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Best Famous John Greenleaf Whittier Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous John Greenleaf Whittier poems. This is a select list of the best famous John Greenleaf Whittier poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous John Greenleaf Whittier poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of John Greenleaf Whittier poems.

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12
Written by John Greenleaf Whittier | Create an image from this poem

Burning Drift-Wood

Before my drift-wood fire I sit, 
And see, with every waif I burn, 
Old dreams and fancies coloring it, 
And folly's unlaid ghosts return.
O ships of mine, whose swift keels cleft The enchanted sea on which they sailed, Are these poor fragments only left Of vain desires and hopes that failed? Did I not watch from them the light Of sunset on my towers in Spain, And see, far off, uploom in sight The Fortunate Isles I might not gain? Did sudden lift of fog reveal Arcadia's vales of song and spring, And did I pass, with grazing keel, The rocks whereon the sirens sing? Have I not drifted hard upon The unmapped regions lost to man, The cloud-pitched tents of Prester John, The palace domes of Kubla Khan? Did land winds blow from jasmine flowers, Where Youth the ageless Fountain fills? Did Love make sign from rose blown bowers, And gold from Eldorado's hills? Alas! the gallant ships, that sailed On blind Adventure's errand sent, Howe'er they laid their courses, failed To reach the haven of Content.
And of my ventures, those alone Which Love had freighted, safely sped, Seeking a good beyond my own, By clear-eyed Duty piloted.
O mariners, hoping still to meet The luck Arabian voyagers met, And find in Bagdad's moonlit street, Haroun al Raschid walking yet, Take with you, on your Sea of Dreams, The fair, fond fancies dear to youth.
I turn from all that only seems, And seek the sober grounds of truth.
What matter that it is not May, That birds have flown, and trees are bare, That darker grows the shortening day, And colder blows the wintry air! The wrecks of passion and desire, The castles I no more rebuild, May fitly feed my drift-wood fire, And warm the hands that age has chilled.
Whatever perished with my ships, I only know the best remains; A song of praise is on my lips For losses which are now my gains.
Heap high my hearth! No worth is lost; No wisdom with the folly dies.
Burn on, poor shreds, your holocaust Shall be my evening sacrifice! Far more than all I dared to dream, Unsought before my door I see; On wings of fire and steeds of steam The world's great wonders come to me, And holier signs, unmarked before, Of Love to seek and Power to save,— The righting of the wronged and poor, The man evolving from the slave; And life, no longer chance or fate, Safe in the gracious Fatherhood.
I fold o'er-wearied hands and wait, In full assurance of the good.
And well the waiting time must be, Though brief or long its granted days, If Faith and Hope and Charity Sit by my evening hearth-fire's blaze.
And with them, friends whom Heaven has spared, Whose love my heart has comforted, And, sharing all my joys, has shared My tender memories of the dead,— Dear souls who left us lonely here, Bound on their last, long voyage, to whom We, day by day, are drawing near, Where every bark has sailing room.
I know the solemn monotone Of waters calling unto me; I know from whence the airs have blown That whisper of the Eternal Sea.
As low my fires of drift-wood burn, I hear that sea's deep sounds increase, And, fair in sunset light, discern Its mirage-lifted Isles of Peace.
Written by John Greenleaf Whittier | Create an image from this poem

The Norsemen ( From Narrative and Legendary Poems )

 GIFT from the cold and silent Past! 
A relic to the present cast, 
Left on the ever-changing strand 
Of shifting and unstable sand, 
Which wastes beneath the steady chime 
And beating of the waves of Time! 
Who from its bed of primal rock 
First wrenched thy dark, unshapely block? 
Whose hand, of curious skill untaught, 
Thy rude and savage outline wrought? 
The waters of my native stream 
Are glancing in the sun's warm beam; 
From sail-urged keel and flashing oar 
The circles widen to its shore; 
And cultured field and peopled town 
Slope to its willowed margin down.
Yet, while this morning breeze is bringing The home-life sound of school-bells ringing, And rolling wheel, and rapid jar Of the fire-winged and steedless car, And voices from the wayside near Come quick and blended on my ear,-- A spell is in this old gray stone, My thoughts are with the Past alone! A change! -- The steepled town no more Stretches along the sail-thronged shore; Like palace-domes in sunset's cloud, Fade sun-gilt spire and mansion proud: Spectrally rising where they stood, I see the old, primeval wood; Dark, shadow-like, on either hand I see its solemn waste expand; It climbs the green and cultured hill, It arches o'er the valley's rill, And leans from cliff and crag to throw Its wild arms o'er the stream below.
Unchanged, alone, the same bright river Flows on, as it will flow forever! I listen, and I hear the low Soft ripple where its water go; I hear behind the panther's cry, The wild-bird's scream goes thrilling by, And shyly on the river's brink The deer is stooping down to drink.
But hard! -- from wood and rock flung back, What sound come up the Merrimac? What sea-worn barks are those which throw The light spray from each rushing prow? Have they not in the North Sea's blast Bowed to the waves the straining mast? Their frozen sails the low, pale sun Of Thulë's night has shone upon; Flapped by the sea-wind's gusty sweep Round icy drift, and headland steep.
Wild Jutland's wives and Lochlin's daughters Have watched them fading o'er the waters, Lessening through driving mist and spray, Like white-winged sea-birds on their way! Onward they glide, -- and now I view Their iron-armed and stalwart crew; Joy glistens in each wild blue eye, Turned to green earth and summer sky.
Each broad, seamed breast has cast aside Its cumbering vest of shaggy hide; Bared to the sun and soft warm air, Streams back the Northmen's yellow hair.
I see the gleam of axe and spear, A sound of smitten shields I hear, Keeping a harsh and fitting time To Saga's chant, and Runic rhyme; Such lays as Zetland's Scald has sung, His gray and naked isles among; Or mutter low at midnight hour Round Odin's mossy stone of power.
The wolf beneath the Arctic moon Has answered to that startling rune; The Gael has heard its stormy swell, The light Frank knows its summons well; Iona's sable-stoled Culdee Has heard it sounding o'er the sea, And swept, with hoary beard and hair, His altar's foot in trembling prayer! 'T is past, -- the 'wildering vision dies In darkness on my dreaming eyes! The forest vanishes in air, Hill-slope and vale lie starkly bare; I hear the common tread of men, And hum of work-day life again; The mystic relic seems alone A broken mass of common stone; And if it be the chiselled limb Of Berserker or idol grim, A fragment of Valhalla's Thor, The stormy Viking's god of War, Or Praga of the Runic lay, Or love-awakening Siona, I know not, -- for no graven line, Nor Druid mark, nor Runic sign, Is left me here, by which to trace Its name, or origin, or place.
Yet, for this vision of the Past, This glance upon its darkness cast, My spirit bows in gratitude Before the Giver of all good, Who fashioned so the human mind, That, from the waste of Time behind, A simple stone, or mound of earth, Can summon the departed forth; Quicken the Past to life again, The Present lose in what hath been, And in their primal freshness show The buried forms of long ago.
As if a portion of that Thought By which the Eternal will is wrought, Whose impulse fills anew with breath The frozen solitude of Death, To mortal mind were sometimes lent, To mortal musing sometimes sent, To whisper -- even when it seems But Memory's fantasy of dreams -- Through the mind's waste of woe and sin, Of an immortal origin!
Written by John Greenleaf Whittier | Create an image from this poem

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, nought 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!
Written by John Greenleaf Whittier | Create an image from this poem

The Pumpkin

 Oh, greenly and fair in the lands of the sun,
The vines of the gourd and the rich melon run,
And the rock and the tree and the cottage enfold,
With broad leaves all greenness and blossoms all gold,
Like that which o'er Nineveh's prophet once grew,
While he waited to know that his warning was true,
And longed for the storm-cloud, and listened in vain
For the rush of the whirlwind and red fire-rain.
On the banks of the Xenil the dark Spanish maiden Comes up with the fruit of the tangled vine laden; And the Creole of Cuba laughs out to behold Through orange-leaves shining the broad spheres of gold; Yet with dearer delight from his home in the North, On the fields of his harvest the Yankee looks forth, Where crook-necks are coiling and yellow fruit shines, And the sun of September melts down on his vines.
Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West, From North and from South comes the pilgrim and guest; When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board The old broken links of affection restored; When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more, And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before; What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye, What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie? Oh, fruit loved of boyhood! the old days recalling, When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling! When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin, Glaring out through the dark with a candle within! When we laughed round the corn-heap, with hearts all in tune, Our chair a broad pumpkin, -- our lantern the moon, Telling tales of the fairy who travelled like steam In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team! Then thanks for thy present! none sweeter or better E'er smoked from an oven or circled a platter! Fairer hands never wrought at a pastry more fine, Brighter eyes never watched o'er its baking, than thine! And the prayer, which my mouth is too full to express, Swells my heart that thy shadow may never be less, That the days of thy lot may be lengthened below, And the fame of thy worth like a pumpkin-vine grow, And thy life be as sweet, and its last sunset sky Golden-tinted and fair as thy own Pumpkin pie!
Written by John Greenleaf Whittier | Create an image from this poem

The Sycamores

 In the outskirts of the village 
On the river's winding shores 
Stand the Occidental plane-trees, 
Stand the ancient sycamores.
One long century hath been numbered, And another half-way told Since the rustic Irish gleeman Broke for them the virgin mould.
Deftly set to Celtic music At his violin's sound they grew, Through the moonlit eves of summer, Making Amphion's fable true.
Rise again, thou poor Hugh Tallant! Pass in erkin green along With thy eyes brim full of laughter, And thy mouth as full of song.
Pioneer of Erin's outcasts With his fiddle and his pack- Little dreamed the village Saxons Of the myriads at his back.
How he wrought with spade and fiddle, Delved by day and sang by night, With a hand that never wearied And a heart forever light,--- Still the gay tradition mingles With a record grave and drear Like the rollic air of Cluny With the solemn march of Mear.
When the box-tree, white with blossoms, Made the sweet May woodlands glad, And the Aronia by the river Lighted up the swarming shad, And the bulging nets swept shoreward With their silver-sided haul, Midst the shouts of dripping fishers, He was merriest of them all.
When, among the jovial huskers Love stole in at Labor's side With the lusty airs of England Soft his Celtic measures vied.
Songs of love and wailing lyke-wake And the merry fair's carouse; Of the wild Red Fox of Erin And the Woman of Three Cows, By the blazing hearths of winter Pleasant seemed his simple tales, Midst the grimmer Yorkshire legends And the mountain myths of Wales.
How the souls in Purgatory Scrambled up from fate forlorn On St.
Keven's sackcloth ladder Slyly hitched to Satan's horn.
Of the fiddler who at Tara Played all night to ghosts of kings; Of the brown dwarfs, and the fairies Dancing in their moorland rings! Jolliest of our birds of singing Best he loved the Bob-o-link.
"Hush!" he'd say, "the tipsy fairies! Hear the little folks in drink!" Merry-faced, with spade and fiddle, Singing through the ancient town, Only this, of poor Hugh Tallant Hath Tradtion handed down.
Not a stone his grave discloses; But if yet his spirit walks Tis beneath the trees he planted And when Bob-o-Lincoln talks.
Green memorials of the gleeman! Linking still the river-shores, With their shadows cast by sunset Stand Hugh Tallant's sycamores! When the Father of his Country Through the north-land riding came And the roofs were starred with banners, And the steeples rang acclaim,--- When each war-scarred Continental Leaving smithy, mill,.
and farm, Waved his rusted sword in welcome, And shot off his old king's-arm,--- Slowly passed that august Presence Down the thronged and shouting street; Village girls as white as angels Scattering flowers around his feet.
Midway, where the plane-tree's shadow Deepest fell, his rein he drew: On his stately head, uncovered, Cool and soft the west-wind blew.
And he stood up in his stirrups, Looking up and looking down On the hills of Gold and Silver Rimming round the little town,--- On the river, full of sunshine, To the lap of greenest vales Winding down from wooded headlands, Willow-skirted, white with sails.
And he said, the landscape sweeping Slowly with his ungloved hand "I have seen no prospect fairer In this goodly Eastern land.
" Then the bugles of his escort Stirred to life the cavalcade: And that head, so bare and stately Vanished down the depths of shade.
Ever since, in town and farm-house, Life has had its ebb and flow; Thrice hath passed the human harvest To its garner green and low.
But the trees the gleeman planted, Through the changes, changeless stand; As the marble calm of Tadmor Mocks the deserts shifting sand.
Still the level moon at rising Silvers o'er each stately shaft; Still beneath them, half in shadow, Singing, glides the pleasure craft; Still beneath them, arm-enfolded, Love and Youth together stray; While, as heart to heart beats faster, More and more their feet delay.
Where the ancient cobbler, Keezar, On the open hillside justice wrought, Singing, as he drew his stitches, Songs his German masters taught.
Singing, with his gray hair floating Round a rosy ample face,--- Now a thousand Saxon craftsmen Stitch and hammer in his place.
All the pastoral lanes so grassy Now are Traffic's dusty streets; From the village, grown a city, Fast the rural grace retreats.
But, still green and tall and stately, On the river's winding shores, Stand the occidental plane-trees, Stand Hugh Tallant's sycamores.
Written by John Greenleaf Whittier | Create an image from this poem

My Triumph

 The autumn-time has come; 
On woods that dream of bloom, 
And over purpling vines, 
The low sun fainter shines.
The aster-flower is failing, The hazel's gold is paling; Yet overhead more near The eternal stars appear! And present gratitude Insures the future's good, And for the things I see I trust the things to be; That in the paths untrod, And the long days of God, My feet shall still be led, My heart be comforted.
O living friends who love me! O dear ones gone above me! Careless of other fame, I leave to you my name.
Hide it from idle praises, Save it from evil phrases: Why, when dear lips that spake it Are dumb, should strangers wake it? Let the thick curtain fall; I better know than all How little I have gained, How vast the unattained.
Not by the page word-painted Let life be banned or sainted: Deeper than written scroll The colors of the soul.
Sweeter than any sung My songs that found no tongue; Nobler than any fact My wish that failed of act.
Others shall sing the song, Others shall right the wrong, -- Finish what I begin, And all I fail of win.
What matter, I or they? Mine or another's day, So the right word be said And life the sweeter made? Hail to the coming singers! Hail to the brave light-bringers! Forward I reach and share All that they sing and dare.
The airs of heaven blow o'er me; A glory shines before me Of what mankind shall be, -- Pure, generous, brave, and free.
A dream of man and woman Diviner but still human, Solving the riddle old, Shaping the Age of Gold! The love of God and neighbor; An equal-handed labor; The richer life, where beauty Walks hand in hand with duty.
Ring, bells in unreared steeples, The joy of unborn peoples! Sound, trumpets far off blown, Your triumph is my own! Parcel and part of all, I keep the festival, Fore-reach the good to be, And share the victory.
I feel the earth move sunward, I join the great march onward, And take, by faith, while living, My freehold of thanksgiving.
Written by John Greenleaf Whittier | Create an image from this poem

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 bruised 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!
Written by John Greenleaf Whittier | Create an image from this poem

A Word for the Hour

 The firmament breaks up.
In black eclipse Light after light goes out.
One evil star, Luridly glaring through the smoke of war, As in the dream of the Apocalypse, Drags others down.
Let us not weakly weep Nor rashly threaten.
Give us grace to keep Our faith and patience; wherefore should we leap On one hand into fratricidal fight, Or, on the other, yield eternal right, Frame lies of laws, and good and ill confound? What fear we? Safe on freedom's vantage ground Our feet are planted; let us there remain In unrevengeful calm, no means untried Which truth can sanction, no just claim denied, The sad spectators of a suicide! They break the lines of Union: shall we light The fires of hell to weld anew the chain On that red anvil where each blow is pain? Draw we not even now a freer breath, As from our shoulders falls a load of death Loathsome as that the Tuscan's victim bore When keen with life to a dead horror bound? Why take we up the accursed thing again? Pity, forgive, but urge them back no more Who, drunk with passion, flaunt disunion's rag With its vile reptile blazon.
Let us press The golden cluster on our brave old flag In closer union, and, if numbering less, Brighter shall shine the stars which still remain.
Written by John Greenleaf Whittier | Create an image from this poem

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!
Written by John Greenleaf Whittier | Create an image from this poem

Telling the Bees

 Here is the place; right over the hill 
Runs the path I took; 
You can see the gap in the old wall still, 
And the stepping-stones in the shallow brook.
There is the house, with the gate red-barred, And the poplars tall; And the barn's brown length, and the cattle-yard, And the white horns tossing above the wall.
There are the beehives ranged in the sun; And down by the brink Of the brook are her poor flowers, weed-o'errun, Pansy and daffodil, rose and pink.
A year has gone, as the tortoise goes, Heavy and slow; And the same rose blows, and the same sun glows, And the same brook sings of a year ago.
There 's the same sweet clover-smell in the breeze; And the June sun warm Tangles his wings of fire in the trees, Setting, as then, over Fernside farm.
I mind me how with a lover's care From my Sunday coat I brushed off the burrs, and smoothed my hair, And cooled at the brookside my brow and throat.
Since we parted, a month had passed, -- To love, a year; Down through the beeches I looked at last On the little red gate and the well-sweep near.
I can see it all now, -- the slantwise rain Of light through the leaves, The sundown's blaze on her window-pane, The bloom of her roses under the eaves.
Just the same as a month before, -- The house and the trees, The barn's brown gable, the vine by the door, -- Nothing changed but the hives of bees.
Before them, under the garden wall, Forward and back, Went drearily singing the chore-girl small, Draping each hive with a shred of black.
Trembling, I listened: the summer sun Had the chill of snow; For I knew she was telling the bees of one Gone on the journey we all must go! Then I said to myself, "My Mary weeps For the dead to-day: Haply her blind old grandsire sleeps The fret and the pain of his age away.
" But her dog whined low; on the doorway sill, With his cane to his chin, The old man sat; and the chore-girl still Sung to the bees stealing out and in.
And the song she was singing ever since In my ear sounds on: -- "Stay at home, pretty bees, fly not hence! Mistress Mary is dead and gone!"
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