John Greenleaf Whittier |
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.
John Greenleaf Whittier |
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!
John Greenleaf Whittier |
So fallen! so lost! the light withdrawn
Which once he wore!
The glory from his gray hairs gone
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,
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!
John Greenleaf Whittier |
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!
John Greenleaf Whittier |
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.
John Greenleaf Whittier |
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
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,.
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.
John Greenleaf Whittier |
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!
John Greenleaf Whittier |
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.
John Greenleaf Whittier |
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!
John Greenleaf Whittier |
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!"
John Greenleaf Whittier |
Up from the meadows rich with corn,
Clear in the cool September morn,
The clustered spires of Frederick stand
Green-walled by the hills of Maryland.
Round about them orchards sweep,
Apple and peach tree fruited deep,
Fair as the garden of the Lord
To the eyes of the famished rebel horde,
On that pleasant morn of the early fall
When Lee marched over the mountain-wall;
Over the mountains winding down,
Horse and foot, into Frederick town.
Forty flags with their silver stars,
Forty flags with their crimson bars,
Flapped in the morning wind: the sun
Of noon looked down, and saw not one.
Up rose old Barbara Frietchie then,
Bowed with her fourscore years and ten;
Bravest of all in Frederick town,
She took up the flag the men hauled down;
In her attic window the staff she set,
To show that one heart was loyal yet,
Up the street came the rebel tread,
Stonewall Jackson riding ahead.
Under his slouched hat left and right
He glanced; the old flag met his sight.
'Halt!' - the dust-brown ranks stood fast.
'Fire!' - out blazed the rifle-blast.
It shivered the window, pane and sash;
It rent the banner with seam and gash.
Quick, as it fell, from the broken staff
Dame Barbara snatched the silken scarf.
She leaned far out on the window-sill,
And shook it forth with a royal will.
'Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country's flag,' she said.
A shade of sadness, a blush of shame,
Over the face of the leader came;
The nobler nature within him stirred
To life at that woman's deed and word;
'Who touches a hair of yon gray head
Dies like a dog! March on! he said.
All day long through Frederick street
Sounded the tread of marching feet:
All day long that free flag tost
Over the heads of the rebel host.
Ever its torn folds rose and fell
On the loyal winds that loved it well;
And through the hill-gaps sunset light
Shone over it with a warm good-night.
Barbara Frietchie's work is o'er,
And the Rebel rides on his raids nor more.
Honor to her! and let a tear
Fall, for her sake, on Stonewalls' bier.
Over Barbara Frietchie's grave,
Flag of Freedom and Union, wave!
Peace and order and beauty draw
Round they symbol of light and law;
And ever the stars above look down
On thy stars below in Frederick town!
John Greenleaf Whittier |
The blast from Freedom's Northern hills, upon its Southern way,
Bears greeting to Virginia from Massachusetts Bay:
No word of haughty challenging, nor battle bugle's peal,
Nor steady tread of marching files, nor clang of horsemen's steel,
No trains of deep-mouthed cannon along our highways go;
Around our silent arsenals untrodden lies the snow;
And to the land-breeze of our ports, upon their errands far,
A thousand sails of commerce swell, but none are spread for war.
We hear thy threats, Virginia! thy stormy words and high
Swell harshly on the Southern winds which melt along our sky;
Yet not one brown, hard hand foregoes its honest labor here,
No hewer of our mountain oaks suspends his axe in fear.
Wild are the waves which lash the reefs along St.
Cold on the shores of Labrador the fog lies white and dank;
Through storm, and wave, and blinding mist, stout are the hearts which man
The fishing-smacks of Marblehead, the sea-boats of Cape Ann.
The cold north light and wintry sun glare on their icy forms,
Bent grimly o'er their straining lines or wrestling with the storms;
Free as the winds they drive before, rough as the waves they roam,
They laugh to scorn the slaver's threat against their rocky home.
What means the Old Dominion? Hath she forgot the day
When o'er her conquered valleys swept the Briton's steel array?
How, side by side with sons of hers, the Massachusetts men
Encountered Tarleton's charge of fire, and stout Cornwallis, then?
Forgets she how the Bay State, in answer to the call
Of her old House of Burgesses, spoke out from Faneuil Hall?
When, echoing back her Henry's cry, came pulsing on each breath
Of Northern winds the thrilling sounds of 'Liberty or Death!'
What asks the Old Dominion? If now her sons have proved
False to their fathers' memory, false to the faith they loved;
If she can scoff at Freedom, and its great charter spurn,
Must we of Massachusetts from truth and duty turn?
We hunt your bondmen, flying from Slavery's hateful hell;
Our voices, at your bidding, take up the bloodhound's yell;
We gather, at your summons, above our fathers' graves,
From Freedom's holy altar-horns to tear your wretched slaves!
Thank God! not yet so vilely can Massachusetts bow;
The spirit of her early time is with her even now;
Dream not because her Pilgrim blood moves slow and calm and cool,
She thus can stoop her chainless neck, a sister's slave and tool!
All that a sister State should do, all that a free State may,
Heart, hand, and purse we proffer, as in our early day;
But that one dark loathsome burden ye must stagger with alone,
And reap the bitter harvest which ye yourselves have sown!
Hold, while ye may, your struggling slaves, and burden God's free air
With woman's shriek beneath the lash, and manhood's wild despair;
Cling closer to the 'cleaving curse' that writes upon your plains
The blasting of Almighty wrath against a land of chains.
Still shame your gallant ancestry, the cavaliers of old,
By watching round the shambles where human flesh is sold;
Gloat o'er the new-born child, and count his market value, when
The maddened mother's cry of woe shall pierce the slaver's den!
Lower than plummet soundeth, sink the Virginia name;
Plant, if ye will, your fathers' graves with rankest weeds of shame;
Be, if ye will, the scandal of God's fair universe;
We wash our hands forever of your sin and shame and curse.
A voice from lips whereon the coal from Freedom's shrine hath been,
Thrilled, as but yesterday, the hearts of Berkshire's mountain men:
The echoes of that solemn voice are sadly lingering still
In all our sunny valleys, on every wind-swept hill.
And when the prowling man-thief came hunting for his prey
Beneath the very shadow of Bunker's shaft of gray,
How, through the free lips of the son, the father's warning spoke;
How, from its bonds of trade and sect, the Pilgrim city broke!
A hundred thousand right arms were lifted up on high,
A hundred thousand voices sent back their loud reply;
Through the thronged towns of Essex the startling summons rang,
And up from bench and loom and wheel her young mechanics sprang!
The voice of free, broad Middlesex, of thousands as of one,
The shaft of Bunker calling to that Lexington;
From Norfolk's ancient villages, from Plymouth's rocky bound
To where Nantucket feels the arms of ocean close to her round;
From rich and rural Worcester, where through the calm repose
Of cultured vales and fringing woods the gentle Nashua flows,
To where Wachuset's wintry blasts the mountain larches stir,
Swelled up to Heaven the thrilling cry of 'God save Latimer!'
And sandy Barnstable rose up, wet with the salt sea spray;
And Bristol sent her answering shout down Narragansett Bay!
Along the broad Connecticut old Hampden felt the thrill,
And the cheer of Hampshire's woodmen swept down from Holyoke Hill.
The voice of Massachusetts! Of her free sons and daughters,
Deep calling unto deep aloud, the sound of many waters!
Against the burden of that voice what tyrant power shall stand?
No fetters in the Bay State! No slave upon her land!
Look to it well, Virginians! In calmness we have borne,
In answer to our faith and trust, your insult and your scorn;
You've spurned our kindest counsels; you've hunted for our lives;
And shaken round our hearths and homes your manacles and gyves!
We wage no war, we lift no arm, we fling no torch within
The fire-damps of the quaking mine beneath your soil of sin;
We leave ye with your bondmen, to wrestle, while ye can,
With the strong upward tendencies and God-like soul of man!
But for us and for our children, the vow which we have given
For freedom and humanity is registered in heaven;
No slave-hunt in our borders, - no pirate on our strand!
No fetters in the Bay State, - no slave upon our land!
John Greenleaf Whittier |
Is this the land our fathers loved,
The freedom which they toiled to win?
Is this the soil whereon they moved?
Are these the graves they slumber in?
Are we the sons by whom are borne
The mantles which the dead have worn?
And shall we crouch above these graves,
With craven soul and fettered lip?
Yoke in with marked and branded slaves,
And tremble at the driver's whip?
Bend to the earth our pliant knees,
And speak but as our masters please?
Shall outraged Nature cease to feel?
Shall Mercy's tears no longer flow?
Shall ruffian threats of cord and steel,
The dungeon's gloom, the assassin's blow,
Turn back the spirit roused to save
The Truth, our Country, and the slave?
Of human skulls that shrine was made,
Round which the priests of Mexico
Before their loathsome idol prayed;
Is Freedom's altar fashioned so?
And must we yield to Freedom's God,
As offering meet, the negro's blood?
Shall tongue be mute, when deeds are wrought
Which well might shame extremest hell?
Shall freemem lock the indignant thought?
Shall Pity's bosom cease to swell?
Shall Honor bleed?- shall Truth succumb?
Shall pen, and press, and soul be dumb?
No; by each spot of haunted ground,
Where Freedom weeps her children's fall;
By Plymouth's rock, and Bunker's mound;
By Griswold's stained and shattered wall;
By Warren's ghost, by Langdon's shade;
By all the memories of our dead!
By their enlarging souls, which burst
The bands and fetters round them set;
By the free Pilgrim spirit nursed
Within our inmost bosoms, yet,
By all above, around, below,
Be ours the indignant answer,- No!
No; guided by our country's laws,
For truth, and right, and suffering man,
Be ours to strive in Freedom's cause,
As Christians may, as freemen can!
Still pouring on unwilling ears
That truth oppression only fears.
What! shall we guard our neighbor still,
While woman shrieks beneath his rod,
And while he trampels down at will
The image of a common God?
Shall watch and ward be round him set,
Of Northern nerve and bayonet?
And shall we know and share with him
The danger and the growing shame?
And see our Freedom's light grow dim,
Which should have filled the world with flame?
And, writhing, feel, where'er we turn,
A world's reproach around us burn?
Is't not enough that this is borne?
And asks our haughty neighbor more?
Must fetters which his slaves have worn
Clank round the Yankee farmer's door?
Must he be told, beside his plough,
What he must speak, and when, and how?
Must he be told his freedom stands
On Slavery's dark foundations strong;
On breaking hearts and fettered hands,
On robbery, and crime, and wrong?
That all his fathers taught is vain,-
That Freedom's emblem is the chain?
Its life, its soul, from slavery drawn!
False, foul, profane! Go, teach as well
Of holy Truth from Falsehood born!
Of Heaven refreshed by airs from Hell!
Of Virtue in the arms of Vice!
Of Demons planting Paradise!
Rail on, then, brethren of the South,
Ye shall not hear the truth the less;
No seal is on the Yankee's mouth,
No fetter on the Yankee's press!
From our Green Mountains to the sea,
One voice shall thunder, We are free!
John Greenleaf Whittier |
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 gleee
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 pointed 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, and 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 a 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 the maiden, alas for the Judge,
For rich repiner and househole 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!
John Greenleaf Whittier |
Immortal love, forever full,
Forever flowing free,
Forever shared, forever whole,
A never ebbing sea!
Our outward lips confess the name
All other names above;
Love only knoweth whence it came,
And comprehendeth love.
Blow, winds of God, awake and blow
The mists of earth away:
Shine out, O Light divine, and show
How wide and far we stray.
We may not climb the heavenly steeps
To bring the Lord Christ down;
In vain we search the lowest deeps,
For Him no depths can drown.
But warm, sweet, tender, even yet,
A present help is He;
And faith still has its Olivet,
And love its Galilee.
The healing of His seamless dress
Is by our beds of pain;
We touch Him in life’s throng and press,
And we are whole again.
Through Him the first fond prayers are said
Our lips of childhood frame,
The last low whispers of our dead
Are burdened with His Name.
O Lord and Master of us all,
Whate’er our name or sign,
We own Thy sway, we hear Thy call,
We test our lives by Thine.
The letter fails, the systems fall,
And every symbol wanes;
The Spirit over brooding all,
Eternal Love remains.