights denied,
And far and low the thunder of tempest prophesied!
 
Blotted out were all the coast-lines, gone were rock, and wood, and sand;
Grimly anxious stood the skipper with the rudder in his hand,
And questioned of the darkness what was sea and what was land.
 
And the preacher heard his dear ones, nestled round him, weeping sore:
“Never heed, my little children! Christ is walking on before
To the pleasant land of heaven, where the sea shall be no more.”
 
All at once the great cloud parted, like a curtain drawn aside,
To let down the torch of lightning on the terror far and wide;
And the thunder and the whirlwind together smote the tide.
 
There was wailing in the shallop, woman’s wail and man’s despair,
A crash of breaking timbers on the rocks so sharp and bare,
And, through it all, the murmur of Father Avery’s prayer.
 
From his struggle in the darkness with the wild waves and the blast,
On a rock, where every billow broke above him as it passed,
Alone, of all his household, the man of God was cast.
 
There a comrade heard him praying, in the pause of wave and wind:
“All my own have gone before me, and I linger just behind;
Not for life I ask, but only for the rest Thy ransomed find!
 
“In this night of death I challenge the promise of Thy word!—
Let me see the great salvation of which mine ears have heard!—
Let me pass from hence forgiven, through the grace of Christ, our Lord!
 
“In the baptism of these waters wash white my every sin,
And let me follow up to Thee my household and my kin!
Open the sea-gate of Thy heaven, and let me enter in!”
 
When the Christian sings his death-song, all the listening heavens draw near,
And the angels, leaning over the walls of crystal, hear
How the notes so faint and broken swell to music in God’s ear.
 
The ear of God was open to His servant’s last request;
As the strong wave swept him downward the sweet hymn upward pressed,
And the soul of Father Avery went, singing, to its rest.
 
There was wailing on the mainland, from the rocks of Marblehead;
In the stricken church of Newbury the notes of prayer were read;
And long, by board and hearthstone, the living mourned the dead.
 
And still the fishers outbound, or scudding from the squall,
With grave and reverent faces, the ancient tale recall,
When they see the white waves breaking on the Rock of Avery’s Fall!
 
 
The Two Angels
 
 
GOD called the nearest angels who dwell with Him above:
The tenderest one was Pity, the dearest one was Love.
 
“Arise,” He said, “my angels! a wail of woe and sin
Steals through the gates of heaven, and saddens all within.
 
“My harps take up the mournful strain that from a lost world swells,
The smoke of torment clouds the light and blights the asphodels.
 
“Fly downward to that under world, and on its souls of pain
Let Love drop smiles like sunshine, and Pity tears like rain!”
 
Two faces bowed before the Throne, veiled in their golden hair;
Four white wings lessened swiftly down the dark abyss of air.
 
The way was strange, the flight was long; at last the angels came
Where swung the lost and nether world, red-wrapped in rayless flame.
 
There Pity, shuddering, wept; but Love, with faith too strong for fear,
Took heart from God’s almightiness and smiled a smile of cheer.
 
And lo! that tear of Pity quenched the flame whereon it fell,
And, with the sunshine of that smile, hope entered into hell!
 
Two unveiled faces full of joy looked up-ward to the Throne,
Four white wings folded at the feet of Him who sat thereon!
 
And deeper than the sound of seas, more soft than falling flake,
Amidst the hush of wing and song the Voice Eternal spake:
 
“Welcome, my angels! ye have brought a holier joy to heaven;
Henceforth its sweetest song shall be the song of sin forgiven!”
 
 
The Vanishers
 
 
SWEETEST of all childlike dreams
  In the simple Indian lore
Still to me the legend seems
  Of the shapes who flit before.
 
Flitting, passing, seen and gone,
  Never reached nor found at rest,
Baffling search, but beckoning on
  To the Sunset of the Blest.
 
From the clefts of mountain rocks,
  Through the dark of lowland firs,
Flash the eyes and flow the locks
  Of the mystic Vanishers!
 
And the fisher in his skiff,
  And the hunter on the moss,
Hear their call from cape and cliff,
  See their hands the birch-leaves toss.
 
Wistful, longing, through the green
  Twilight of the clustered pines,
In their faces rarely seen
  Beauty more than mortal shines.
 
Fringed with gold their mantles flow
  On the slopes of westering knolls;
In the wind they whisper low
  Of the Sunset Land of Souls.
 
Doubt who may, O friend of mine!
  Thou and I have seen them too;
On before with beck and sign
  Still they glide, and we pursue.
 
More than clouds of purple trail
  In the gold of setting day;
More than gleams of wing or sail
  Beckon from the sea-mist gray.
 
Glimpses of immortal youth,
  Gleams and glories seen and flown,
Far-heard voices sweet with truth,
  Airs from viewless Eden blown;
 
Beauty that eludes our grasp,
  Sweetness that transcends our taste,
Loving hands we may not clasp,
  Shining feet that mock our haste;
 
Gentle eyes we closed below,
  Tender voices heard once more,
Smile and call us, as they go
  On and onward, still before.
 
Guided thus, O friend of mine!
  Let us walk our little way,
Knowing by each beckoning sign
  That we are not quite astray.
 
Chase we still, with baffled feet,
  Smiling eye and waving hand,
Sought and seeker soon shall meet,
  Lost and found, in Sunset Land!
 
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