Oh, What Shall Be My Song To-Night?
Oh, what shall be my song to-night ?
The earth, the sea, or sky,
The star-gems, with their trembling light,
Or night-bird's plaintive cry?
Not such can fill the lonely heart
With thoughts of bliss divine;
Not such a holy thrill impart
To spirit warm as thine.
The dawning of a lovely form
Upon the raptured eye;
The hand's soft touch, so true and warm,
The red lip's answering sigh ;
The gentle voice for which we yearn
In crowds or lonely dell,
The beaming eye to which we turn
Enthralled by beauty's spell,—
These be the burden of my song,
While dreams of heaven are thine,
Made glorious by the angel throng
Bowed at an earthly shrine.
Then turn thee once from them to-night
To one who wanders free,
To sing how all things pure and bright
Have found a home in thee.
Dedicated to Mrs. Alice Baldwin, of Burlington, Iowa, the 'Little Girl' of Yore.
'Oh, isn't it pretty?' a little girl cried,
With her bright eyes upturned, as she stood by my side.
'It is just like the moon that we both used to see
When Addie and I sat on grandfather's knee.
I wonder,' she said, as I gave her a kiss,
'If God looked at that when He went to make this.'
I brushed from her forehead a tiny, stray curl,
And pressed to my bosom the dear little girl;
Then told her the moon was the same she had seen
Ere she crossed the great rivers and prairies of green.
'Then why,' she said, quickly, appearing to doubt,
'Does it sometimes shine brightly and sometimes go out?'
She paused, mused a moment, then, turning to me,
And clapping her hands in her innocent glee,
'I know now,' she answered, in tones of delight:
' God's candle ! He carries it with Him at night;
He takes it through heaven wherever He goes,
And that's why it moves through the sky, I suppose.
' And I think I can guess why He brought it to-night,
And why He is looking at me by its light:
At grandfather's knee every evening I pray,
And He thinks I'll forget it because I'm away.'
Then, kneeling, she murmured the prayer she was taught,
And added, ' Dear Father, I have not forgot,
But please take Thy lamp while I'm praying to Thee,
And hold it for Addie, that she, too, may see.'
I turned to the sky as the prayer upward flew:
A cloud hid the face of the Night Queen from view.
The little one rose, as she said, with a smile,
'I knew He would hold it for Addie awhile.'
When first thou went'st my yearning heart,
With many a low, despairing cry,
Kept reaching up, with sudden start,
As if to draw thee from the sky.
And when they said, ' Be reconciled,
And know it is the Father's will,'
I only moaned, ' My child ! my child !'
And held my arms to clasp thee still.
But vain were all my pleading cries ;
My prayers, my longings, all were vain :
My wild lament might reach the skies,
But could not call thee back again.
And time wrore on ; the summer days
Dragged, with slow step, their weary length,
While upward still my earnest gaze
Would wander as I prayed for strength.
I mind me when the great eclipse
Spread its black wings o'er earth and sea,
With eager eye and parted lips
I stood to catch a glimpse of thee.
I said, ' If from the jasper wall
The angels lean toward friends below,
Thy searching glance may on me fall,
Thy gentle whispers soothe my woe.'
But through the shade no gleam was given,
I could but watch and yearn-in vain ;
It only met the frown of Heaven,
My wish to call thee back again.
And so, as each returning year
Brought round the day that claimed my child,
With bursting sigh and blinding tear
It found me still unreconciled.
It seemed so long to watch and wait:
My selfish sorrow made me blind ;
I charged my bitter loss to fate,
Nor felt the chastening Hand was kind.
The wild, wild wish to have thee here,
Close to my heart, in joy or pain,
Was all I craved,—to feel thee near,
To have thee, darling, back again.
But now, oh now, I see it all
With vision clear, with open eyes,
And would not, if I could, recall
Thy deathless spirit from the skies.
Nor will I think the blight and gloom
That sear and shade a world like ours,
Are known to those who rest in bloom
And brightness in the Eden bowers.
Forever safe, forever blest,
'Tis sweet to know thou wilt remain ;
And from that true, abiding Rest
I would not call thee back again.
Dedicated To My Sister, Mrs. Sarah A. Ayres.
One beautiful evening in summer,
Ere the sunbeams had vanished from sight,
When they stooped down to kiss the green prairies,
And bid all the flowers ' Good-night' ;
When the last lingering rays that descended
Fell full in the waterfall's face,
And caught the bright ripples, while dancing,
To give them a parting embrace;
Sad and doubting I sat by the brook-side,
And gazed on expiring Day,
Until Thought fell asleep in my bosom
And Memory flew softly away.
The clouds that hung lightly above me
Wore colors of beauty untold:
Displaying, in exquisite blending,
Their crimson and purple and gold.
The Breeze had forgotten its murmur,
The Zephyr had banished its sigh,
And echoes of heavenly anthems
Seemed dropping from harps in the sky.
Anon came the dim, dreamy twilight
To bend o'er our wild-flower track;
For, like truants, the sunbeams strayed earthward,
While darkness kept drawing them back.
Soon the long, waving grass of the meadow,
The waterfall sparkling and bright,
The trees and the church on the hill-side,
Were hid by the curtain of Night.
Then I sighed, in the fullness of sadness,
To think that the sunbeams had died,
Until white pinions fluttered around me,
And low whispers woke at my side :
' The gloom that the Night casts o'er nature
The splendor of Day ever mars,
But 'tis only the darkness, O mortal!
Can bring out the light of the stars.
' The soul, like the heavens above thee,
Has its seasons of sunlight and gloom;
And often the mental horizon
Is clouded by thoughts of the tomb.
' When the beams of Prosperity gladden,
Our troubles are laid in the dust ;
And 'tis only Adversity's mantle
Can bring out the starlight of Trust.
'Go ! learn of this emblem a lesson,—
Let Faith find a home in thy breast,
And Contentment will follow her footsteps,
And sing all repinings to rest.'
There was silence,—I gazed all around me
For the source of those whispers of love;
But naught met my wandering vision
Save the stars looking down from above.
Since then, when earth-shadows enfold me,
New strength to my spirit is given;
For I know it is only the darkness
Can brhvg oat the starlight of heaven.
Nelly 's Story
It was on a lovely evening
In the merry month of June,
That we sailed upon the waters clear,
Beneath the rising moon.
We had often sat together thus,
Young Lawrence Grey and I,
And watched the Night-Queen rolling
Through her kingdom in the sky.
He spoke as he was wont to speak,
In whispers soft and low,
Of moonlit skies and slumbering flowers,
And wavelets' murmuring flow.
In vain I listened for the words
I longed to hear him say ;
He breathed them not, —my heart was sad,—
I loved young Lawrence Grey.
Long had I known him ; oft had sat
Within the leafy grove,
And hoped to hear him whisper low
An earnest tale of love ;
Or stood, expectant, by his side,
At twilight's stilly hour,
And felt across my senses steal
A spell of wondrous power.
But Hope, the siren, from my heart
Had well-nigh ta'en her flight ;
And dark despair sat brooding there
Upon that summer's night.
And when, at last, a sacred hush
Fell upon wood and stream,
My thoughts were busy with the past,
While Lawrence seemed to dream.
I touched the water with my hand,
And tried to catch each gem
That, with the moonbeams, formed a gay,
A sparkling diadem.
A sudden fancy seized my brain,—
' Suspense is worse than death;
'Twill test his love to run the risk,—
I can but lose my breath.'
One parting glance was all I gave ;
But 'he beheld me not,
So closely were his senses bound
By deep, unfathomed thought.
' Forgive me, Heaven !' I softly said ;
' Now love or death must win !'
And, with the words, the skiff upset,
And I — I tumbled in.
One moment dark dismay became
A tenant of my breast ;
Another, every doubt gave way,—
All fear was lulled to rest.
A strong arm bore me to the shore,
Upheld my sinking form,
While tear-drops fell upon my cheeks
All fresh and bright and warm.
' Gone, almost gone !' he wildly said,
And smoothed my dripping hair ;
Then pressed his lips upon my own,
And left love's signet there.
A 'wildering bliss, an untold joy,
Across my being stole ;
And eyelids, that till then were closed,
No longer brooked control.
'Lawrence !' I slowly, feebly said, —
A flush suffused his cheek ;
Then, quick, he told me all his lips
Had long refused to speak:
He said he worshiped —he adored ;
If I would be his own,
Henceforth his aim in life should be
My happiness alone.
What answered I? Ask of the moon,
That now, all radiant, shone ;
Or of the still, pale stars beyond,
That tremblingly looked on.
I've tried a thousand times to think,
But tried, alas! in vain ;
Those words escaped from Memory's chart,
And ne'er came back again.
'Twas not till many years had fled
With many joys away,
And I had long been known to friends
As 'sober Nelly Grey,'
That I could venture to confess,
To him who used to dream,
That it was not an accident—
My falling in'the stream.
He scarce believed me when I said
I made the skiff capsize ;
Or that I heard the words he spoke
Before I oped my eyes.
He smiled, though, when he heard me say,
' If I were young once more,
And loved and doubted, I would act—
Just as I did before. ' '
Legend Of The Indian Summer
I have learned a simple legend,
Never found in books of lore,
Copied not from old tradition,
Nor from classics read of yore ;
But the breezes sang it to me
With a low and soft refrain,
While the golden leaves and scarlet
Fluttered down to catch the strain.
And the grand old trees above me,
As their stately branches swayed,
Threw across my couch of crimson
More of sunlight than of shade.
I had lain there dreaming, musing
On the summer's vanished bloom,
Wondering if each penciled leaflet
Did not mark some flow'ret's tomb ;
Thinking how each tree could tell me
Many a tale of warrior's fame;
Gazing at the sky, and asking
How the ''Indian Summer' came.
Then methought a whispered cadence
Stole from out the haunted trees,
While the leaves kept dropping, dropping,
To the music of the breeze.
'I will tell thee,' said the whisper,
'What I've learned from Nature's book;
For the sunbeams wrote this legend
On the margin of a brook.
' 'Tis about an Indian maiden,
She the star-flower of her race,
With a heart whose soft emotions
Rippled through her soul-lit face.
'All her tribe did homage to her,
For her father was their chief;
He was stern, and she forgiving,—
He brought pain, and she relief.
'And they called him 'Indian Winter,'
All his actions were so cold ;
Her they named the 'Indian Summer,'
For she seemed a thread of gold
' Flashing through her native forest,
Beaming in the wigwam lone,
Singing to the birds, her playmates,
Till they warbled back her tone.
' When the summer days were ended,
And the chilling months drew near,
When the clouds hung, dull and leaden,
And the leaves fell, brown and sere,
' Brought they to the chieftain's presence
One, a ' pale-face,' young and brave,
But whom youth nor manly valor
Could from savage vengeance save.
' ' Bring him forth !' in tones of thunder
Thus the 'Indian Winter' cried,
While the gentle ' Indian Summer'
Softly flitted to his side.
' When the tomahawk was lifted,
And the scalping-knife gleamed high,
Pride, revenge, and bloody hatred
Glared within the warrior's eye;
'And the frown upon his forehead
Darker, deeper, sterner grew ;
While the lowering clouds above them
Hid the face of heaven from view.
' ' Spare him ! oh, my father, spare him!'
Friend and foe were thrust apart,
While the golden thread of sunlight
Twined around the red man's heart.
' And her eye was full of pity,
And her voice was full of love,
As she told him of the wigwam
On the hunting-ground above,
' Where great Manito was talking,—
She could hear him in the breeze ;
How he called the ' pale-face' brother—
Smoked with him the pipe of peace.
' Then the warrior's heart relented,
And the glittering weapon fell:
1 For the maiden's sake,' he muttered,
' Thou art pardoned,— fare thee well !'
' And the sun, that would have slumbered
Till the spring-time came again,
Earthward from his garnered brightness
Threw a flood of golden rain;
'And the 'Indian Summer' saw it,
She, the gentle forest child ;
And to ' Indian Winter' whispered,
* See how Manito has smiled !'
'All the tribe received the omen,
And they called it by her name :
Indian Summer, Indian Summer,
It will ever be the same.
'Though the ' pale-face' gave another
To the lovely maid he won,
Nature still receives her tribute
From the wigwam of the sun.
' Here, alone, this shining symbol
Gilds the streamlet, warms the sod,
For no Indian Summer cometh
Save where Indian feet have trod.'
The Eastern Star
Read before the members of this degree at Hamilton, Illinois, on St. John's Day, June 24, 1875.
Most worthy Patron, Matron, friends,
The blue sky fondly o'er us bends;
This grand old river at our feet
Listens, as if 'twould fain repeat
To distant shore or passing breeze
A murmur of our melodies.
Oh, wisely chosen, the gentle Five,
Whose spotless virtues we should strive
To imitate, that we may be
Worthy adoptive Masonry ;
Worthy to learn their sacred rite
When heavenly Orders greet our sight;
Worthy to catch the mystic sign
When Eastern stars below us shine;
Worthy to learn the pass-word given
By the sweet Sisterhood of heaven,
When golden gates are open wide,
By loved ones on the other side.
Mizpah!* the very name is fraught
With sweet significance ; for thought
Carries the heart to other years;
The circlet on the hand appears
As first it glowed when, 'Only thine,'
Responded to the mystic sign.
On Gilead's mount the maiden stood,
Not dreaming of the vow of blood
That bound her, in her budding bloom,
To meet a dread, unaltered doom.
The father came, exultant, back,
Hoping a pet -lamb on the track
Would, bounding, welcome his return ;
But, ah ! sad fate the truth to learn !
His lovely child, with flying feet,
Hastened, her honored sire to meet.
Then Jephthah told his vow, and said,
' Would that my life might serve instead !'
But the proud daughter answered, ' No !
'Twas to the Lord,—it must be so.'
That answer stands, a first Degree,
In our adoptive Masonry.
O Constancy ! bright badge of love,
Ruth did thy mighty fullness prove.
' Where'er thou goest I will go;
Thy resting-place I, too, must know;
Thy fate, thy country, I will try,
And where thou diest I will die.'
Forsaking Moab's dewy sod,
Her kindred and her people's God,
Of faithful Mahlon's love bereft,
Her fond heart had Naomi left.
' Esther, my queen ! what wilt thou, say?
If half my kingdom, I obey !'
The golden sceptre near her bent,
Admiring numbers gazed intent;
She, kneeling, touched the shining thing,
And cried, ' My people ! O my king !'
Fidelity to kindred shone
In every feature, and her tone,
Though tremulous, was firm and brave
As the fond look of love she gave.
The Crown and Sceptre thus find place
Whene'er our third Degree we trace.
' Hadst Thou been here, he had not died !'
Weeping, the trusting Martha cried ;
'Yet, even now, O blessed Lord,
My soul hangs trembling on Thy word !'
Oh, love sublime ! Oh, wondrous power,
To stay her in affliction's hour!
Her white arms, raised in mute appeal,
Her spirit's eager hope reveal.
She sees,—she feels her Saviour nigh,
And Faith repeats its yearning cry :
'I know that he will rise again,
Yet even now'—and not in vain
The sweet voice plead,—she led the way
To where the lifeless Lazarus lay;
And then across His brow there swept
A mortal sorrow,—
Then His diviner nature spoke :
' Lazarus, come forth !' The dead awoke
To learn a woman's faith could prove
The largeness of a Saviour's love,
To learn His pitying heart could melt
When those He Joved in anguish knelt.
Our broken Column,—fourth Degree,
Is type of Death in Masonry;
The Evergreen, its shaft beside,
Emblem of fields beyond the tide,
Where, in Fidelity complete,
Sits Martha at her Saviour's feet.
' Forgive them, Father ! they are blind !'
Thus prayed Electa, ever kind;
Her husband, children, home were gone,
Yet, brave and true, she stood alone.
The tender hands that gently led
The needy in, the hungry fed,
That prisoned in their fervent hold
The wretched wanderer, pinched and cold,
That held her hospitable Cup
To famished lips so bravely up,
Those hands condemned (so soft and fair)
The Crucifixion pang to bear !
Her perfect confidence in God,
Her sweet submission 'neath the rod,
Form, of her attributes, the key
To ope our sacred fifth Degree.
Lo ! in the East the Magi saw
The star, and, filled with holy awe,
They followed, in their winding way,
To where the Babe of Bethlehem lay.
A woman's hand its brow caressed,—
'Twas pillowed on a woman's breast;
While its first look of pleased surprise
Found answer in a woman's eyes.
Then, may not Woman bear a part
In Masonry's exalted art?
And what bright emblem, near or far,
Significant as Eastern Star?
Our Worthy Matron long has stood
Crowned with her badge of Motherhood,
And knows full well the rapturous bliss
That woke with Mary's welcoming kiss.
Our Worthy Patron guardian stands,
Ready to guide with willing hands;
Explaining Emblem, Signet, Hue,
Exhorting us to honor true,
Telling how widowed Ruth 'could glean
Humbly the golden sheaves between ;
Extolling Martha's changeless trust,
When life had sought its kindred dust ;
Recalling Esther's pleading tone,
That moved* Assyria's mighty throne;
And holding, like a crystal cup,
Electa's pure devotion up.
Be ye, my sisters, tender, true,
As our sweet type, the Violet blue ;
Steadfast as flower that ne'er will shun
The rising nor the setting sun.
Pure as the spotless Lily shine;
Changeless and bright as leaves of Pine;
Fervent of soul as Life can be
When warmed by glowing Charity.
Friends, brothers of the mystic tie,
Can we, unnoticed, pass you by ?
You, who have dried the widow's tears
And hushed the trembling orphan's fears?
Who, linked as in a golden band,
With widening circles fill our land?
Can aged eyes, though dimmed by tears,
Shut out the home that still appears
Changeless and bright to memory's view
As when both life and hope were new?
Can the fair bride forget the tone
That answers fondly to her own?
Or sister from remembrance tear
An elder brother's constant care ?
Till this can be will we disclaim
That Masonry is but a name;
Till this can be we'll chant afar
The praises of the Eastern Star,
That led the wandering shepherds on
Until, at the awakening dawn,
It rested, like a royal gem,
Upon the brow of Bethlehem.
Eighteen Hundred And Sixty-Two
I'd a dream last night : in the dim twilight
I was thrilled by a strange emotion ;
For the Old Year came, with his withered frame,
And led me on by a torch of flame
To the verge of the p&hless ocean.
In our onward flight, by the lurid light
Beamed his eye with a spectral brightness;
And he shivered so in the drifting snow,
While his silvered hairs fluttered to and fro
O'er a forehead of ghostly whiteness.
Yet he made no moan as we hurried on,
While the stars bent, pitying, o'er him;
Though from rock and dell rose a parting knell,
And the weird trees whispered a low farewell
As their shadows knelt before him.
But he paused with me by the grand old Sea,
Where the Nighty in her glory slumbered ;
And he gathered sand from the golden strand,
And said, as it dropped from his palsied hand,
' 'Tis thus that my hours are numbered.
' Yet before I go to my couch of snow
I will sing, though my voice may quiver;
For my heart is brave as yon dauntless wave
That laughs ere it leaps to its ocean grave,
To be locked in its depths forever.
' But no thought of earth, with her joy and mirth,
Upon memory's page is beaming;
Not her sweet spring flowers, or her summer hours,
Or the whispered echoes from love-lit bowers,
Or her bright autumnal gleaming.
'For these strains are old, you have heard them told
By the years that have dawned and perished ;
And the witching ways of their smiling Mays,
And their golden, dreamy October days,
Are like those I once fondly cherished.
' So my voice shall sweep to the boundless deep,
Far down 'neath the wild waves hoary,
That madly tore from their glittering floor
The magic chain, lest the listening shore
Might learn of their viewless glory.
* * * *
' Then list to me, and I'll sing to thee
Of the mystic depths where I've wandered free;
Of the coral halls and the diamond bed
Where old Neptune sits with his pale-faced dead;
Of the fairy grottoes of gold and pearl,
That the sea-nymphs weave for each fair young girl
That the storm-king bears from the ocean's crest
And lays, in her beauty, down to rest.
' Oh, wonderful things have I seen below,
Where the bright fern clings and the sea-flowers blow;
Where the mermaids gather and slyly hide
Their red-lipped shells from the amorous tide;
Where shattered wrecks, with their gold-heaped spars,
On the pebbles gleam like a heaven of stars.
' 'There is one bright spot that I love to scan:
'Tis the emerald couch of a valiant man,
Whom the breakers' roar nor the flame-lit sky,
Nor the prayers of kindred, could urge to fly.
The ship's on fire !' like a funeral knell
On the hearts of that startled crew it fell;
And strong men shook, as the lurid glare
On the waters gleamed like a hideous stare;
And women shrieked, as with fiendish sound
The fiery serpents hemmed them round,
And hissed in glee as their fangs were pressed
Through the babes that slept on their mothers' breast.
But the brave commander, with dauntless mien,
At the helm of the sinking ship was seen
And when maddened flames through the crackling shrouds
And the hot air leaped till they licked the clouds,
When the whirlwind force of the tempest's breath
Swept the tottering wreck in the jaws of death,
With the firm, strong grasp of an iron will
He clung to the mast, and he clings there still.
' The beautiful maidens adown the main
Have tried to untwine his grasp in vain;
They made him a couch of the greenest moss
And the snow-white down of the albatross;
And they placed at the head, for a funeral stone,
The shell that could utter the softest moan ;
And they tried to melt in their gentle hold
The icy touch of those fingers cold.
But they found it vain ; so with tender care
They wove a pillow of sea-weeds there,
And, circling around it, these matchless girls
Knelt as they severed their own bright curls,
And tossed them down till their sheen was pressed
By the brave man's feet they had wooed to rest.
And 'tis thus he stands, like a warrior bold,
Chained to the wreck with his iron hold.
'And far away, where the billows moan
In a sadder strain and with softer tone,
I have seen, in its infant beauty, lay
A bright creation of human clay,
As pure its cheek and its brow as fair
As dews from heaven or the snow-flakes are;
And the dimpled hands round that cherub face
Were fondly clasped in a long embrace,
While the sleep that closed its unconscious eye
Grew deep 'neath the waves' soft lullaby.
A. lonesome thing seemed that babe to me,
Rocked in the arms of the great, broad sea;
A wee, small thing to have come so far
All by itself, without spot or scar;
A frail, weak thing, with no hand to guide
Such tender feet down the rugged tide.
Yet I know when they launched that unguided barge
The void in its mother's heart seemed large
As the ocean's self, and her grief as wild
As the breakers dashing above her child.
' But my strain must cease :—through the starlight clear
I have heard the steps of the coming Year;
My pulses flutter, my eye grows dim,
Yet once I was merry and strong like him.
Oh, my brighter days !—they are crowding back :
I am gazing now on Spring's rosy track,
Till the Summer comes with her broad, bright smile,
And the Autumn follows her steps the while.
But they vanish now,—yes, they all have flown,
And left me here, with the Night, alone.
I'm a frail old man,—all my bright dreams sped,
My fond hopes crushed, and my loved ones dead.
Well, my snow-couch waits me,—yon phantom bell
Is tolling slowly my parting knell.
I will rest me here where the wild waves sweep :—
Good-night, fair Earth, I—must—sink—to—sleep.'
So the Old Year slept, and the New Year leaped
From the clouds to the moaning billow;
And he bade it stand on the golden strand,
And guide his steps with its jeweled hand
To the aged champion's pillow.
And the New Year bowed, while the starry crowd
That had thronged the verge of even
Marked his earnest gaze, and in hymns of praise
They told the birth of this Prince of Days
To the countless hosts of heaven.
And the clouds drew up, from their magic cup,
The tears that each gentle flower
Had wept unseen when the earth was green,
And faithless zephyrs, with flattering mien,
Went wooing from bower to bower.
And this treasured dew, when the year was new,
They poured from their crystal chalice,
Till it touched his brow, though I scarce knew how,
Nor yet who had breathed the baptismal vow
That rang through his midnight palace.
Then I saw him fly through the sapphire sky,
Earth's spells and her fetters scorning,
Till he sat alone where his sire had flown,
A crowned king on his royal throne:—
And when I awoke—it was morning.
Eighteen Hundred And Fifty-Nine
Oh, a grand old vessel was Fifty-Nine,
And a captain brave had she;
For eighteen hundred and more stout ships
He had steered over life's rough sea.
Eighteen hundred and more stout ships,
Bound not for different goals,
But all for the same, and freighted down
With cargoes of human souls.
And some of these souls were seared by crime;
Some, sin had made foul and black;
While others were pure as the flakes of snow
That cover our wild-flower track.
There were souls of monarchs, and souls of kings,
(The souls of their subjects, too ;)
And some were treacherous, false, and vile,
While others were heavenly true.
There were souls of brokers, bare, flinty things,
All shaved to tlie very core,
For even their honor was loaned on time,
At a hundred per cent, or more.
There were coquettes' souls of chameleon dyes,
And bachelors', knotty as pine,
And these unsocial and selfish souls
Came alone to old Fifty-Nine.
And old Captain Time, as they came aboard,
Counted all he could see;
But some were so narrow and shriveled up,
That they smuggled their passage free.
It was noon of night when the ship was launched,
But the ocean was calm and clear;
And merrily on, with her motley crew,
Went dancing the proud New Year.
On, past the glaciers of snow and ice
That decked the receding shore;
On to the isles where the spring-time sleeps,
Till she hears Time's distant oar.
And the forests woke when they heard afar
The flutter of coming sails ;
And whispered softly a low salute,
That was borne by the passing gales.
And every eye on the vessel's deck
Was turned toward that vision bright;
And those who worshiped at Nature's shrine
Were thrilled with a wild delight.
For those isles looked fair as a gleam of heaven
Through the sunset's golden bars;
Or like beauty's cheek, when its mantling flush
Is seen by the light of stars.
The ship was moored where the gentle flowers
Breathed fragrance on all around,
And the hours to some of the host within
Brought blessings and peace profound.
But, hark ! from the deck of old Fifty-Nine
A shout of defiance comes;
Then the tramp of feet, and the clang of war,
And the roll of advancing drums.
'To arms !' is echoed, in thunder-tones,
Through the din of the cannon's roar;
While sword and spear and the fair green earth
Are sated with human gore.
But Captain Time says never a word
To still the contending foes;
He has promised to steer the ship to port,
And has no hotirs to lose.
He is out, 'mid the blast and the shivering sails,
Tolling the funeral bell,
And every soul that can hear the sound
Sighs at the parting knell.
It tolls for one who has journeyed far,
Whose labors a world may boast;
Who has trodden Atlantic's crowded shore
And Pacific's quiet coast;
Whose wanderings led him o'er Southern plains,
Where eternal sunshine sleeps ;
And up to the loftiest Alpine height
Through snow-drifts' 'wildering steeps.
But Life's work is done, and the mourners pause
That the billows his dirge may sing,
As the dust of Humboldt is laid to rest
On the breast of the gentle Spring.
And slowly now is the vessel turned
From those bright, enchanting isles,
To hasten on where the Summer waits
With her witching, sunny smiles.
And it is not strange that those saddened hearts
Grew light as they neared her bowers,
And caught the gleam of her azure robes
Begirt with a zone of flowers;
Or that Captain Time, though his form is bent,
With labor and age and care,
Should feel a thrill through his palsied frame
When his ship was anchored there;
That the hoary seaman should half forget
The weight of unnumbered years,
When her rippling laugh, through ten thousand rills,
Was borne to his aged ears.
But see ! as they coast round those India isles,
Where the flowers of the orange blow,
Where the bulbul warbles its vesper hymns
By the light of the fire-fly's glow,
With the speed of thought he has left her side,
And fair Summer stands alone :
For off to the aft of old Fifty-Nine
Was a sound like a dying groan.
He has reached the spot, and he chants this dirge
As they bear the dust to shore,
And lay it down in its lonely bed
With a sigh of 'Nevermore' :
' Toll ! toll ! for a mighty soul
Is anchored in harbor now;
A mind creative, whose giant thoughts
Made men to his genius bow.
'Old Fifty-Nine, you are not so strong
Since you yielded up this prize;
You will feel no more his sustaining arm
When feuds and dissensions rise.
He will slumber here while incense sweet
From the date- and the palm-tree float ;
And a nation will hold in its heart of hearts
The name of the statesman Choate.
' But reef the topsail ! we may not wait
To sigh o'er the mighty dead,
For I know, from the surge of yon mountain waves,
There are breakers and shoals ahead.
Now cheerily, lads ! though the billows dash,
And the morrow bring cloudy weather,
We can bring her through with her motley crew
If we only ' pull together.''
And onward now, where grave Autumn sits
In her scarlet robes and golden,
And presses the juice from the purple grape
Like matrons in vineyards olden;
Where the blushing fruit from the ardent gaze
Of the sun drops down, to cover
The deepening flush that might else betray
Her heart to her distant lover:—
To this calm retreat Time hastens on,
To rest with the Autumn sober,
To gaze awhile on the cloudless skies
Of her dreamy, bright October.
But, hist ! there's an echo borne to his ear,
Too' feeble for distant thunder;
A sound as if fiends on old Fifty-Nine
Were tearing her shrouds asunder.
He turns and gazes ; no fleet of war
Has fired a signal warning;
He sees no speck upon sea or sky
On that fair autumnal morning.
And yet—'tis strange (he is very old,
And, perchance, he is frail and doting)—
But he fancies he sees the timbers shake
Where the Flag of the Free is floating.
And he thinks he hears (what absurd conceits
Make mortals unfit to reason !)—
He thinks he hears in that muffled sound
A murmur of 'Death and Treason.'
Yet he breathes no word of his doubts and fears,
Lest they call it imagination,
Until night comes on, and he finds the clan
At their murderous preparation.
And he looks aghast at the horrid work
The shadows of darkness cover,—
On the thirsty band that, like birds of prey,
O'er their slumbering victims hover.
And with scorn he turns from those dastard souls,
Their mutinous schemes bewailing,
While thought flies off to the days agone,
When old Fifty-Two was sailing.
And he thinks of one of its gallant crew,
Of his words of prophetic warning,
And sighs in vain for a Webster heart,
With patriot fervor burning.
'But, true hearts, rouse ye,' the captain cries,
As the tars from their hammocks spring ;
'We have traitors here we must urge to stay,
Till we let them off—with a swing.'
And once again is the vessel turned,
To stem the boisterous gales
That blow from the bleak December's shore
And moan through the shivering sails.
And hundreds of souls are landed here
On this coast so drear and bare,
While some are left on the vessel's deck
With looks of mute despair ;
For they see their captain's form on shore,
Afar o'er the waters wide,
And know that the ship is dashing on
To eternity's waiting tide.
And if ye list, at the dead of night,
To learn what her fate may be,
Ye may hear the wail of old Fifty- Nine
As she sinks in that soundless sea.