In The Twilight
NOT bed-time yet! The night-winds blow,
The stars are out,--full well we know
The nurse is on the stair,
With hand of ice and cheek of snow,
And frozen lips that whisper low,
'Come, children, it is time to go
My peaceful couch to share.'
No years a wakeful heart can tire;
Not bed-time yet! Come, stir the fire
And warm your dear old hands;
Kind Mother Earth we love so well
Has pleasant stories yet to tell
Before we hear the curfew bell;
Still glow the burning brands.
Not bed-time yet! We long to know
What wonders time has yet to show,
What unborn years shall bring;
What ship the Arctic pole shall reach,
What lessons Science waits to teach,
What sermons there are left to preach.
What poems yet to sing.
What next? we ask; and is it true
The sunshine falls on nothing new,
As Israel's king declared?
Was ocean ploughed with harnessed fire?
Were nations coupled with a wire?
Did Tarshish telegraph to Tyre?
How Hiram would have stared!
And what if Sheba's curious queen,
Who came to see,--and to be seen,--
Or something new to seek,
And swooned, as ladies sometimes do,
At sights that thrilled her through and through,
Had heard, as she was 'coming to,'
A locomotive's shriek,
And seen a rushing railway train
As she looked out along the plain
From David's lofty tower,--
A mile of smoke that blots the sky
And blinds the eagles as they fly
Behind the cars that thunder by
A score of leagues an hour!
See to my _fiat lux_ respond
This little slumbering fire-tipped wand,--
One touch,--it bursts in flame!
Steal me a portrait from the sun,--
One look,--and to! the picture done!
Are these old tricks, King Solomon,
We lying moderns claim?
Could you have spectroscoped a star?
If both those mothers at your bar,
The cruel and the mild,
The young and tender, old and tough,
Had said, 'Divide,--you're right, though rough,'--
Did old Judea know enough
To etherize the child?
These births of time our eyes have seen,
With but a few brief years between;
What wonder if the text,
For other ages doubtless true,
For coming years will never do,--
Whereof we all should like a few,
If but to see what next.
If such things have been, such may be;
Who would not like to live and see--
If Heaven may so ordain--
What waifs undreamed of, yet in store,
The waves that roll forevermore
On life's long beach may east ashore
From out the mist-clad main?
Will Earth to pagan dreams return
To find from misery's painted urn
That all save hope has flown,--
Of Book and Church and Priest bereft,
The Rock of Ages vainly cleft,
Life's compass gone, its anchor left,
Left,--lost,--in depths unknown?
Shall Faith the trodden path pursue
The _crux ansata_ wearers knew
Who sleep with folded hands,
Where, like a naked, lidless eye,
The staring Nile rolls wandering by
Those mountain slopes that climb the sky
Above the drifting sands?
Or shall a nobler Faith return,
Its fanes a purer gospel learn,
With holier anthems ring,
And teach us that our transient creeds
Were but the perishable seeds
Of harvests sown for larger needs,
That ripening years shall bring?
Well, let the present do its best,
We trust our Maker for the rest,
As on our way we plod;
Our souls, full dressed in fleshly suits,
Love air and sunshine, flowers and fruits,
The daisies better than their roots
Beneath the grassy sod.
Not bed-time yet! The full-blown flower
Of all the year--this evening hour--
With friendship's flame is bright;
Life still is sweet, the heavens are fair,
Though fields are brown and woods are bare,
And many a joy is left to share
Before we say Good-night!
And when, our cheerful evening past,
The nurse, long waiting, comes at last,
Ere on her lap we lie
In wearied nature's sweet repose,
At peace with all her waking foes,
Our lips shall murmur, ere they close,
Good-night! and not Good-by!
The Broomstick Train; Or, The Return Of The Witches
LOOK out! Look out, boys! Clear the track!
The witches are here! They've all come back!
They hanged them high,--No use! No use!
What cares a witch for a hangman's noose?
They buried them deep, but they wouldn't lie still,
For cats and witches are hard to kill;
They swore they shouldn't and wouldn't die,--
Books said they did, but they lie! they lie!
A couple of hundred years, or so,
They had knocked about in the world below,
When an Essex Deacon dropped in to call,
And a homesick feeling seized them all;
For he came from a place they knew full well,
And many a tale he had to tell.
They longed to visit the haunts of men,
To see the old dwellings they knew again,
And ride on their broomsticks all around
Their wide domain of unhallowed ground.
In Essex county there's many a roof
Well known to him of the cloven hoof;
The small square windows are full in view
Which the midnight hags went sailing through,
On their well-trained broomsticks mounted high,
Seen like shadows against the sky;
Crossing the track of owls and bats,
Hugging before them their coal-black cats.
Well did they know, those gray old wives,
The sights we see in our daily drives
Shimmer of lake and shine of sea,
Browne's bare hill with its lonely tree,
(It was n't then as we see it now,
With one scant scalp-lock to shade its brow;
Dusky nooks in the Essex woods,
Dark, dim, Dante-like solitudes,
Where the tree-toad watches the sinuous snake
Glide through his forests of fern and brake;
Ipswich River; its old stone bridge;
Far off Andover's Indian Ridge,
And many a scene where history tells
Some shadow of bygone terror dwells,--
Of 'Norman's Woe' with its tale of dread,
Of the Screeching Woman of Marblehead,
(The fearful story that turns men pale
Don't bid me tell it,--my speech would fail.)
Who would not, will not, if he can,
Bathe in the breezes of fair Cape Ann,--
Rest in the bowers her bays enfold,
Loved by the sachems and squaws of old?
Home where the white magnolias bloom,
Sweet with the bayberry's chaste perfume,
Hugged by the woods and kissed by the sea!
Where is the Eden like to thee?
For that 'couple of hundred years, or so,'
There had been no peace in the world below;
The witches still grumbling, 'It is n't fair;
Come, give us a taste of the upper air!
We 've had enough of your sulphur springs,
And the evil odor that round them clings;
We long for a drink that is cool and nice,--
Great buckets of water with Wenham ice;
We've served you well up-stairs, you know;
You 're a good old--fellow--come, let us go!'
I don't feel sure of his being good,
But he happened to be in a pleasant mood,--
As fiends with their skins full sometimes are,--
(He'd been drinking with 'roughs' at a Boston bar.)
So what does he do but up and shout
To a graybeard turnkey, 'Let 'em out!'
To mind his orders was all he knew;
The gates swung open, and out they flew.
'Where are our broomsticks?' the beldams cried.
'Here are your broomsticks,' an imp replied.
'They 've been in--the place you know--so long
They smell of brimstone uncommon strong;
But they've gained by being left alone,--
Just look, and you'll see how tall they've grown.'
'And where is my cat?' a vixen squalled.
'Yes, where are our cats?' the witches bawled,
And began to call them all by name
As fast as they called the cats, they came
There was bob-tailed Tommy and long-tailed Tim,
And wall-eyed Jacky and green-eyed Jim,
And splay-foot Benny and slim-legged Beau,
And Skinny and Squally, and Jerry and Joe,
And many another that came at call,--
It would take too long to count them all.
All black,--one could hardly tell which was which,
But every cat knew his own old witch;
And she knew hers as hers knew her,--
Ah, didn't they curl their tails and purr!
No sooner the withered hags were free
Than out they swarmed for a midnight spree;
I couldn't tell all they did in rhymes,
But the Essex people had dreadful times.
The Swampscott fishermen still relate
How a strange sea-monster stole their bait;
How their nets were tangled in loops and knots,
And they found dead crabs in their lobster-pots.
Poor Danvers grieved for her blasted crops,
And Wilmington mourned over mildewed hops.
A blight played havoc with Beverly beans,--
It was all the work of those hateful queans!
A dreadful panic began at 'Pride's,'
Where the witches stopped in their midnight rides,
And there rose strange rumors and vague alarms
'Mid the peaceful dwellers at Beverly Farms.
Now when the Boss of the Beldams found
That without his leave they were ramping round,
He called,--they could hear him twenty miles,
From Chelsea beach to the Misery Isles;
The deafest old granny knew his tone
Without the trick of the telephone.
'Come here, you witches! Come here!' says he,--
'At your games of old, without asking me!
I'll give you a little job to do
That will keep you stirring, you godless crew!'
They came, of course, at their master's call,
The witches, the broomsticks, the cats, and all;
He led the hags to a railway train
The horses were trying to drag in vain.
'Now, then,' says he, 'you've had your fun,
And here are the cars you've got to run.
The driver may just unhitch his team,
We don't want horses, we don't want steam;
You may keep your old black cats to hug,
But the loaded train you've got to lug.'
Since then on many a car you 'll see
A broomstick plain as plain can be;
On every stick there's a witch astride,--
The string you see to her leg is tied.
She will do a mischief if she can,
But the string is held by a careful man,
And whenever the evil-minded witch
Would cut some caper, he gives a twitch.
As for the hag, you can't see her,
But hark! you can hear her black cat's purr,
And now and then, as a car goes by,
You may catch a gleam from her wicked eye.
Often you've looked on a rushing train,
But just what moved it was not so plain.
It couldn't be those wires above,
For they could neither pull nor shove;
Where was the motor that made it go
You couldn't guess, but now you know.
Remember my rhymes when you ride again
On the rattling rail by the broomstick train!