The Dead Ship Of Harpswell
What flecks the outer gray beyond
The sundown's golden trail?
The white flash of a sea-bird's wing,
Or gleam of slanting sail?
Let young eyes watch from Neck and Point,
And sea-worn elders pray,--
The ghost of what was once a ship
Is sailing up the bay.
From gray sea-fog, from icy drift,
From peril and from pain,
The home-bound fisher greets thy lights,
O hundred-harbored Maine!
But many a keel shall seaward turn,
And many a sail outstand,
When, tall and white, the Dead Ship looms
Against the dusk of land.
She rounds the headland's bristling pines;
She threads the isle-set bay;
No spur of breeze can speed her on,
Nor ebb of tide delay.
Old men still walk the Isle of Orr
Who tell her date and name,
Old shipwrights sit in Freeport yards
Who hewed her oaken frame.
What weary doom of baffled quest,
Thou sad sea-ghost, is thine?
What makes thee in the haunts of home
A wonder and a sign?
No foot is on thy silent deck,
Upon thy helm no hand;
No ripple hath the soundless wind
That smites thee from the land!
For never comes the ship to port,
Howe'er the breeze may be;
Just when she nears the waiting shore
She drifts again to sea.
No tack of sail, nor turn of helm,
Nor sheer of veering side;
Stern-fore she drives to sea and night,
Against the wind and tide.
In vain o'er Harpswell Neck the star
Of evening guides her in;
In vain for her the lamps are lit
Within thy tower, Seguin!
In vain the harbor-boat shall hail,
In vain the pilot call;
No hand shall reef her spectral sail,
Or let her anchor fall.
Shake, brown old wives, with dreary joy,
Your gray-head hints of ill;
And, over sick-beds whispering low,
Your prophecies fulfil.
Some home amid yon birchen trees
Shall drape its door with woe;
And slowly where the Dead Ship sails,
The burial boat shall row!
From Wolf Neck and from Flying Point,
From island and from main,
From sheltered cove and tided creek,
Shall glide the funeral train.
The dead-boat with the bearers four,
The mourners at her stern,--
And one shall go the silent way
Who shall no more return!
And men shall sigh, and women weep,
Whose dear ones pale and pine,
And sadly over sunset seas
Await the ghostly sign.
They know not that its sails are filled
By pity's tender breath,
Nor see the Angel at the helm
Who steers the Ship of Death!
. . . . .
'Chill as a down-east breeze should be,'
The Book-man said. 'A ghostly touch
The legend has. I'm glad to see
Your flying Yankee beat the Dutch.'
'Well, here is something of the sort
Which one midsummer day I caught
In Narragansett Bay, for lack of fish.'
'We wait,' the Traveller said;
'serve hot or cold your dish.'
The Brewing Of Soma
The fagots blazed, the caldron's smoke
Up through the green wood curled;
'Bring honey from the hollow oak,
Bring milky sap,' the brewers spoke,
In the childhood of the world.
And brewed they well or brewed they ill,
The priests thrust in their rods,
First tasted, and then drank their fill,
And shouted, with one voice and will,
'Behold the drink of gods!'
They drank, and to! in heart and brain
A new, glad life began;
The gray of hair grew young again,
The sick man laughed away his pain,
The cripple leaped and ran.
'Drink, mortals, what the gods have sent,
Forget your long annoy.'
So sang the priests. From tent to tent
The Soma's sacred madness went,
A storm of drunken joy.
Then knew each rapt inebriate
A winged and glorious birth,
Soared upward, with strange joy elate,
Beat, with dazed head, Varuna's gate,
And, sobered, sank to earth.
The land with Soma's praises rang;
On Gihon's banks of shade
Its hymns the dusky maidens sang;
In joy of life or mortal pang
All men to Soma prayed.
The morning twilight of the race
Sends down these matin psalms;
And still with wondering eyes we trace
The simple prayers to Soma's grace,
That Vedic verse embalms.
As in that child-world's early year,
Each after age has striven
By music, incense, vigils drear,
And trance, to bring the skies more near,
Or lift men up to heaven!
Some fever of the blood and brain,
Some self-exalting spell,
The scourger's keen delight of pain,
The Dervish dance, the Orphic strain,
The wild-haired Bacchant's yell,--
The desert's hair-grown hermit sunk
The saner brute below;
The naked Santon, hashish-drunk,
The cloister madness of the monk,
The fakir's torture-show!
And yet the past comes round again,
And new doth old fulfil;
In sensual transports wild as vain
We brew in many a Christian fane
The heathen Soma still!
Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.
In simple trust like theirs who heard
Beside the Syrian sea
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word,
Rise up and follow Thee.
O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity
Interpreted by love!
With that deep hush subduing all
Our words and works that drown
The tender whisper of Thy call,
As noiseless let Thy blessing fall
As fell Thy manna down.
Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm!
ALL grim and soiled and brown with tan,
I saw a Strong One, in his wrath,
Smiting the godless shrines of man
Along his path.
The Church, beneath her trembling dome,
Essayed in vain her ghostly charm:
Wealth shook within his gilded home
With strange alarm.
Fraud from his secret chambers fled
Before the sunlight bursting in:
Sloth drew her pillow o'er her head
To drown the din.
'Spare,' Art implored, 'yon holy pile;
That grand, old, time-worn turret spare;'
Meek Reverence, kneeling in the aisle,
Cried out, 'Forbear!'
Gray-bearded Use, who, deaf and blind,
Groped for his old accustomed stone,
Leaned on his staff, and wept to find
His seat o'erthrown.
Young Romance raised his dreamy eyes,
O'erhung with paly locks of gold, —
'Why smite,' he asked in sad surprise,
'The fair, the old?'
Yet louder rang the Strong One's stroke,
Yet nearer flashed his axe's gleam;
Shuddering and sick of heart I woke,
As from a dream.
I looked: aside the dust-cloud rolled,
The Waster seemed the Builder too;
Upspringing from the ruined Old
I saw the New.
'T was but the ruin of the bad, —
The wasting of the wrong and ill;
Whate'er of good the old time had
Was living still.
Calm grew the brows of him I feared;
The frown which awed me passed away,
And left behind a smile which cheered
Like breaking day.
The grain grew green on battle-plains,
O'er swarded war-mounds grazed the cow;
The slave stood forging from his chains
The spade and plough.
Where frowned the fort, pavilions gay
And cottage windows, flower-entwined,
Looked out upon the peaceful bay
And hills behind.
Through vine-wreathed cups with wine once red,
The lights on brimming crystal fell,
Drawn, sparkling, from the rivulet head
And mossy well.
Through prison walls, like Heaven-sent hope,
Fresh breezes blew, and sunbeams strayed,
And with the idle gallows-rope
The young child played.
Where the doomed victim in his cell
Had counted o'er the weary hours,
Glad school-girls, answering to the bell,
Came crowed with flowers.
Grown wiser for the lesson given,
I fear no longer, for I know
That, where the share is deepest driven,
The best fruits grow.
The outworn rite, the old abuse,
The pious fraud transparent grown,
The good held captive in the use
Of wrong alone, —
These wait their doom, from that great law
Which makes the past time serve to-day;
And fresher life the world shall draw
From their decay.
Oh, backward-looking son of time!
The new is old, the old is new,
The cycle of a change sublime
Still sweeping through.
So wisely taught the Indian seer;
Destroying Seva, forming Brahm,
Who wake by turns Earth's love and fear,
Are one, the same.
Idly as thou, in that old day
Thou mournest, did thy sire repine;
So, in his time, thy child grown gray
Shall sigh for thine.
But life shall on and upward go;
Th' eternal step of Progress beats
To that great anthem, calm and slow,
Which God repeats.
Take heart! the Waster builds again, —
A charmëd life old Goodness hath;
The tares may perish, but the grain
Is not for death.
God works in all things; all obey
His first propulsion from the night:
Wake thou and watch! the world is gray
With morning light!
The Prisoners Of Naples
I HAVE been thinking of the victims bound
In Naples, dying for the lack of air
And sunshine, in their close, damp cells of pain,
Where hope is not, and innocence in vain
Appeals against the torture and the chain!
Unfortunates! whose crime it was to share
Our common love of freedom, and to dare,
In its behalf, Rome's harlot triple-crowned,
And her base pander, the most hateful thing
Who upon Christian or on Pagan ground
Makes vile the old heroic name of king.
O God most merciful! Father just and kind!
Whom man hath bound let thy right hand unbind.
Or, if thy purposes of good behind
Their ills lie hidden, let the sufferers find
Strong consolations; leave them not to doubt
Thy providential care, nor yet without
The hope which all thy attributes inspire,
That not in vain the martyr's robe of fire
Is worn, nor the sad prisoner's fretting chain;
Since all who suffer for thy truth send forth,
Electrical, with every throb of pain,
Unquenchable sparks, thy own baptismal rain
Of fire and spirit over all the earth,
Making the dead in slavery live again.
Let this great hope be with them, as they lie
Shut from the light, the greenness, and the sky;
From the cool waters and the pleasant breeze,
The smell of flowers, and shade of summer trees;
Bound with the felon lepers, whom disease
And sins abhorred make loathsome; let them share
Pellico's faith, Foresti's strength to bear
Years of unutterable torment, stern and still,
As the chained Titan victor through his will!
Comfort them with thy future; let them see
The day-dawn of Italian liberty;
For that, with all good things, is hid with Thee,
And, perfect in thy thought, awaits its time to be!
I, who have spoken for freedom at the cost
Of some weak friendships, or some paltry prize
Of name or place, and more than I have lost
Have gained in wider reach of sympathies,
And free communion with the good and wise;
May God forbid that I should ever boast
Such easy self-denial, or repine
That the strong pulse of health no more is mine;
That, overworn at noonday, I must yield
To other hands the gleaning of the field;
A tired on-looker through the day's decline.
For blest beyond deserving still, and knowing
That kindly Providence its care is showing
In the withdrawal as in the bestowing,
Scarcely I dare for more or less to pray.
Beautiful yet for me this autumn day
Melts on its sunset hills; and, far away,
For me the Ocean lifts its solemn psalm,
To me the pine-woods whisper; and for me
Yon river, winding through its vales of calm,
By greenest banks, with asters purple-starred,
And gentian bloom and golden-rod made gay,
Flows down in silent gladness to the sea,
Like a pure spirit to its great reward!
Nor lack I friends, long-tried and near and dear,
Whose love is round me like this atmosphere,
Warm, soft, and golden. For such gifts to me
What shall I render, O my God, to thee?
Let me not dwell upon my lighter share
Of pain and ill that human life must bear;
Save me from selfish pining; let my heart,
Drawn from itself in sympathy, forget
The bitter longings of a vain regret,
The anguish of its own peculiar smart.
Remembering others, as I have to-day,
In their great sorrows, let me live alway
Not for myself alone, but have a part,
Such as a frail and erring spirit may,
In love which is of Thee, and which indeed Thou art!
THE suns of eighteen centuries have shone
Since the Redeemer walked with man, and made
The fisher's boat, the cavern's floor of stone,
And mountain moss, a pillow for His head;
And He, who wandered with the peasant Jew,
And broke with publicans the bread of shame,
And drank with blessings, in His Father's name,
The water which Samaria's outcast drew,
Hath now His temples upon every shore,
Altar and shrine and priest; and incense dim
Evermore rising, with low prayer and hymn,
From lips which press the temple's marble floor,
Or kiss the gilded sign of the dread cross He bore.
Yet as of old, when, meekly 'doing good,'
He fed a blind and selfish multitude,
And even the poor companions of His lot
With their dim earthly vision knew Him not,
How ill are His high teachings understood!
Where He hath spoken Liberty, the priest
At His own altar binds the chain anew;
Where He hath bidden to Life's equal feast,
The starving many wait upon the few;
Where He hath spoken Peace, His name hath been
The loudest war-cry of contending men;
Priests, pale with vigils, in His name have blessed
The unsheathed sword, and laid the spear in rest,
Wet the war-banner with their sacred wine,
And crossed its blazon with the holy sign;
Yea, in His name who bade the erring live,
And daily taught His lesson, to forgive!
Twisted the cord and edged the murderous steel;
And, with His words of mercy on their lips,
Hung gloating o'er the pincer's burning grips,
And the grim horror of the straining wheel;
Fed the slow flame which gnawed the victim's limb,
Who saw before his searing eyeballs swim
The image of their Christ in cruel zeal,
Through the black torment-smoke, held mockingly to him!
The blood which mingled with the desert sand,
And beaded with its red and ghastly dew
The vines and olives of the Holy Land;
The shrieking curses of the hunted Jew;
The white-sown bones of heretics, where'er
They sank beneath the Crusade's holy spear;
Goa's dark dungeons, Malta's sea-washed cell,
Where with the hymns the ghostly fathers sung
Mingled the groans by subtle torture wrung,
Heaven's anthem blending with the shriek of hell!
The midnight of Bartholomew, the stake
Of Smithfield, and that thrice-accursed flame
Which Calvin kindled by Geneva's lake;
New England's scaffold, and the priestly sneer
Which mocked its victims in that hour of fear,
When guilt itself a human tear might claim, —
Bear witness, O Thou wronged and merciful One!
That Earth's most hateful crimes have in Thy name been done!
Thank God! that I have lived to see the time
When the great truth begins at last to find
An utterance from the deep heart of mankind,
Earnest and clear, that all Revenge is Crime,
That man is holier than a creed, that all
Restraint upon him must consult his good,
Hope's sunshine linger on his prison wall,
And Love look in upon his solitude.
The beautiful lesson which our Saviour taught
Through long, dark centuries its way hath wrought
Into the common mind and popular thought;
And words, to which by Galilee's lake shore
The humble fishers listened with hushed oar,
Have found an echo in the general heart,
And of the public faith become a living part.
Who shall arrest this tendency? Bring back
The cells of Venice and the bigot's rack?
Harden the softening human heart again
To cold indifference to a brother's pain?
Ye most unhappy men! who, turned away
From the mild sunshine of the Gospel day,
Grope in the shadows of Man's twilight time,
What mean ye, that with ghoul-like zest ye brood,
O'er those foul altars streaming with warm blood,
Permitted in another age and clime?
Why cite that law with which the bigot Jew
Rebuked the Pagan's mercy, when he knew
No evil in the Just One? Wherefore turn
To the dark, cruel past? Can ye not learn
From the pure Teacher's life how mildly free
Is the great Gospel of Humanity?
The Flamen's knife is bloodless, and no more
Mexitli's altars soak with human gore,
No more the ghastly sacrifices smoke
Through the green arches of the Druid's oak;
And ye of milder faith, with your high claim.
Of prophet-utterance in the Holiest name,
Will ye become the Druids of our time!
Set up your scaffold-altars in our land,
And, consecrators of Law's darkest crime,
Urge to its loathsome work the hangman's hand?
Beware, lest human nature, roused at last,
From its peeled shoulder your encumbrance cast,
And, sick to loathing of your cry for blood,
Rank ye with those who led their victims round
The Celt's red altar and the Indian's mound,
Abhorred of Earth and Heaven, a pagan brotherhood!
Nauhaught, The Deacon
NAUHAUGHT, the Indian deacon, who of old
Dwelt, poor but blameless, where his narrowing Cape
Stretches its shrunk arm out to all the winds
And the relentless smiting of the waves,
Awoke one morning from a pleasant dream
Of a good angel dropping in his hand
A fair, broad gold-piece, in the name of God.
He rose and went forth with the early day
Far inland, where the voices of the waves
Mellowed and Mingled with the whispering leaves,
As, through the tangle of the low, thick woods,
He searched his traps. Therein nor beast nor bird
He found; though meanwhile in the reedy pools
The otter plashed, and underneath the pines
The partridge drummed: and as his thoughts went back
To the sick wife and little child at home,
What marvel that the poor man felt his faith
Too weak to bear its burden,--like a rope
That, strand by strand uncoiling, breaks above
The hand that grasps it. 'Even now, O Lord!
Send me,' he prayed, 'the angel of my dream!
Nauhaught is very poor; he cannot wait.'
Even as he spake he heard at his bare feet
A low, metallic clink, and, looking down,
He saw a dainty purse with disks of gold
Crowding its silken net. Awhile he held
The treasure up before his eyes, alone
With his great need, feeling the wondrous coins
Slide through his eager fingers, one by one.
So then the dream was true. The angel brought
One broad piece only; should he take all these?
Who would be wiser, in the blind, dumb woods?
The loser, doubtless rich, would scarcely miss
This dropped crumb from a table always full.
Still, while he mused, he seemed to hear the cry
Of a starved child; the sick face of his wife
Tempted him. Heart and flesh in fierce revolt
Urged the wild license of his savage youth
Against his later scruples. Bitter toil,
Prayer, fasting, dread of blame, and pitiless eyes
To watch his halting,--had he lost for these
The freedom of the woods;--the hunting-grounds
Of happy spirits for a walled-in heaven
Of everlasting psalms? One healed the sick
Very far off thousands of moons ago
Had he not prayed him night and day to come
And cure his bed-bound wife? Was there a hell?
Were all his fathers' people writhing there--
Like the poor shell-fish set to boil alive--
Forever, dying never? If he kept
This gold, so needed, would the dreadful God
Torment him like a Mohawk's captive stuck
With slow-consuming splinters? Would the saints
And the white angels dance and laugh to see him
Burn like a pitch-pine torch? His Christian garb
Seemed falling from him; with the fear and shame
Of Adam naked at the cool of day,
He gazed around. A black snake lay in coil
On the hot sand, a crow with sidelong eye
Watched from a dead bough. All his Indian lore
Of evil blending with a convert's faith
In the supernal terrors of the Book,
He saw the Tempter in the coiling snake
And ominous, black-winged bird; and all the while
The low rebuking of the distant waves
Stole in upon him like the voice of God
Among the trees of Eden. Girding up
His soul's loins with a resolute hand, he thrust
The base thought from him: 'Nauhaught, be a man
Starve, if need be; but, while you live, look out
From honest eyes on all men, unashamed.
God help me! I am deacon of the church,
A baptized, praying Indian! Should I do
This secret meanness, even the barken knots
Of the old trees would turn to eyes to see it,
The birds would tell of it, and all the leaves
Whisper above me: 'Nauhaught is a thief!'
The sun would know it, and the stars that hide
Behind his light would watch me, and at night
Follow me with their sharp, accusing eyes.
Yea, thou, God, seest me!' Then Nauhaught drew
Closer his belt of leather, dulling thus
The pain of hunger, and walked bravely back
To the brown fishing-hamlet by the sea;
And, pausing at the inn-door, cheerily asked
'Who hath lost aught to-day?'
'I,' said a voice;
'Ten golden pieces, in a silken purse,
My daughter's handiwork.' He looked, and to
One stood before him in a coat of frieze,
And the glazed bat of a seafaring man,
Shrewd-faced, broad-shouldered, with no trace of wings.
Marvelling, he dropped within the stranger's hand
The silken web, and turned to go his way.
But the man said: 'A tithe at least is yours;
Take it in God's name as an honest man.'
And as the deacon's dusky fingers closed
Over the golden gift, 'Yea, in God's name
I take it, with a poor man's thanks,' he said.
So down the street that, like a river of sand,
Ran, white in sunshine, to the summer sea,
He sought his home singing and praising God;
And when his neighbors in their careless way
Spoke of the owner of the silken purse--
A Wellfleet skipper, known in every port
That the Cape opens in its sandy wall--
He answered, with a wise smile, to himself
'I saw the angel where they see a man.'
TO WILLIAM BRADFORD.
As they who watch by sick-beds find relief
Unwittingly from the great stress of grief
And anxious care, in fantasies outwrought
From the hearth's embers flickering low, or caught
From whispering wind, or tread of passing feet,
Or vagrant memory calling up some sweet
Snatch of old song or romance, whence or why
They scarcely know or ask,--so, thou and I,
Nursed in the faith that Truth alone is strong
In the endurance which outwearies Wrong,
With meek persistence baffling brutal force,
And trusting God against the universe,--
We, doomed to watch a strife we may not share
With other weapons than the patriot's prayer,
Yet owning, with full hearts and moistened eyes,
The awful beauty of self-sacrifice,
And wrung by keenest sympathy for all
Who give their loved ones for the living wall
'Twixt law and treason,--in this evil day
May haply find, through automatic play
Of pen and pencil, solace to our pain,
And hearten others with the strength we gain.
I know it has been said our times require
No play of art, nor dalliance with the lyre,
No weak essay with Fancy's chloroform
To calm the hot, mad pulses of the storm,
But the stern war-blast rather, such as sets
The battle's teeth of serried bayonets,
And pictures grim as Vernet's. Yet with these
Some softer tints may blend, and milder keys
Relieve the storm-stunned ear. Let us keep sweet,
If so we may, our hearts, even while we eat
The bitter harvest of our own device
And half a century's moral cowardice.
As Nurnberg sang while Wittenberg defied,
And Kranach painted by his Luther's side,
And through the war-march of the Puritan
The silver stream of Marvell's music ran,
So let the household melodies be sung,
The pleasant pictures on the wall be hung--
So let us hold against the hosts of night
And slavery all our vantage-ground of light.
Let Treason boast its savagery, and shake
From its flag-folds its symbol rattlesnake,
Nurse its fine arts, lay human skins in tan,
And carve its pipe-bowls from the bones of man,
And make the tale of Fijian banquets dull
By drinking whiskey from a loyal skull,--
But let us guard, till this sad war shall cease,
(God grant it soon!) the graceful arts of peace
No foes are conquered who the victors teach
Their vandal manners and barbaric speech.
And while, with hearts of thankfulness, we bear
Of the great common burden our full share,
Let none upbraid us that the waves entice
Thy sea-dipped pencil, or some quaint device,
Rhythmic, and sweet, beguiles my pen away
From the sharp strifes and sorrows of to-day.
Thus, while the east-wind keen from Labrador
Sings it the leafless elms, and from the shore
Of the great sea comes the monotonous roar
Of the long-breaking surf, and all the sky
Is gray with cloud, home-bound and dull, I try
To time a simple legend to the sounds
Of winds in the woods, and waves on pebbled bounds,--
A song for oars to chime with, such as might
Be sung by tired sea-painters, who at night
Look from their hemlock camps, by quiet cove
Or beach, moon-lighted, on the waves they love.
(So hast thou looked, when level sunset lay
On the calm bosom of some Eastern bay,
And all the spray-moist rocks and waves that rolled
Up the white sand-slopes flashed with ruddy gold.)
Something it has--a flavor of the sea,
And the sea's freedom--which reminds of thee.
Its faded picture, dimly smiling down
From the blurred fresco of the ancient town,
I have not touched with warmer tints in vain,
If, in this dark, sad year, it steals one thought
. . . . . . . . . . . .
Her fingers shame the ivory keys
They dance so light along;
The bloom upon her parted lips
Is sweeter than the song.
O perfumed suitor, spare thy smiles!
Her thoughts are not of thee;
She better loves the salted wind,
The voices of the sea.
Her heart is like an outbound ship
That at its anchor swings;
The murmur of the stranded shell
Is in the song she sings.
She sings, and, smiling, hears her praise,
But dreams the while of one
Who watches from his sea-blown deck
The icebergs in the sun.
She questions all the winds that blow,
And every fog-wreath dim,
And bids the sea-birds flying north
Bear messages to him.
She speeds them with the thanks of men
He perilled life to save,
And grateful prayers like holy oil
To smooth for him the wave.
Brown Viking of the fishing-smack!
Fair toast of all the town!--
The skipper's jerkin ill beseems
The lady's silken gown!
But ne'er shall Amy Wentworth wear
For him the blush of shame
Who dares to set his manly gifts
Against her ancient name.
The stream is brightest at its spring,
And blood is not like wine;
Nor honored less than he who heirs
Is he who founds a line.
Full lightly shall the prize be won,
If love be Fortune's spur;
And never maiden stoops to him
Who lifts himself to her.
Her home is brave in Jaffrey Street,
With stately stairways worn
By feet of old Colonial knights
And ladies gentle-born.
Still green about its ample porch
The English ivy twines,
Trained back to show in English oak
The herald's carven signs.
And on her, from the wainscot old,
Ancestral faces frown,--
And this has worn the soldier's sword,
And that the judge's gown.
But, strong of will and proud as they,
She walks the gallery floor
As if she trod her sailor's deck
By stormy Labrador.
The sweetbrier blooms on Kittery-side,
And green are Elliot's bowers;
Her garden is the pebbled beach,
The mosses are her flowers.
She looks across the harbor-bar
To see the white gulls fly;
His greeting from the Northern sea
Is in their clanging cry.
She hums a song, and dreams that he,
As in its romance old,
Shall homeward ride with silken sails
And masts of beaten gold!
Oh, rank is good, and gold is fair,
And high and low mate ill;
But love has never known a law
Beyond its own sweet will!
A score of years had come and gone
Since the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth stone,
When Captain Underhill, bearing scars
From Indian ambush and Flemish wars,
Left three-hilled Boston and wandered down,
East by north, to Cocheco town.
With Vane the younger, in counsel sweet,
He had sat at Anna Hutchinson's feet,
And, when the bolt of banishment fell
On the head of his saintly oracle,
He had shared her ill as her good report,
And braved the wrath of the General Court.
He shook from his feet as he rode away
The dust of the Massachusetts Bay.
The world might bless and the world might ban,
What did it matter the perfect man,
To whom the freedom of earth was given,
Proof against sin, and sure of heaven?
He cheered his heart as he rode along
With screed of Scripture and holy song,
Or thought how he rode with his lances free
By the Lower Rhine and the Zuyder-Zee,
Till his wood-path grew to a trodden road,
And Hilton Point in the distance showed.
He saw the church with the block-house nigh,
The two fair rivers, the flakes thereby,
And, tacking to windward, low and crank,
The little shallop from Strawberry Bank;
And he rose in his stirrups and looked abroad
Over land and water, and praised the Lord.
Goodly and stately and grave to see,
Into the clearing's space rode he,
With the sun on the hilt of his sword in sheath,
And his silver buckles and spurs beneath,
And the settlers welcomed him, one and all,
From swift Quampeagan to Gonic Fall.
And he said to the elders: 'Lo, I come
As the way seemed open to seek a home.
Somewhat the Lord hath wrought by my hands
In the Narragansett and Netherlands,
And if here ye have work for a Christian man,
I will tarry, and serve ye as best I can.
'I boast not of gifts, but fain would own
The wonderful favor God hath shown,
The special mercy vouchsafed one day
On the shore of Narragansett Bay,
As I sat, with my pipe, from the camp aside,
And mused like Isaac at eventide.
'A sudden sweetness of peace I found,
A garment of gladness wrapped me round;
I felt from the law of works released,
The strife of the flesh and spirit ceased,
My faith to a full assurance grew,
And all I had hoped for myself I knew.
'Now, as God appointeth, I keep my way,
I shall not stumble, I shall not stray;
He hath taken away my fig-leaf dress,
I wear the robe of His righteousness;
And the shafts of Satan no more avail
Than Pequot arrows on Christian mail.'
'Tarry with us,' the settlers cried,
'Thou man of God, as our ruler and guide.'
And Captain Underhill bowed his head.
'The will of the Lord be done!' he said.
And the morrow beheld him sitting down
In the ruler's seat in Cocheco town.
And he judged therein as a just man should;
His words were wise and his rule was good;
He coveted not his neighbor's land,
From the holding of bribes he shook his hand;
And through the camps of the heathen ran
A wholesome fear of the valiant man.
But the heart is deceitful, the good Book saith,
And life hath ever a savor of death.
Through hymns of triumph the tempter calls,
And whoso thinketh he standeth falls.
Alas! ere their round the seasons ran,
There was grief in the soul of the saintly man.
The tempter's arrows that rarely fail
Had found the joints of his spiritual mail;
And men took note of his gloomy air,
The shame in his eye, the halt in his prayer,
The signs of a battle lost within,
The pain of a soul in the coils of sin.
Then a whisper of scandal linked his name
With broken vows and a life of blame;
And the people looked askance on him
As he walked among them sullen and grim,
Ill at ease, and bitter of word,
And prompt of quarrel with hand or sword.
None knew how, with prayer and fasting still,
He strove in the bonds of his evil will;
But he shook himself like Samson at length,
And girded anew his loins of strength,
And bade the crier go up and down
And call together the wondering town.
Jeer and murmur and shaking of head
Ceased as he rose in his place and said
'Men, brethren, and fathers, well ye know
How I came among you a year ago,
Strong in the faith that my soul was freed
From sin of feeling, or thought, or deed.
'I have sinned, I own it with grief and shame,
But not with a lie on my lips I came.
In my blindness I verily thought my heart
Swept and garnished in every part.
He chargeth His angels with folly; He sees
The heavens unclean. Was I more than these?
'I urge no plea. At your feet I lay
The trust you gave me, and go my way.
Hate me or pity me, as you will,
The Lord will have mercy on sinners still;
And I, who am chiefest, say to all,
Watch and pray, lest ye also fall.'
No voice made answer: a sob so low
That only his quickened ear could know
Smote his heart with a bitter pain,
As into the forest he rode again,
And the veil of its oaken leaves shut down
On his latest glimpse of Cocheco town.
Crystal-clear on the man of sin
The streams flashed up, and the sky shone in;
On his cheek of fever the cool wind blew,
The leaves dropped on him their tears of dew,
And angels of God, in the pure, sweet guise
Of flowers, looked on him with sad surprise.
Was his ear at fault that brook and breeze
Sang in their saddest of minor keys?
What was it the mournful wood-thrush said?
What whispered the pine-trees overhead?
Did he hear the Voice on his lonely way
That Adam heard in the cool of day?
Into the desert alone rode he,
Alone with the Infinite Purity;
And, bowing his soul to its tender rebuke,
As Peter did to the Master's look,
He measured his path with prayers of pain
For peace with God and nature again.
And in after years to Cocheco came
The bruit of a once familiar name;
How among the Dutch of New Netherlands,
From wild Danskamer to Haarlem sands,
A penitent soldier preached the Word,
And smote the heathen with Gideon's sword!
And the heart of Boston was glad to hear
How he harried the foe on the long frontier,
And heaped on the land against him barred
The coals of his generous watch and ward.
Frailest and bravest! the Bay State still
Counts with her worthies John Underhill.
The Witch Of Wenham
Along Crane River's sunny slopes
Blew warm the winds of May,
And over Naumkeag's ancient oaks
The green outgrew the gray.
The grass was green on Rial-side,
The early birds at will
Waked up the violet in its dell,
The wind-flower on its hill.
'Where go you, in your Sunday coat,
Son Andrew, tell me, pray.'
For striped perch in Wenham Lake
I go to fish to-day.'
'Unharmed of thee in Wenham Lake
The mottled perch shall be
A blue-eyed witch sits on the bank
And weaves her net for thee.
'She weaves her golden hair; she sings
Her spell-song low and faint;
The wickedest witch in Salem jail
Is to that girl a saint.'
'Nay, mother, hold thy cruel tongue;
God knows,' the young man cried,
'He never made a whiter soul
Than hers by Wenham side.
'She tends her mother sick and blind,
And every want supplies;
To her above the blessed Book
She lends her soft blue eyes.
'Her voice is glad with holy songs,
Her lips are sweet with prayer;
Go where you will, in ten miles round
Is none more good and fair.'
'Son Andrew, for the love of God
And of thy mother, stay!'
She clasped her hands, she wept aloud,
But Andrew rode away.
'O reverend sir, my Andrew's soul
The Wenham witch has caught;
She holds him with the curled gold
Whereof her snare is wrought.
'She charms him with her great blue eyes,
She binds him with her hair;
Oh, break the spell with holy words,
Unbind him with a prayer!'
'Take heart,' the painful preacher said,
'This mischief shall not be;
The witch shall perish in her sins
And Andrew shall go free.
'Our poor Ann Putnam testifies
She saw her weave a spell,
Bare-armed, loose-haired, at full of moon,
Around a dried-up well.
''Spring up, O well!' she softly sang
The Hebrew's old refrain
(For Satan uses Bible words),
Till water flowed a-main.
'And many a goodwife heard her speak
By Wenham water words
That made the buttercups take wings
And turn to yellow birds.
'They say that swarming wild bees seek
The hive at her command;
And fishes swim to take their food
From out her dainty hand.
'Meek as she sits in meeting-time,
The godly minister
Notes well the spell that doth compel
The young men's eyes to her.
'The mole upon her dimpled chin
Is Satan's seal and sign;
Her lips are red with evil bread
And stain of unblest wine.
'For Tituba, my Indian, saith
At Quasycung she took
The Black Man's godless sacrament
And signed his dreadful book.
'Last night my sore-afflicted child
Against the young witch cried.
To take her Marshal Herrick rides
Even now to Wenham side.'
The marshal in his saddle sat,
His daughter at his knee;
'I go to fetch that arrant witch,
Thy fair playmate,' quoth he.
'Her spectre walks the parsonage,
And haunts both hall and stair;
They know her by the great blue eyes
And floating gold of hair.'
'They lie, they lie, my father dear!
No foul old witch is she,
But sweet and good and crystal-pure
As Wenham waters be.'
'I tell thee, child, the Lord hath set
Before us good and ill,
And woe to all whose carnal loves
Oppose His righteous will.
'Between Him and the powers of hell
Choose thou, my child, to-day
No sparing hand, no pitying eye,
When God commands to slay!'
He went his way; the old wives shook
With fear as he drew nigh;
The children in the dooryards held
Their breath as he passed by.
Too well they knew the gaunt gray horse
The grim witch-hunter rode
The pale Apocalyptic beast
By grisly Death bestrode.
Oh, fair the face of Wenham Lake
Upon the young girl's shone,
Her tender mouth, her dreaming eyes,
Her yellow hair outblown.
By happy youth and love attuned
To natural harmonies,
The singing birds, the whispering wind,
She sat beneath the trees.
Sat shaping for her bridal dress
Her mother's wedding gown,
When lo! the marshal, writ in hand,
From Alford hill rode down.
His face was hard with cruel fear,
He grasped the maiden's hands
'Come with me unto Salem town,
For so the law commands!'
'Oh, let me to my mother say
Farewell before I go!'
He closer tied her little hands
Unto his saddle bow.
'Unhand me,' cried she piteously,
'For thy sweet daughter's sake.'
'I'll keep my daughter safe,' he said,
'From the witch of Wenham Lake.'
'Oh, leave me for my mother's sake,
She needs my eyes to see.'
'Those eyes, young witch, the crows shall peck
From off the gallows-tree.'
He bore her to a farm-house old,
And up its stairway long,
And closed on her the garret-door
With iron bolted strong.
The day died out, the night came down
Her evening prayer she said,
While, through the dark, strange faces seemed
To mock her as she prayed.
The present horror deepened all
The fears her childhood knew;
The awe wherewith the air was filled
With every breath she drew.
And could it be, she trembling asked,
Some secret thought or sin
Had shut good angels from her heart
And let the bad ones in?
Had she in some forgotten dream
Let go her hold on Heaven,
And sold herself unwittingly
To spirits unforgiven?
Oh, weird and still the dark hours passed;
No human sound she heard,
But up and down the chimney stack
The swallows moaned and stirred.
And o'er her, with a dread surmise
Of evil sight and sound,
The blind bats on their leathern wings
Went wheeling round and round.
Low hanging in the midnight sky
Looked in a half-faced moon.
Was it a dream, or did she hear
Her lover's whistled tune?
She forced the oaken scuttle back;
A whisper reached her ear
'Slide down the roof to me,' it said,
'So softly none may hear.'
She slid along the sloping roof
Till from its eaves she hung,
And felt the loosened shingles yield
To which her fingers clung.
Below, her lover stretched his hands
And touched her feet so small;
'Drop down to me, dear heart,' he said,
'My arms shall break the fall.'
He set her on his pillion soft,
Her arms about him twined;
And, noiseless as if velvet-shod,
They left the house behind.
But when they reached the open way,
Full free the rein he cast;
Oh, never through the mirk midnight
Rode man and maid more fast.
Along the wild wood-paths they sped,
The bridgeless streams they swam;
At set of moon they passed the Bass,
At sunrise Agawam.
At high noon on the Merrimac
The ancient ferryman
Forgot, at times, his idle oars,
So fair a freight to scan.
And when from off his grounded boat
He saw them mount and ride,
'God keep her from the evil eye,
And harm of witch!' he cried.
The maiden laughed, as youth will laugh
At all its fears gone by;
'He does not know,' she whispered low,
'A little witch am I.'
All day he urged his weary horse,
And, in the red sundown,
Drew rein before a friendly door
In distant Berwick town.
A fellow-feeling for the wronged
The Quaker people felt;
And safe beside their kindly hearths
The hunted maiden dwelt,
Until from off its breast the land
The haunting horror threw,
And hatred, born of ghastly dreams,
To shame and pity grew.
Sad were the year's spring morns, and sad
Its golden summer day,
But blithe and glad its withered fields,
And skies of ashen gray;
For spell and charm had power no more,
The spectres ceased to roam,
And scattered households knelt again
Around the hearths of home.
And when once more by Beaver Dam
The meadow-lark outsang,
And once again on all the hills
The early violets sprang,
And all the windy pasture slopes
Lay green within the arms
Of creeks that bore the salted sea
To pleasant inland farms,
The smith filed off the chains he forged,
The jail-bolts backward fell;
And youth and hoary age came forth
Like souls escaped from hell.
THROUGH the long hall the shuttered windows shed
A dubious light on every upturned head;
On locks like those of Absalom the fair,
On the bald apex ringed with scanty hair,
On blank indifference and on curious stare;
On the pale Showman reading from his stage
The hieroglyphics of that facial page;
Half sad, half scornful, listening to the bruit
Of restless cane-tap and impatient foot,
And the shrill call, across the general din,
'Roll up your curtain! Let the show begin!'
At length a murmur like the winds that break
Into green waves the prairie's grassy lake,
Deepened and swelled to music clear and loud,
And, as the west-wind lifts a summer cloud,
The curtain rose, disclosing wide and far
A green land stretching to the evening star,
Fair rivers, skirted by primeval trees
And flowers hummed over by the desert bees,
Marked by tall bluffs whose slopes of greenness show
Fantastic outcrops of the rock below;
The slow result of patient Nature's pains,
And plastic fingering of her sun and rains;
Arch, tower, and gate, grotesquely windowed hall,
And long escarpment of half-crumbled wall,
Huger than those which, from steep hills of vine,
Stare through their loopholes on the travelled Rhine;
Suggesting vaguely to the gazer's mind
A fancy, idle as the prairie wind,
Of the land's dwellers in an age unguessed;
The unsung Jotuns of the mystic West.
Beyond, the prairie's sea-like swells surpass
The Tartar's marvels of his Land of Grass,
Vast as the sky against whose sunset shores
Wave after wave the billowy greenness pours;
And, onward still, like islands in that main
Loom the rough peaks of many a mountain chain,
Whence east and west a thousand waters run
From winter lingering under summer's sun.
And, still beyond, long lines of foam and sand
Tell where Pacific rolls his waves a-land,
From many a wide-lapped port and land-locked bay,
Opening with thunderous pomp the world's highway
To Indian isles of spice, and marts of far Cathay.
'Such,' said the Showman, as the curtain fell,
'Is the new Canaan of our Israel;
The land of promise to the swarming North,
Which, hive-like, sends its annual surplus forth,
To the poor Southron on his worn-out soil,
Scathed by the curses of unnatural toil;
To Europe's exiles seeking home and rest,
And the lank nomads of the wandering West,
Who, asking neither, in their love of change
And the free bison's amplitude of range,
Rear the log-hut, for present shelter meant,
Not future comfort, like an Arab's tent.'
Then spake a shrewd on-looker, 'Sir,' said he,
'I like your picture, but I fain would see
A sketch of what your promised land will be
When, with electric nerve, and fiery-brained,
With Nature's forces to its chariot chained,
The future grasping, by the past obeyed,
The twentieth century rounds a new decade.'
Then said the Showman, sadly: 'He who grieves
Over the scattering of the sibyl's leaves
Unwisely mourns. Suffice it, that we know
What needs must ripen from the seed we sow;
That present time is but the mould wherein
We cast the shapes of holiness and sin.
A painful watcher of the passing hour,
Its lust of gold, its strife for place and power;
Its lack of manhood, honor, reverence, truth,
Wise-thoughted age, and generous-hearted youth;
Nor yet unmindful of each better sign,
The low, far lights, which on th' horizon shine,
Like those which sometimes tremble on the rim
Of clouded skies when day is closing dim,
Flashing athwart the purple spears of rain
The hope of sunshine on the hills again:
I need no prophet's word, nor shapes that pass
Like clouding shadows o'er a magic glass;
For now, as ever, passionless and cold,
Doth the dread angel of the future hold
Evil and good before us, with no voice
Or warning look to guide us in our choice;
With spectral hands outreaching through the gloom
The shadowy contrasts of the coming doom.
Transferred from these, it now remains to give
The sun and shade of Fate's alternative.'
Then, with a burst of music, touching all
The keys of thrifty life, — the mill-stream's fall,
The engine's pant along its quivering rails,
The anvil's ring, the measured beat of flails,
The sweep of scythes, the reaper's whistled tune,
Answering the summons of the bells of noon,
The woodman's hail along the river shores,
The steamboat's signal, and the dip of oars:
Slowly the curtain rose from off a land
Fair as God's garden. Broad on either hand
The golden wheat-fields glimmered in the sun,
And the tall maize its yellow tassels spun.
Smooth highways set with hedge-rows living green,
With steepled towns through shaded vistas seen,
The school-house murmuring with its hive-like swarm,
The brook-bank whitening in the grist-mill's storm,
The painted farm-house shining through the leaves
Of fruited orchards bending at its eaves,
Where live again, around the Western hearth,
The homely old-time virtues of the North;
Where the blithe housewife rises with the day,
And well-paid labor counts his task a play.
And, grateful tokens of a Bible free,
And the free Gospel of Humanity,
Of diverse sects and differing names the shrines,
One in their faith, whate'er their outward signs,
Like varying strophes of the same sweet hymn
From many a prairie's swell and river's brim,
A thousand church-spires sancify the air
Of the calm Sabbath, with their sign of prayer.
Like sudden nightfall over bloom and green
The curtain dropped: and, momently, between
The clank of fetter and the crack of thong,
Half sob, half laughter, music swept along;
A strange refrain, whose idle words and low,
Like drunken mourners, kept the time of woe;
As if the revellers at a masquerade
Heard in the distance funeral marches played.
Such music, dashing all his smiles with tears,
The thoughtful voyager on Ponchartrain hears,
Where, through the noonday dusk of wooded shores
The negro boatman, singing to his oars,
With a wild pathos borrowed of his wrong
Redeems the jargon of his senseless song.
'Look,' said the Showman, sternly, as he rolled
His curtain upward. 'Fate's reverse behold!'
A village straggling in loose disarray
Of vulgar newness, premature decay;
A tavern, crazy with its whiskey brawls,
With 'Slaves at Auction!' garnishing its walls;
Without, surrounded by a motley crowd,
The shrewd-eyed salesman, garrulous and loud,
A squire or colonel in his pride of place,
Known at free fights, the caucus, and the race,
Prompt to proclaim his honor without blot,
And silence doubters with a ten-pace shot,
Mingling the negro-driving bully's rant
With pious phrase and democratic cant,
Yet never scrupling, with a filthy jest,
To sell the infant from its mother's breast,
Break through all ties of wedlock, home, and kin,
Yield shrinking girlhood up to graybeard sin;
Sell all the virtues with his human stock,
The Christian graces on his auction-block,
And coolly count on shrewdest bargains driven
In hearts regenerate, and in souls forgiven!
Look once again! The moving canvas shows
A slave plantation's slovenly repose,
Where, in rude cabins rotting midst their weeds,
The human chattel eats, and sleeps, and breeds;
And, held a brute, in practice, as in law,
Becomes in fact the thing he's taken for.
There, early summoned to the hemp and corn,
The nursing mother leaves her child new-born;
There haggard sickness, weak and deathly faint,
Crawls to his task, and fears to make complains;
And sad-eyed Rachels, childless in decay,
Weep for their lost ones sold and torn away!
Of ampler size the master's dwelling stands,
In shabby keeping with his half-tilled lands;
The gates unhinged, the yard with weeds unclean,
The cracked veranda with a tipsy lean.
Without, loose-scattered like a wreck adrift,
Signs of misrule and tokens of unthrift;
Within, profusion to discomfort joined,
The listless body and the vacant mind;
The fear, the hate, the theft and falsehood, born
In menial hearts of toil, and stripes, and scorn!
There, all the vices, which, like birds obscene,
Batten on slavery loathsome and unclean,
From the foul kitchen to the parlor rise,
Pollute the nursery where the child-heir lies,
Taint infant lips beyond all after cure,
With the fell poison of a breast impure;
Touch boyhood's passions with the breath of flame,
From girlhood's instincts steal the blush of shame.
So swells, from low to high, from weak to strong,
The tragic chorus of the baleful wrong;
Guilty or guiltless, all within its range
Feel the blind justice of its sure revenge.
Still scenes like these the moving chart reveals.
Up the long western steppes the blighting steals;
Down the Pacific slope the evil Fate
Glides like a shadow to the Golden Gate:
From sea to sea the drear eclipse is thrown,
From sea to sea the Mauvaises Terres have grown,
A belt of curses on the New World's zone!
The curtain fell. All drew a freer breath,
As men are wont to do when mournful death
Is covered from their sight. The Showman stood
With drooping brow in sorrow's attitude
One moment, then with sudden gesture shook
His loose hair back, and with the air and look
Of one who felt, beyond the narrow stage
And listening group, the presence of the age,
And heard the footsteps of the things to be,
Poured out his soul in earnest words and free.
'O friends!' he said, 'in this poor trick of paint
You see the semblance, incomplete and faint,
Of the two-fronted Future, which, to-day,
Stands dim and silent, waiting in your way.
To-day, your servant, subject to your will;
To-morrow, master, or for good or ill.
If the dark face of Slavery on you turns,
If the mad curse its paper barrier spurns,
If the world granary of the West is made
The last foul market of the slaver's trade,
Why rail at fate? The mischief is your own.
Why hate your neighbor? 'Blame yourselves alone!
'Men of the North! The South you charge with wrong
Is weak and poor, while you are rich and strong.
If questions, — idle and absurd as those
The old-time monks and Paduan doctors chose, —
Mere ghosts of questions, tariffs, and dead banks,
And scarecrow pontiffs, never broke your ranks,
Your thews united could, at once, roll back
The jostled nation to its primal track.
Nay, were you simply steadfast, manly, just,
True to the faith your fathers left in trust,
If stainless honor outweighed in your scale
A codfish quintal or a factory bale,
Full many a noble heart, (and such remain
In all the South, like Lot in Siddim's plain,
Who watch and wait, and from the wrong's control
Keep white and pure their chastity of soul,)
Now sick to loathing of your weak complaints,
Your tricks as sinners, and your prayers as saints,
Would half-way meet the frankness of your tone,
And feel their pulses beating with your own,
'The North! the South! no geographic line
Can fix the boundary or the point define,
Since each with each so closely interblends,.
Where Slavery rises, and where Freedom ends.
Beneath your rocks the roots, far-reaching, hide
Of the fell Upas on the Southern side;
The tree whose branches in your northwinds wave
Dropped its young blossoms on Mount Vernon's grave;
The nursling growth of Monticello's crest
Is now the glory of the free Northwest;
To the wise maxims of her olden school
Virginia listened from thy lips, Rantoul;
Seward's words of power, and Sumner's fresh renown,
Flow from the pen that Jefferson laid down!
And when, at length, her years of madness o'er,
Like the crowned grazer on Euphrates' shore,
From her long lapse to savagery, her mouth
Bitter with baneful herbage, turns the South,
Resumes her old attire, and seeks to smooth
Her unkempt tresses at the glass of truth,
Her early faith shall find a tongue again,
New Wythes and Pinckneys swell that old refrain,
Her sons with yours renew the ancient pact,
The myth of Union prove at last a fact!
Then, if one murmur mars the wide content,
Some Northern lip will drawl the last dissent,
Some Union-saving patriot of your own
Lament to find his occupation gone.
'Grant that the North's insulted, scorned, betrayed,
O'erreached in bargains with her neighbor made,
When selfish thrift and party held the scales
For peddling dicker, not for honest sales, —
Whom shall we strike? Who most deserves our blame?
The braggart Southron, open in his aim,
And bold as wicked, crashing straight through all
That bars his purpose, like a cannon-ball?
Or the mean traitor, breathing northern air,
With nasal speech and puritanic hair,
Whose cant the loss of principle survives,
As the mud-turtle e'en its head outlives;
Who, caught, chin-buried in some foul offence,
Puts on a look of injured innocence,
And consecrates his baseness to the cause
Of constitution, union, and the laws?
'Praise to the place-man who can hold aloof
His still unpurchased manhood, office-proof;
Who on his round of duty walks erect,
And leaves it only rich in self-respect;
As More maintained his virtue's lofty port
In the Eighth Henry's base and bloody court.
But, if exceptions here and there are found,
Who tread thus safely on enchanted ground,
The normal type, the fitting symbol still
Of those who fatten at the public mill,
Is the chained dog beside his master's door,
Or Circe's victim, feeding on all four!
'Give me the heroes who, at tuck of drum,
Salute thy staff, immortal Quattlebum!
Or they who, doubly armed with vote and gun,
Following thy lead, illustrious Atchison,
Their drunken franchise shift from scene to scene,
As tile-beard Jourdan did his guillotine!
Rather than him who, born beneath our skies,
To Slavery's hand its supplest tool supplies;
The party felon whose unblushing face
Looks from the pillory of his bribe of place,
And coolly makes a merit of disgrace,
Points to the footmarks of indignant scorn,
Shows the deep scars of satire's tossing horn;
And passes to his credit side the sum
Of all that makes a scoundrel's martyrdom!
' Bane of the North, its canker and its moth!
These modern Esaus, bartering rights for broth!
Taxing our justice, with their double claim,
As fools for pity, and as knaves for blame;
Who, urged by party, sect, or trade, within
The fell embrace of Slavery's sphere of sin,
Part at the outset with their moral sense,
The watchful angel set for Truth's defence;
Confound all contrasts, good and ill; reverse
The poles of life, its blessing and its curse;
And lose thenceforth from their perverted sight
The eternal difference 'twixt the wrong and right;
To them the Law is but the iron span
That girds the ankles of imbruted man;
To them the Gospel has no higher aim
Than simple sanction of the master's claim,
Dragged in the slime of Slavery's loathsome trail,
Like Chalier's Bible at his ass's tail!
'Such are the men who, with instinctive dread,
Whenever Freedom lifts her drooping head,
Make prophet-tripods of their office-stools,
And scare the nurseries and the village schools
With dire presage of ruin grim and great,
A broken Union and a foundered State!
Such are the patriots, self-bound to the stake
Of office, martyrs for their country's sake:
Who fill themselves the hungry jaws of Fate,
And by their loss of manhood save the State.
In the wide gulf themselves like Curtius throw,
And test the virtues of cohesive dough;
As tropic monkeys, linking heads and tails,
Bridge o'er some torrent of Ecuador's vales!
'Such are the men who in your churches rave
To swearing-point, at mention of the slave!
When some poor parsons haply unawares,
Stammers of freedom in his timid prayers;
Who, if some foot-sore negro through the town
Steals northward, volunteer to hunt him down.
Or, if some neighbor, flying from disease,
Courts the mild balsam of the Southern breeze,
With hue and cry pursue him on his track,
And write Free-soiler on the poor man's back.
Such are the men who leave the pedler's cart,
While faring South, to learn the driver's art,
Or, in white neckcloth, soothe with pious aim
The graceful sorrows of some languid dame,
Who, from the wreck of her bereavement, saves
The double charm of widowhood and slaves!
Pliant and apt, they lose no chance to show
To what base depths apostasy can go;
Outdo the natives in their readiness
To roast a negro, or to mob a press;
Poise a tarred schoolmate on the lyncher's rail,
Or make a bonfire of their birthplace mail!
'So some poor wretch, whose lips no longer bear
The sacred burden of his mother's prayer,
By fear impelled, or lust of gold enticed,
Turns to the Crescent from the Cross of Christ,
And, over-acting in superfluous zeal,
Crawls prostrate where the faithful only kneel,
Out-howls the Dervish, hugs his rags to court
The squalid Santon's sanctity of dirt;
And, when beneath the city gateway's span
Files slow and long the Meccan caravan,
And through its midst, pursued by Islam's prayers,
The prophet's Word some favored camel bears,
The marked apostate has his place assigned
The Koran-bearer's sacred rump behind,
With brush and pitcher following, grave and mute,
In meek attendance on the holy brute!
' Men of the North! beneath your very eyes,
By hearth and home, your real danger lies.
Still day by day some hold of freedom falls
Through home-bred traitors fed within its walls.
Men whom yourselves with vote and purse sustain,
At posts of honor, influence, and gain;
The right of Slavery to your sons to teach,
And 'South-side' Gospels in your pulpits preach,
Transfix the Law to ancient freedom dear
On the sharp point of her subverted spear,
And imitate upon her cushion plump
The mad Missourian lynching from his stump;
Or, in your name, upon the Senate's floor
Yield up to Slavery all it asks, and more;
And, ere your dull eyes open to the cheat,
Sell your old homestead underneath your feet!
While such as these your loftiest outlooks hold,
While truth and conscience with your wares are sold,
While grave-browed merchants band themselves to aid
An annual man-hunt for their Southern trade,
What moral power within your grasp remains
To stay the mischief on Nebraska's plains?
High as the tides of generous impulse flow,
As far rolls back the selfish undertow;
And all your brave resolves, though aimed as true
As the horse-pistol Balmawhapple drew,
To Slavery's bastions lend as slight a shock
As the poor trooper's shot to Stirling rock!
'Yet, while the need of Freedom's cause demands
The earnest efforts of your hearts and hands,
Urged by all motives that can prompt the heart
To prayer and toil and manhood's manliest part;
Though to the soul's deep tocsin Nature joins
The warning whisper of her Orphic pines,
The north-wind's anger, and the south-wind's sigh,
The midnight sword-dance of the northern sky,
And, to the ear that bends above the sod
Of the green grave-mounds.in the Fields of God,
In low, deep murmurs of rebuke or cheer,
The land's dead fathers speak their hope or fear,
Yet let not Passion wrest from Reason's hand
The guiding rein and symbol of command.
Blame not the caution proffering to your zeal
A well-meant drag upon its hurrying wheel;
Nor chide the man whose honest doubt extends
To the means only, not the righteous ends;
Nor fail to weigh the scruples and the fears
Of milder natures and serener years.
In the long strife with evil which began
With the first lapse of new-created man,
Wisely and well has Providence assigned
To each his part, — some forward, some behind;
And they, too, serve who temper and restrain
The o'erwarm heart that sets on fire the brain.
True to yourselves, feed Freedom's altar-flame
With what you have; let others do the same.
Spare timid doubters; set like flint your face
Against the self-sold knaves of gain and place:
Pity the weak; but with unsparing hand
Cast out the traitors who infest the land;
From bar, press, pulpit, east them everywhere,
By dint of fasting, if you fail by prayer.
And in their place bring men of antique mould,
Like the grave fathers of your Age of Gold;
Statesmen like those who sought the primal fount
Of righteous law, the Sermon on the Mount;
Lawyers who prize, like Quincy, (to our day
Still spared, Heaven bless him!) honor more than pay,
And Christian jurists, starry-pure, like Jay;
Preachers like Woolman, or like them who bore
The faith of Wesley to our Western shore,
And held no convert genuine till he broke
Alike his servants' and the Devil's yoke;
And priests like him who Newport's market trod,
And o'er its slave-ships shook the bolts of God!
So shall your power, with a wise prudence used,
Strong but forbearing, firm but not abused,
In kindly keeping with the good of all,
The nobler maxims of the past recall,
Her natural home-born right to Freedom give,
And leave her foe his robber-right, — to live.
Live, as the snake does in his noisome fen!
Live, as the wolf does in his bone-strewn den!
Live, clothed with cursing like a robe of flame,
The focal point of million-fingered shame!
Live, till the Southron, who, with all his faults,
Has manly instincts, in his pride revolts,
Dashes from off him, midst the glad world's cheers,
The hideous nightmare of his dream of years,
And lifts, self-prompted, with his own right hand,
The vile encumbrance from his glorious land!
'So, wheresoe'er our destiny sends forth
Its widening circles to the South or North,
Where'er our banner flaunts beneath the stars
Its mimic splendors and its cloudlike bars,
There shall Free Labor's hardy children stand
The equal sovereigns of a slaveless land.
And when at last the hunted bison tires,
And dies o'ertaken by the squatter's fires;
And westward, wave on wave, the living flood
Breaks on the snow-line of majestic Hood;
And lonely Shasta listening hears the tread
Of Europe's fair-haired children, Hesper-led;
And, gazing downward through his hoar-locks, sees
The tawny Asian climb his giant knees,
The Eastern sea shall hush his waves to hear
Pacific's surf-beat answer Freedom's cheer,
And one long rolling fire of triumph run
Between the sunrise and the sunset gun!'
My task is done. The Showman and his show,
Themselves but shadows, into shadows go;
And, if no song of idlesse I have sung,
Nor tints of beauty on the canvas flung;
If the harsh numbers grate on tender ears,
And the rough picture overwrought appears;
With deeper coloring, with a sterner blast,
Before my soul a voice and vision passed,
Such as might Milton's jarring trump require,
Or glooms of Dante fringed with lurid fire.
Oh; not of choice, for themes of public wrong
I leave the green and pleasant paths of song,
The mild, sweet words which soften and adorn,
For sharp rebuke and bitter laugh of scorn.
More dear to me some song of private worth,
Some homely idyl of my native North,
Some summer pastoral of her inland vales,
Or, grim and weird, her winter fireside tales
Haunted by ghosts of unreturning sails;
Lost barks at parting hung from stem to helm
With prayers of love like dreams on Virgil's elm.
Nor private grief nor malice holds my pen;
I owe but kindness to my fellow-men;
And, South or North, wherever hearts of prayer
Their woes and weakness to our Father bear,
Wherever fruits of Christian love are found
In holy lives, to me is holy ground.
But the time passes. It were vain to crave
A late indulgence. What I had I gave.
Forget the poet, but his warning heed,
And shame his poor word with your nobler deed.
Snow-Bound: A Winter Idyl
To the Memory of the Household It Describes
This Poem is Dedicated by the Author:
"As the Spirits of Darkness be stronger in the dark, so Good Spirits,which be Angels of Light, are augmented not only by the Divine lightof the Sun, but also by our common Wood Fire: and as the CelestialFire drives away dark spirits, so also this our Fire of Wood doth thesame." -- Cor. Agrippa, Occult Philosophy,
Book I.ch. v.
"Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river and the heaven,
And veils the farm-house at the garden's end.
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier's feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of Storm." EMERSON, The Snow Storm.
The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon.
Slow tracing down the thickening sky
Its mute and ominous prophecy,
A portent seeming less than threat,
It sank from sight before it set.
A chill no coat, however stout,
Of homespun stuff could quite shut out,
A hard, dull bitterness of cold,
That checked, mid-vein, the circling race
Of life-blood in the sharpened face,
The coming of the snow-storm told.
The wind blew east; we heard the roar
Of Ocean on his wintry shore,
And felt the strong pulse throbbing there
Beat with low rhythm our inland air.
Meanwhile we did our nightly chores, --
Brought in the wood from out of doors,
Littered the stalls, and from the mows
Raked down the herd's-grass for the cows;
Heard the horse whinnying for his corn;
And, sharply clashing horn on horn,
Impatient down the stanchion rows
The cattle shake their walnut bows;
While, peering from his early perch
Upon the scaffold's pole of birch,
The cock his crested helmet bent
And down his querulous challenge sent.
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 spendor, seemed to tell
Of Pisa's leaning miracle.
A prompt, decisive man, no breath
Our father wasted: "Boys, a path!"
Well pleased, (for when did farmer boy
Count such a summons less than joy?)
Our buskins on our feet we drew;
With mittened hands, and caps drawn low,
To guard our necks and ears from snow,
We cut the solid whiteness through.
And, where the drift was deepest, made
A tunnel walled and overlaid
With dazzling crystal: we had read
Of rare Aladdin's wondrous cave,
And to our own his name we gave,
With many a wish the luck were ours
To test his lamp's supernal powers.
We reached the barn with merry din,
And roused the prisoned brutes within.
The old horse thrust his long head out,
And grave with wonder gazed about;
The cock his lusty greeting said,
And forth his speckled harem led;
The oxen lashed their tails, and hooked,
And mild reproach of hunger looked;
The hornëd patriarch of the sheep,
Like Egypt's Amun roused from sleep,
Shook his sage head with gesture mute,
And emphasized with stamp of foot.
All day the gusty north-wind bore
The loosening drift its breath before;
Low circling round its southern zone,
The sun through dazzling snow-mist shone.
No church-bell lent its Christian tone
To the savage air, no social smoke
Curled over woods of snow-hung oak.
A solitude made more intense
By dreary-voicëd elements,
The shrieking of the mindless wind,
The moaning tree-boughs swaying blind,
And on the glass the unmeaning beat
Of ghostly finger-tips of sleet.
Beyond the circle of our hearth
No welcome sound of toil or mirth
Unbound the spell, and testified
Of human life and thought outside.
We minded that the sharpest ear
The buried brooklet could not hear,
The music of whose liquid lip
Had been to us companionship,
And, in our lonely life, had grown
To have an almost human tone.
As night drew on, and, from the crest
Of wooded knolls that ridged the west,
The sun, a snow-blown traveller, sank
From sight beneath the smothering bank,
We piled, with care, our nightly stack
Of wood against the chimney-back, --
The oaken log, green, huge, and thick,
And on its top the stout back-stick;
The knotty forestick laid apart,
And filled between with curious art
The ragged brush; then, hovering near,
We watched the first red blaze appear,
Heard the sharp crackle, caught the gleam
On whitewashed wall and sagging beam,
Until the old, rude-furnished room
Burst, flower-like, into rosy bloom;
While radiant with a mimic flame
Outside the sparkling drift became,
And through the bare-boughed lilac-tree
Our own warm hearth seemed blazing free.
The crane and pendent trammels showed,
The Turks' heads on the andirons glowed;
While childish fancy, prompt to tell
The meaning of the miracle,
Whispered the old rhyme: "Under the tree,
When fire outdoors burns merrily,
There the witches are making tea."
The moon above the eastern wood
Shone at its full; the hill-range stood
Transfigured in the silver flood,
Its blown snows flashing cold and keen,
Dead white, save where some sharp ravine
Took shadow, or the sombre green
Of hemlocks turned to pitchy black
Against the whiteness at their back.
For such a world and such a night
Most fitting that unwarming light,
Which only seemed where'er it fell
To make the coldness visible.
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!
We sped the time with stories old,
Wrought puzzles out, and riddles told,
Or stammered from our school-book lore
"The Chief of Gambia's golden shore."
How often since, when all the land
Was clay in Slavery's shaping hand,
As if a far-blown trumpet stirred
The languorous sin-sick air, I heard:
"Does not the voice of reason cry,
Claim the first right which Nature gave,
From the red scourge of bondage to fly,
Nor deign to live a burdened slave!"
Our father rode again his ride
On Memphremagog's wooded side;
Sat down again to moose and samp
In trapper's hut and Indian camp;
Lived o'er the old idyllic ease
Beneath St. François' hemlock-trees;
Again for him the moonlight shone
On Norman cap and bodiced zone;
Again he heard the violin play
Which led the village dance away.
And mingled in its merry whirl
The grandam and the laughing girl.
Or, nearer home, our steps he led
Where Salisbury's level marshes spread
Mile-wide as flies the laden bee;
Where merry mowers, hale and strong,
Swept, scythe on scythe, their swaths along
The low green prairies of the sea.
We shared the fishing off Boar's Head,
And round the rocky Isles of Shoals
The hake-broil on the drift-wood coals;
The chowder on the sand-beach made,
Dipped by the hungry, steaming hot,
With spoons of clam-shell from the pot.
We heard the tales of witchcraft old,
And dream and sign and marvel told
To sleepy listeners as they lay
Stretched idly on the salted hay,
Adrift along the winding shores,
When favoring breezes deigned to blow
The square sail of the gundelow
And idle lay the useless oars.
Our mother, while she turned her wheel
Or run the new-knit stocking-heel,
Told how the Indian hordes came down
At midnight on Concheco 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.
Then, haply, with a look more grave,
And soberer tone, some tale she gave
From painful Sewel's ancient tome,
Beloved in every Quaker home,
Of faith fire-winged by martyrdom,
Or Chalkley's Journal, old and quaint, --
Gentlest of skippers, rare sea-saint! --
Who, when the dreary calms prevailed,
And water-butt and bread-cask failed,
And cruel, hungry eyes pursued
His portly presence mad for food,
With dark hints muttered under breath
Of casting lots for life or death,
Offered, if Heaven withheld supplies,
To be himself the sacrifice.
Then, suddenly, as if to save
The good man from his living grave,
A ripple on the water grew,
A school of porpoise flashed in view.
"Take, eat," he said, "and be content;
These fishes in my stead are sent
By Him who gave the tangled ram
To spare the child of Abraham."
Our uncle, innocent of books,
Was rich in lore of fields and brooks,
The ancient teachers never dumb
Of Nature's unhoused lyceum.
In moons and tides and weather wise,
He read the clouds as prophecies,
And foul or fair could well divine,
By many an occult hint and sign,
Holding the cunning-warded keys
To all the woodcraft mysteries;
Himself to Nature's heart so near
That all her voices in his ear
Of beast or bird had meanings clear,
Like Apollonius of old,
Who knew the tales the sparrows told,
Or Hermes, who interpreted
What the sage cranes of Nilus said;
A simple, guileless, childlike man,
Content to live where life began;
Strong only on his native grounds,
The little world of sights and sounds
Whose girdle was the parish bounds,
Whereof his fondly partial pride
The common features magnified,
As Surrey hills to mountains grew
In White of Selborne's loving view, --
He told how teal and loon he shot,
And how the eagle's eggs he got,
The feats on pond and river done,
The prodigies of rod and gun;
Till, warming with the tales he told,
Forgotten was the outside cold,
The bitter wind unheeded blew,
From ripening corn the pigeons flew,
The partridge drummed i' the wood, the mink
Went fishing down the river-brink.
In fields with bean or clover gray,
The woodchuck, like a hermit gray,
Peered from the doorway of his cell;
The muskrat plied the mason's trade,
And tier by tier his mud-walls laid;
And from the shagbark overhead
The grizzled squirrel dropped his shell.
Next, the dear aunt, whose smile of cheer
And voice in dreams I see and hear, --
The sweetest woman ever Fate
Perverse denied a household mate,
Who, lonely, homeless, not the less
Found peace in love's unselfishness,
And welcome wheresoe'er she went,
A calm and gracious element,
Whose presence seemed the sweet income
And womanly atmosphere of home, --
Called up her girlhood memories,
The huskings and the apple-bees,
The sleigh-rides and the summer sails,
Weaving through all the poor details
And homespun warp of circumstance
A golden woof-thread of romance.
For well she kept her genial mood
And simple faith of maidenhood;
Before her still a cloud-land lay,
The mirage loomed across her way;
The morning dew, that dries so soon
With others, glistened at her noon;
Through years of toil and soil and care,
From glossy tress to thin gray hair,
All unprofaned she held apart
The virgin fancies of the heart.
Be shame to him of woman born
Who hath for such but thought of scorn.
There, too, our elder sister plied
Her evening task the stand beside;
A full, rich nature, free to trust,
Truthful and almost sternly just,
Impulsive, earnest, prompt to act,
And make her generous thought a fact,
Keeping with many a light disguise
The secret of self-sacrifice.
O heart sore-tried! thou hast the best
That Heaven itself could give thee, -- rest,
Rest from all bitter thoughts and things!
How many a poor one's blessing went
With thee beneath the low green tent
Whose curtain never outward swings!
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 in 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?
Brisk wielder of the birch and rule,
The master of the district school
Held at the fire his favored place,
Its warm glow lit a laughing face
Fresh-hued and fair, where scarce appeared
The uncertain prophecy of beard.
He teased the mitten-blinded cat,
Played cross-pins on my uncle's hat,
Sang songs, and told us what befalls
In classic Dartmouth's college halls.
Born the wild Northern hills among,
From whence his yeoman father wrung
By patient toil subsistence scant,
Not competence and yet not want,
He early gained the power to pay
His cheerful, self-reliant way;
Could doff at ease his scholar's gown
To peddle wares from town to town;
Or through the long vacation's reach
In lonely lowland districts teach,
Where all the droll experience found
At stranger hearths in boarding round,
The moonlit skater's keen delight,
The sleigh-drive through the frosty night,
The rustic party, with its rough
Accompaniment of blind-man's-buff,
And whirling-plate, and forfeits paid,
His winter task a pastime made.
Happy the snow-locked homes wherein
He tuned his merry violin,
Or played the athlete in the barn,
Or held the good dame's winding-yarn,
Or mirth-provoking versions told
Of classic legends rare and old,
Wherein the scenes of Greece and Rome
Had all the commonplace of home,
And little seemed at best the odds
'Twixt Yankee pedlers and old gods;
Where Pindus-born Arachthus took
The guise of any grist-mill brook,
And dread Olympus at his will
Became a huckleberry hill.
A careless boy that night he seemed;
But at his desk he had the look
And air of one who wisely schemed,
And hostage from the future took
In trainëd thought and lore of book.
Large-brained, clear-eyed, of such as he
Shall Freedom's young apostles be,
Who, following in War's bloody trail,
Shall every lingering wrong assail;
All chains from limb and spirit strike,
Uplift the black and white alike;
Scatter before their swift advance
The darkness and the ignorance,
The pride, the lust, the squalid sloth,
Which nurtured Treason's monstrous growth,
Made murder pastime, and the hell
Of prison-torture possible;
The cruel lie of caste refute,
Old forms remould, and substitute
For Slavery's lash the freeman's will,
For blind routine, wise-handed skill;
A school-house plant on every hill,
Stretching in radiate nerve-lines thence
The quick wires of intelligence;
Till North and South together brought
Shall own the same electric thought,
In peace a common flag salute,
And, side by side in labor's free
And unresentful rivalry,
Harvest the fields wherein they fought.
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 drooped 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 thoroughfares,
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!
Where'er her troubled path may be,
The Lord's sweet pity with her go!
The outward wayward life we see,
The hidden springs we may not know.
Nor is it given us to discern
What threads the fatal sisters spun,
Through what ancestral years has run
The sorrow with the woman born,
What forged her cruel chain of moods,
What set her feet in solitudes,
And held the love within her mute,
What mingled madness in the blood,
A life-long discord and annoy,
Water of tears with oil of joy,
And hid within the folded bud
Perversities of flower and fruit.
It is not ours to separate
The tangled skein of will and fate,
To show what metes and bounds should stand
Upon the soul's debatable land,
And between choice and Providence
Divide the circle of events;
But He who knows our frame is just,
Merciful and compassionate,
And full of sweet assurances
And hope for all the language is,
That He remembereth we are dust!
At last the great logs, crumbling low,
Sent out a dull and duller glow,
The bull's-eye watch that hung in view,
Ticking its weary circuit through,
Pointed with mutely warning sign
Its black hand to the hour of nine.
That sign the pleasant circle broke:
My uncle ceased his pipe to smoke,
Knocked from its bowl the refuse gray,
And laid it tenderly away;
Then roused himself to safely cover
The dull red brands with ashes over.
And while, with care, our mother laid
The work aside, her steps she stayed
One moment, seeking to express
Her grateful sense of happiness
For food and shelter, warmth and health,
And love's contentment more than wealth,
With simple wishes (not the weak,
Vain prayers which no fulfilment seek,
But such as warm the generous heart,
O'er-prompt to do with Heaven its part)
That none might lack, that bitter night,
For bread and clothing, warmth and light.
Within our beds awhile we heard
The wind that round the gables roared,
With now and then a ruder shock,
Which made our very bedsteads rock.
We heard the loosened clapboards tost,
The board-nails snapping in the frost;
And on us, through the unplastered wall,
Felt the light sifted snow-flakes fall.
But sleep stole on, as sleep will do
When hearts are light and life is new;
Faint and more faint the murmurs grew,
Till in the summer-land of dreams
They softened to the sound of streams,
Low stir of leaves, and dip of oars,
And lapsing waves on quiet shores.
Next morn we wakened with the shout
Of merry voices high and clear;
And saw the teamsters drawing near
To break the drifted highways out.
Down the long hillside treading slow
We saw the half-buried oxen go,
Shaking the snow from heads uptost,
Their straining nostrils white with frost.
Before our door the straggling train
Drew up, an added team to gain.
The elders threshed their hands a-cold,
Passed, with the cider-mug, their jokes
From lip to lip; the younger folks
Down the loose snow-banks, wrestling, rolled,
Then toiled again the cavalcade
O'er windy hill, through clogged ravine,
And woodland paths that wound between
Low drooping pine-boughs winter-weighed.
From every barn a team afoot,
At every house a new recruit,
Where, drawn by Nature's subtlest law,
Haply the watchful young men saw
Sweet doorway pictures of the curls
And curious eyes of merry girls,
Lifting their hands in mock defence
Against the snow-ball's compliments,
And reading in each missive tost
The charm with Eden never lost.
We heard once more the sleigh-bells' sound;
And, following where the teamsters led,
The wise old Doctor went his round,
Just pausing at our door to say,
In the brief autocratic way
Of one who, prompt at Duty's call,
Was free to urge her claim on all,
That some poor neighbor sick abed
At night our mother's aid would need.
For, one in generous thought and deed,
What mattered in the sufferer's sight
The Quaker matron's inward light,
The Doctor's mail of Calvin's creed?
All hearts confess the saints elect
Who, twain in faith, in love agree,
And melt not in an acid sect
The Christian pearl of charity!
So days went on: a week had passed
Since the great world was heard from last.
The Almanac we studied o'er,
Read and reread our little store
Of books and pamphlets, scarce a score;
One harmless novel, mostly hid
From younger eyes, a book forbid,
And poetry, (or good or bad,
A single book was all we had,)
Where Ellwood's meek, drab-skirted Muse,
A stranger to the heathen Nine,
Sang, with a somewhat nasal whine,
The wars of David and the Jews.
At last the floundering carrier bore
The village paper to our door.
Lo! broadening outward as we read,
To warmer zones the horizon spread
In panoramic length unrolled
We saw the marvels that it told.
Before us passed the painted Creeks,
And daft McGregor on his raids
In Costa Rica's everglades.
And up Taygetos winding slow
Rode Ypsilanti's Mainote Greeks,
A Turk's head at each saddle-bow!
Welcome to us its week-old news,
Its corner for the rustic Muse,
Its monthly gauge of snow and rain,
Its record, mingling in a breath
The wedding bell and dirge of death:
Jest, anecdote, and love-lorn tale,
The latest culprit sent to jail;
Its hue and cry of stolen and lost,
Its vendue sales and goods at cost,
And traffic calling loud for gain.
We felt the stir of hall and street,
The pulse of life that round us beat;
The chill embargo of the snow
Was melted in the genial glow;
Wide swung again our ice-locked door,
And all the world was ours once more!
Clasp, Angel of the backword look
And folded wings of ashen gray
And voice of echoes far away,
The brazen covers of thy book;
The weird palimpsest old and vast,
Wherein thou hid'st the spectral past;
Where, closely mingling, pale and glow
The characters of joy and woe;
The monographs of outlived years,
Or smile-illumed or dim with tears,
Green hills of life that slope to death,
And haunts of home, whose vistaed trees
Shade off to mournful cypresses
With the white amaranths underneath.
Even while I look, I can but heed
The restless sands' incessant fall,
Importunate hours that hours succeed,
Each clamorous with its own sharp need,
And duty keeping pace with all.
Shut down and clasp with heavy lids;
I hear again the voice that bids
The dreamer leave his dream midway
For larger hopes and graver fears:
Life greatens in these later years,
The century's aloe flowers to-day!
Yet, haply, in some lull of life,
Some Truce of God which breaks its strife,
The worldling's eyes shall gather dew,
Dreaming in throngful city ways
Of winter joys his boyhood knew;
And dear and early friends -- the few
Who yet remain -- shall pause to view
These Flemish pictures of old days;
Sit with me by the homestead hearth,
And stretch the hands of memory forth
To warm them at the wood-fire's blaze!
And thanks untraced to lips unknown
Shall greet me like the odors blown
From unseen meadows newly mown,
Or lilies floating in some pond,
Wood-fringed, the wayside gaze beyond;
The traveller owns the grateful sense
Of sweetness near, he knows not whence,
And, pausing, takes with forehead bare
The benediction of the air.
The Bridal Of Pennacook
We had been wandering for many days
Through the rough northern country. We had seen
The sunset, with its bars of purple cloud,
Like a new heaven, shine upward from the lake
Of Winnepiseogee; and had felt
The sunrise breezes, midst the leafy isles
Which stoop their summer beauty to the lips
Of the bright waters. We had checked our steeds,
Silent with wonder, where the mountain wall
Is piled to heaven; and, through the narrow rift
Of the vast rocks, against whose rugged feet
Beats the mad torrent with perpetual roar,
Where noonday is as twilight, and the wind
Comes burdened with the everlasting moan
Of forests and of far-off waterfalls,
We had looked upward where the summer sky,
Tasselled with clouds light-woven by the sun,
Sprung its blue arch above the abutting crags
O'er-roofing the vast portal of the land
Beyond the wall of mountains. We had passed
The high source of the Saco; and bewildered
In the dwarf spruce-belts of the Crystal Hills,
Had heard above us, like a voice in the cloud,
The horn of Fabyan sounding; and atop
Of old Agioochook had seen the mountains'
Piled to the northward, shagged with wood, and thick
As meadow mole-hills,—the far sea of Casco,
A white gleam on the horizon of the east;
Fair lakes, embosomed in the woods and hills;
Moosehillock's mountain range, and Kearsarge
Lifting his granite forehead to the sun!
And we had rested underneath the oaks
Shadowing the bank, whose grassy spires are shaken
By the perpetual beating of the falls
Of the wild Ammonoosuc. We had tracked
The winding Pemigewasset, overhung
By beechen shadows, whitening down its rocks,
Or lazily gliding through its intervals,
From waving rye-fields sending up the gleam
Of sunlit waters. We had seen the moon
Rising behind Umbagog's eastern pines,
Like a great Indian camp-fire; and its beams
At midnight spanning with a bridge of silver
The Merrimac by Uncanoonuc's falls.
There were five souls of us whom travel's chance
Had thrown together in these wild north hills
A city lawyer, for a month escaping
From his dull office, where the weary eye
Saw only hot brick walls and close thronged streets;
Briefless as yet, but with an eye to see
Life's sunniest side, and with a heart to take
Its chances all as godsends; and his brother,
Pale from long pulpit studies, yet retaining
The warmth and freshness of a genial heart,
Whose mirror of the beautiful and true,
In Man and Nature, was as yet undimmed
By dust of theologic strife, or breath
Of sect, or cobwebs of scholastic lore;
Like a clear crystal calm of water, taking
The hue and image of o'erleaning flowers,
Sweet human faces, white clouds of the noon,
Slant starlight glimpses through the dewy leaves,
And tenderest moonrise. 'Twas, in truth, a study,
To mark his spirit, alternating between
A decent and professional gravity
And an irreverent mirthfulness, which often
Laughed in the face of his divinity,
Plucked off the sacred ephod, quite unshrined
The oracle, and for the pattern priest
Left us the man. A shrewd, sagacious merchant,
To whom the soiled sheet found in Crawford's inn,
Giving the latest news of city stocks
And sales of cotton, had a deeper meaning
Than the great presence of the awful mountains
Glorified by the sunset; and his daughter,
A delicate flower on whom had blown too long
Those evil winds, which, sweeping from the ice
And winnowing the fogs of Labrador,
Shed their cold blight round Massachusetts Bay,
With the same breath which stirs Spring's opening leaves
And lifts her half-formed flower-bell on its stem,
Poisoning our seaside atmosphere.
It chanced that as we turned upon our homeward way,
A drear northeastern storm came howling up
The valley of the Saco; and that girl
Who had stood with us upon Mount Washington,
Her brown locks ruffled by the wind which whirled
In gusts around its sharp, cold pinnacle,
Who had joined our gay trout-fishing in the streams
Which lave that giant's feet; whose laugh was heard
Like a bird's carol on the sunrise breeze
Which swelled our sail amidst the lake's green islands,
Shrank from its harsh, chill breath, and visibly drooped
Like a flower in the frost. So, in that quiet inn
Which looks from Conway on the mountains piled
Heavily against the horizon of the north,
Like summer thunder-clouds, we made our home
And while the mist hung over dripping hills,
And the cold wind-driven rain-drops all day long
Beat their sad music upon roof and pane,
We strove to cheer our gentle invalid.
The lawyer in the pauses of the storm
Went angling down the Saco, and, returning,
Recounted his adventures and mishaps;
Gave us the history of his scaly clients,
Mingling with ludicrous yet apt citations
Of barbarous law Latin, passages
From Izaak Walton's Angler, sweet and fresh
As the flower-skirted streams of Staffordshire,
Where, under aged trees, the southwest wind
Of soft June mornings fanned the thin, white hair
Of the sage fisher. And, if truth be told,
Our youthful candidate forsook his sermons,
His commentaries, articles and creeds,
For the fair page of human loveliness,
The missal of young hearts, whose sacred text
Is music, its illumining, sweet smiles.
He sang the songs she loved; and in his low,
Deep, earnest voice, recited many a page
Of poetry, the holiest, tenderest lines
Of the sad bard of Olney, the sweet songs,
Simple and beautiful as Truth and Nature,
Of him whose whitened locks on Rydal Mount
Are lifted yet by morning breezes blowing
From the green hills, immortal in his lays.
And for myself, obedient to her wish,
I searched our landlord's proffered library,—
A well-thumbed Bunyan, with its nice wood pictures
Of scaly fiends and angels not unlike them;
Watts' unmelodious psalms; Astrology's
Last home, a musty pile of almanacs,
And an old chronicle of border wars
And Indian history. And, as I read
A story of the marriage of the Chief
Of Saugus to the dusky Weetamoo,
Daughter of Passaconaway, who dwelt
In the old time upon the Merrimac,
Our fair one, in the playful exercise
Of her prerogative,—the right divine
Of youth and beauty,—bade us versify
The legend, and with ready pencil sketched
Its plan and outlines, laughingly assigning
To each his part, and barring our excuses
With absolute will. So, like the cavaliers
Whose voices still are heard in the Romance
Of silver-tongued Boccaccio, on the banks
Of Arno, with soft tales of love beguiling
The ear of languid beauty, plague-exiled
From stately Florence, we rehearsed our rhymes
To their fair auditor, and shared by turns
Her kind approval and her playful censure.
It may be that these fragments owe alone
To the fair setting of their circumstances,—
The associations of time, scene, and audience,—
Their place amid the pictures which fill up
The chambers of my memory. Yet I trust
That some, who sigh, while wandering in thought,
Pilgrims of Romance o'er the olden world,
That our broad land,—our sea-like lakes and mountains
Piled to the clouds, our rivers overhung
By forests which have known no other change
For ages than the budding and the fall
Of leaves, our valleys lovelier than those
Which the old poets sang of,—should but figure
On the apocryphal chart of speculation
As pastures, wood-lots, mill-sites, with the privileges,
Rights, and appurtenances, which make up
A Yankee Paradise, unsung, unknown,
To beautiful tradition; even their names,
Whose melody yet lingers like the last
Vibration of the red man's requiem,
Exchanged for syllables significant,
Of cotton-mill and rail-car, will look kindly
Upon this effort to call up the ghost
Of our dim Past, and listen with pleased ear
To the responses of the questioned Shade.
I. THE MERRIMAC
O child of that white-crested mountain whose springs
Gush forth in the shade of the cliff-eagle's wings,
Down whose slopes to the lowlands thy wild waters shine,
Leaping gray walls of rock, flashing through the dwarf pine;
From that cloud-curtained cradle so cold and so lone,
From the arms of that wintry-locked mother of stone,
By hills hung with forests, through vales wide and free,
Thy mountain-born brightness glanced down to the sea.
No bridge arched thy waters save that where the trees
Stretched their long arms above thee and kissed in the breeze:
No sound save the lapse of the waves on thy shores,
The plunging of otters, the light dip of oars.
Green-tufted, oak-shaded, by Amoskeag's fall
Thy twin Uncanoonucs rose stately and tall,
Thy Nashua meadows lay green and unshorn,
And the hills of Pentucket were tasselled with corn.
But thy Pennacook valley was fairer than these,
And greener its grasses and taller its trees,
Ere the sound of an axe in the forest had rung,
Or the mower his scythe in the meadows had swung.
In their sheltered repose looking out from the wood
The bark-builded wigwams of Pennacook stood;
There glided the corn-dance, the council-fire shone,
And against the red war-post the hatchet was thrown.
There the old smoked in silence their pipes, and the young
To the pike and the white-perch their baited lines flung;
There the boy shaped his arrows, and there the shy maid
Wove her many-hued baskets and bright wampum braid.
O Stream of the Mountains! if answer of thine
Could rise from thy waters to question of mine,
Methinks through the din of thy thronged banks a moan
Of sorrow would swell for the days which have gone.
Not for thee the dull jar of the loom and the wheel,
The gliding of shuttles, the ringing of steel;
But that old voice of waters, of bird and of breeze,
The dip of the wild-fowl, the rustling of trees.
II. THE BASHABA
Lift we the twilight curtains of the Past,
And, turning from familiar sight and sound,
Sadly and full of reverence let us cast
A glance upon Tradition's shadowy ground,
Led by the few pale lights which, glimmering round
That dim, strange land of Eld, seem dying fast;
And that which history gives not to the eye,
The faded coloring of Time's tapestry,
Let Fancy, with her dream-dipped brush, supply.
Roof of bark and walls of pine,
Through whose chinks the sunbeams shine,
Tracing many a golden line
On the ample floor within;
Where, upon that earth-floor stark,
Lay the gaudy mats of bark,
With the bear's hide, rough and dark,
And the red-deer's skin.
Window-tracery, small and slight,
Woven of the willow white,
Lent a dimly checkered light;
And the night-stars glimmered down,
Where the lodge-fire's heavy smoke,
Slowly through an opening broke,
In the low roof, ribbed with oak,
Sheathed with hemlock brown.
Gloomed behind the changeless shade
By the solemn pine-wood made;
Through the rugged palisade,
In the open foreground planted,
Glimpses came of rowers rowing,
Stir of leaves and wild-flowers blowing,
Steel-like gleams of water flowing,
In the sunlight slanted.
Here the mighty Bashaba
Held his long-unquestioned sway,
From the White Hills, far away,
To the great sea's sounding shore;
Chief of chiefs, his regal word
All the river Sachems heard,
At his call the war-dance stirred,
Or was still once more.
There his spoils of chase and war,
Jaw of wolf and black bear's paw,
Panther's skin and eagle's claw,
Lay beside his axe and bow;
And, adown the roof-pole hung,
Loosely on a snake-skin strung,
In the smoke his scalp-locks swung
Grimly to and fro.
Nightly down the river going,
Swifter was the hunter's rowing,
When he saw that lodge-fire, glowing
O'er the waters still and red;
And the squaw's dark eye burned brighter,
And she drew her blanket tighter,
As, with quicker step and lighter,
From that door she fled.
For that chief had magic skill,
And a Panisee's dark will,
Over powers of good and ill,
Powers which bless and powers which ban;
Wizard lord of Pennacook,
Chiefs upon their war-path shook,
When they met the steady look
Of that wise dark man.
Tales of him the gray squaw told,
When the winter night-wind cold
Pierced her blanket's thickest fold,
And her fire burned low and small,
Till the very child abed,
Drew its bear-skin over bead,
Shrinking from the pale lights shed
On the trembling wall.
All the subtle spirits hiding
Under earth or wave, abiding
In the caverned rock, or riding
Misty clouds or morning breeze;
Every dark intelligence,
Secret soul, and influence
Of all things which outward sense
Feels, or bears, or sees,—
These the wizard's skill confessed,
At his bidding banned or blessed,
Stormful woke or lulled to rest
Wind and cloud, and fire and flood;
Burned for him the drifted snow,
Bade through ice fresh lilies blow,
And the leaves of summer grow
Over winter's wood!
Not untrue that tale of old!
Now, as then, the wise and bold
All the powers of Nature hold
Subject to their kingly will;
From the wondering crowds ashore,
Treading life's wild waters o'er,
As upon a marble floor,
Moves the strong man still.
Still, to such, life's elements
With their sterner laws dispense,
And the chain of consequence
Broken in their pathway lies;
Time and change their vassals making,
Flowers from icy pillows waking,
Tresses of the sunrise shaking
Over midnight skies.
Still, to th' earnest soul, the sun
Rests on towered Gibeon,
And the moon of Ajalon
Lights the battle-grounds of life;
To his aid the strong reverses
Hidden powers and giant forces,
And the high stars, in their courses,
Mingle in his strife!
III. THE DAUGHTER
The soot-black brows of men, the yell
Of women thronging round the bed,
The tinkling charm of ring and shell,
The Powah whispering o'er the dead!
All these the Sachem's home had known,
When, on her journey long and wild
To the dim World of Souls, alone,
In her young beauty passed the mother of his child.
Three bow-shots from the Sachem's dwelling
They laid her in the walnut shade,
Where a green hillock gently swelling
Her fitting mound of burial made.
There trailed the vine in summer hours,
The tree-perched squirrel dropped his shell,—
On velvet moss and pale-hued flowers,
Woven with leaf and spray, the softened sunshine fell!
The Indian's heart is hard and cold,
It closes darkly o'er its care,
And formed in Nature's sternest mould,
Is slow to feel, and strong to bear.
The war-paint on the Sachem's face,
Unwet with tears, shone fierce and red,
And still, in battle or in chase,
Dry leaf and snow-rime crisped beneath his foremost tread.
Yet when her name was heard no more,
And when the robe her mother gave,
And small, light moccasin she wore,
Had slowly wasted on her grave,
Unmarked of him the dark maids sped
Their sunset dance and moonlit play;
No other shared his lonely bed,
No other fair young head upon his bosom lay.
A lone, stern man. Yet, as sometimes
The tempest-smitten tree receives
From one small root the sap which climbs
Its topmost spray and crowning leaves,
So from his child the Sachem drew
A life of Love and Hope, and felt
His cold and rugged nature through
The softness and the warmth of her young being melt.
A laugh which in the woodland rang
Bemocking April's gladdest bird,—
A light and graceful form which sprang
To meet him when his step was heard,—
Eyes by his lodge-fire flashing dark,
Small fingers stringing bead and shell
Or weaving mats of bright-hued bark,—
With these the household-god had graced his wigwam well.
Child of the forest! strong and free,
Slight-robed, with loosely flowing hair,
She swam the lake or climbed the tree,
Or struck the flying bird in air.
O'er the heaped drifts of winter's moon
Her snow-shoes tracked the hunter's way;
And dazzling in the summer noon
The blade of her light oar threw off its shower of spray!
Unknown to her the rigid rule,
The dull restraint, the chiding frown,
The weary torture of the school,
The taming of wild nature down.
Her only lore, the legends told
Around the hunter's fire at night;
Stars rose and set, and seasons rolled,
Flowers bloomed and snow-flakes fell, unquestioned in her sight.
Unknown to her the subtle skill
With which the artist-eye can trace
In rock and tree and lake and hill
The outlines of divinest grace;
Unknown the fine soul's keen unrest,
Which sees, admires, yet yearns alway;
Too closely on her mother's breast
To note her smiles of love the child of Nature lay!
It is enough for such to be
Of common, natural things a part,
To feel, with bird and stream and tree,
The pulses of the same great heart;
But we, from Nature long exiled,
In our cold homes of Art and Thought
Grieve like the stranger-tended child,
Which seeks its mother's arms, and sees but feels them not.
The garden rose may richly bloom
In cultured soil and genial air,
To cloud the light of Fashion's room
Or droop in Beauty's midnight hair;
In lonelier grace, to sun and dew
The sweetbrier on the hillside shows
Its single leaf and fainter hue,
Untrained and wildly free, yet still a sister rose!
Thus o'er the heart of Weetamoo
Their mingling shades of joy and ill
The instincts of her nature threw;
The savage was a woman still.
Midst outlines dim of maiden schemes,
Heart-colored prophecies of life,
Rose on the ground of her young dreams
The light of a new home, the lover and the wife.
IV. THE WEDDING
Cool and dark fell the autumn night,
But the Bashaba's wigwam glowed with light,
For down from its roof, by green withes hung,
Flaring and smoking the pine-knots swung.
And along the river great wood-fires
Shot into the night their long, red spires,
Showing behind the tall, dark wood,
Flashing before on the sweeping flood.
In the changeful wind, with shimmer and shade,
Now high, now low, that firelight played,
On tree-leaves wet with evening dews,
On gliding water and still canoes.
The trapper that night on Turee's brook,
And the weary fisher on Contoocook,
Saw over the marshes, and through the pine,
And down on the river, the dance-lights shine.
For the Saugus Sachem had come to woo
The Bashaba's daughter Weetamoo,
And laid at her father's feet that night
His softest furs and wampum white.
From the Crystal Hills to the far southeast
The river Sagamores came to the feast;
And chiefs whose homes the sea-winds shook
Sat down on the mats of Pennacook.
They came from Sunapee's shore of rock,
From the snowy sources of Snooganock,
And from rough Coos whose thick woods shake
Their pine-cones in Umbagog Lake.
From Ammonoosuc's mountain pass,
Wild as his home, came Chepewass;
And the Keenomps of the bills which throw
Their shade on the Smile of Manito.
With pipes of peace and bows unstrung,
Glowing with paint came old and young,
In wampum and furs and feathers arrayed,
To the dance and feast the Bashaba made.
Bird of the air and beast of the field,
All which the woods and the waters yield,
On dishes of birch and hemlock piled,
Garnished and graced that banquet wild.
Steaks of the brown bear fat and large
From the rocky slopes of the Kearsarge;
Delicate trout from Babboosuck brook,
And salmon speared in the Contoocook;
Squirrels which fed where nuts fell thick
in the gravelly bed of the Otternic;
And small wild-hens in reed-snares caught
from the banks of Sondagardee brought;
Pike and perch from the Suncook taken,
Nuts from the trees of the Black Hills shaken,
Cranberries picked in the Squamscot bog,
And grapes from the vines of Piscataquog:
And, drawn from that great stone vase which stands
In the river scooped by a spirit's hands,
Garnished with spoons of shell and horn,
Stood the birchen dishes of smoking corn.
Thus bird of the air and beast of the field,
All which the woods and the waters yield,
Furnished in that olden day
The bridal feast of the Bashaba.
And merrily when that feast was done
On the fire-lit green the dance begun,
With squaws' shrill stave, and deeper hum
Of old men beating the Indian drum.
Painted and plumed, with scalp-locks flowing,
And red arms tossing and black eyes glowing,
Now in the light and now in the shade
Around the fires the dancers played.
The step was quicker, the song more shrill,
And the beat of the small drums louder still
Whenever within the circle drew
The Saugus Sachem and Weetamoo.
The moons of forty winters had shed
Their snow upon that chieftain's head,
And toil and care and battle's chance
Had seamed his hard, dark countenance.
A fawn beside the bison grim,—
Why turns the bride's fond eye on him,
In whose cold look is naught beside
The triumph of a sullen pride?
Ask why the graceful grape entwines
The rough oak with her arm of vines;
And why the gray rock's rugged cheek
The soft lips of the mosses seek.
Why, with wise instinct, Nature seems
To harmonize her wide extremes,
Linking the stronger with the weak,
The haughty with the soft and meek!
V. THE NEW HOME
A wild and broken landscape, spiked with firs,
Roughening the bleak horizon's northern edge;
Steep, cavernous hillsides, where black hemlock spurs
And sharp, gray splinters of the wind-swept ledge
Pierced the thin-glazed ice, or bristling rose,
Where the cold rim of the sky sunk down upon the snows.
And eastward cold, wide marshes stretched away,
Dull, dreary flats without a bush or tree,
O'er-crossed by icy creeks, where twice a day
Gurgled the waters of the moon-struck sea;
And faint with distance came the stifled roar,
The melancholy lapse of waves on that low shore.
No cheerful village with its mingling smokes,
No laugh of children wrestling in the snow,
No camp-fire blazing through the hillside oaks,
No fishers kneeling on the ice below;
Yet midst all desolate things of sound and view,
Through the long winter moons smiled dark-eyed Weetamoo.
Her heart had found a home; and freshly all
Its beautiful affections overgrew
Their rugged prop. As o'er some granite wall
Soft vine-leaves open to the moistening dew
And warm bright sun, the love of that young wife
Found on a hard cold breast the dew and warmth of life.
The steep, bleak hills, the melancholy shore,
The long, dead level of the marsh between,
A coloring of unreal beauty wore
Through the soft golden mist of young love seen.
For o'er those hills and from that dreary plain,
Nightly she welcomed home her hunter chief again.
No warmth of heart, no passionate burst of feeling,
Repaid her welcoming smile and parting kiss,
No fond and playful dalliance half concealing,
Under the guise of mirth, its tenderness;
But, in their stead, the warrior's settled pride,
And vanity's pleased smile with homage satisfied.
Enough for Weetamoo, that she alone
Sat on his mat and slumbered at his side;
That he whose fame to her young ear had flown
Now looked upon her proudly as his bride;
That he whose name the Mohawk trembling heard
Vouchsafed to her at times a kindly look or word.
For she had learned the maxims of her race,
Which teach the woman to become a slave,
And feel herself the pardonless disgrace
Of love's fond weakness in the wise and brave,—
The scandal and the shame which they incur,
Who give to woman all which man requires of her.
So passed the winter moons. The sun at last
Broke link by link the frost chain of the rills,
And the warm breathings of the southwest passed
Over the hoar rime of the Saugus hills;
The gray and desolate marsh grew green once more,
And the birch-tree's tremulous shade fell round the Sachem's door.
Then from far Pennacook swift runners came,
With gift and greeting for the Saugus chief;
Beseeching him in the great Sachem's name,
That, with the coming of the flower and leaf,
The song of birds, the warm breeze and the rain,
Young Weetamoo might greet her lonely sire again.
And Winnepurkit called his chiefs together,
And a grave council in his wigwam met,
Solemn and brief in words, considering whether
The rigid rules of forest etiquette
Permitted Weetamoo once more to look
Upon her father's face and green-banked Pennacook.
With interludes of pipe-smoke and strong water,
The forest sages pondered, and at length,
Concluded in a body to escort her
Up to her father's home of pride and strength,
Impressing thus on Pennacook a sense
Of Winnepurkit's power and regal consequence.
So through old woods which Aukeetamit's hand,
A soft and many-shaded greenness lent,
Over high breezy hills, and meadow land
Yellow with flowers, the wild procession went,
Till, rolling down its wooded banks between,
A broad, clear, mountain stream, the Merrimac was seen.
The hunter leaning on his bow undrawn,
The fisher lounging on the pebbled shores,
Squaws in the clearing dropping the seed-corn,
Young children peering through the wigwam doors,
Saw with delight, surrounded by her train
Of painted Saugus braves, their Weetamoo again.
VI. AT PENNACOOK
The hills are dearest which our childish feet
Have climbed the earliest; and the streams most sweet
Are ever those at which our young lips drank,
Stooped to their waters o'er the grassy bank.
Midst the cold dreary sea-watch, Home's hearth-light
Shines round the helmsman plunging through the night;
And still, with inward eye, the traveller sees
In close, dark, stranger streets his native trees.
The home-sick dreamer's brow is nightly fanned
By breezes whispering of his native land,
And on the stranger's dim and dying eye
The soft, sweet pictures of his childhood lie.
Joy then for Weetamoo, to sit once more
A child upon her father's wigwam floor!
Once more with her old fondness to beguile
From his cold eye the strange light of a smile.
The long, bright days of summer swiftly passed,
The dry leaves whirled in autumn's rising blast,
And evening cloud and whitening sunrise rime
Told of the coming of the winter-time.
But vainly looked, the while, young Weetamoo,
Down the dark river for her chief's canoe;
No dusky messenger from Saugus brought
The grateful tidings which the young wife sought.
At length a runner from her father sent,
To Winnepurkit's sea-cooled wigwam went
'Eagle of Saugus,—in the woods the dove
Mourns for the shelter of thy wings of love.'
But the dark chief of Saugus turned aside
In the grim anger of hard-hearted pride;
I bore her as became a chieftain's daughter,
Up to her home beside the gliding water.
If now no more a mat for her is found
Of all which line her father's wigwam round,
Let Pennacook call out his warrior train,
And send her back with wampum gifts again.'
The baffled runner turned upon his track,
Bearing the words of Winnepurkit back.
'Dog of the Marsh,' cried Pennacook, 'no more
Shall child of mine sit on his wigwam floor.
'Go, let him seek some meaner squaw to spread
The stolen bear-skin of his beggar's bed;
Son of a fish-hawk! let him dig his clams
For some vile daughter of the Agawams,
'Or coward Nipmucks! may his scalp dry black
In Mohawk smoke, before I send her back.'
He shook his clenched hand towards the ocean wave,
While hoarse assent his listening council gave.
Alas poor bride! can thy grim sire impart
His iron hardness to thy woman's heart?
Or cold self-torturing pride like his atone
For love denied and life's warm beauty flown?
On Autumn's gray and mournful grave the snow
Hung its white wreaths; with stifled voice and low
The river crept, by one vast bridge o'er-crossed,
Built by the boar-locked artisan of Frost.
And many a moon in beauty newly born
Pierced the red sunset with her silver horn,
Or, from the east, across her azure field
Rolled the wide brightness of her full-orbed shield.
Yet Winnepurkit came not,—on the mat
Of the scorned wife her dusky rival sat;
And he, the while, in Western woods afar,
Urged the long chase, or trod the path of war.
Dry up thy tears, young daughter of a chief!
Waste not on him the sacredness of grief;
Be the fierce spirit of thy sire thine own,
His lips of scorning, and his heart of stone.
What heeds the warrior of a hundred fights,
The storm-worn watcher through long hunting nights,
Cold, crafty, proud of woman's weak distress,
Her home-bound grief and pining loneliness?
VII. THE DEPARTURE
The wild March rains had fallen fast and long
The snowy mountains of the North among,
Making each vale a watercourse, each hill
Bright with the cascade of some new-made rill.
Gnawed by the sunbeams, softened by the rain,
Heaved underneath by the swollen current's strain,
The ice-bridge yielded, and the Merrimac
Bore the huge ruin crashing down its track.
On that strong turbid water, a small boat
Guided by one weak hand was seen to float;
Evil the fate which loosed it from the shore,
Too early voyager with too frail an oar!
Down the vexed centre of that rushing tide,
The thick huge ice-blocks threatening either side,
The foam-white rocks of Amoskeag in view,
With arrowy swiftness sped that light canoe.
The trapper, moistening his moose's meat
On the wet bank by Uncanoonuc's feet,
Saw the swift boat flash down the troubled stream;
Slept he, or waked he? was it truth or dream?
The straining eye bent fearfully before,
The small hand clenching on the useless oar,
The bead-wrought blanket trailing o'er the water—
He knew them all—woe for the Sachem's daughter!
Sick and aweary of her lonely life,
Heedless of peril, the still faithful wife
Had left her mother's grave, her father's door,
To seek the wigwam of her chief once more.
Down the white rapids like a sear leaf whirled,
On the sharp rocks and piled-up ices hurled,
Empty and broken, circled the canoe
In the vexed pool below—but where was Weetamoo.
VIII. SONG OF INDIAN WOMEN
The Dark eye has left us,
The Spring-bird has flown;
On the pathway of spirits
She wanders alone.
The song of the wood-dove has died on our shore
Mat wonck kunna-monee! We hear it no more!
O dark water Spirit
We cast on thy wave
These furs which may never
Hang over her grave;
Bear down to the lost one the robes that she wore
Mat wonck kunna-monee! We see her no more!
Of the strange land she walks in
No Powah has told:
It may burn with the sunshine,
Or freeze with the cold.
Let us give to our lost one the robes that she wore:
Mat wonck kunna-monee! We see her no more!
The path she is treading
Shall soon be our own;
Each gliding in shadow
Unseen and alone!
In vain shall we call on the souls gone before:
Mat wonck kunna-monee! They hear us no more!
O mighty Sowanna!
Thy gateways unfold,
From thy wigwam of sunset
Lift curtains of gold!
Take home the poor Spirit whose journey is o'er
Mat wonck kunna-monee! We see her no more!
So sang the Children of the Leaves beside
The broad, dark river's coldly flowing tide;
Now low, now harsh, with sob-like pause and swell,
On the high wind their voices rose and fell.
Nature's wild music,—sounds of wind-swept trees,
The scream of birds, the wailing of the breeze,
The roar of waters, steady, deep, and strong,—
Mingled and murmured in that farewell song.