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POEMS OF NATURE
POEMS SUBJECTIVE AND REMINISCENT
JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER
POEMS OF NATURE:
THE FROST SPIRIT
A DREAM OF SUMMER
ON RECEIVING AN EAGLE'S QUILL FROM LAKE SUPERIOR
SUMMER BY THE LAKESIDE
FLOWERS IN WINTER
THE LAST WALK IN AUTUMN
THE FIRST FLOWERS
THE OLD BURYING-GROUND
THE RIVER PATH
I. FRANCONIA FROM THE PEMIGEWASSET
II. MONADNOCK FROM WACHUSET
THE PRESSED GENTIAN
A SEA DREAM
SUNSET ON THE BEARCAMP
THE SEEKING OF THE WATERFALL
THE TRAILING ARBUTUS
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ST. MARTINS SUMMER
STORM ON LAKE ASQUAM
A SUMMER PILGRIMAGE
THE WOOD GIANT
POEMS SUBJECTIVE AND REMINISCENT:
TO MY SISTER
THE BAREFOOT BOY
VOYAGE OF THE JETTIE
THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM
THE CITIES OF THE PLAIN
THE CALL OF THE CHRISTIAN
HYMNS FROM THE FRENCH OF LAMARTINE
I. ENCORE UN HYMNE
II. LE CRI DE L'AME
THE FAMILIST'S HYMN
WHAT THE VOICE SAID
THE ANGEL OF PATIENCE
THE WIFE OF MANOAH TO HER HUSBAND
MY SOUL AND I
THE HOLY LAND
THE WISH OF TO-DAY
QUESTIONS OF LIFE
"THE ROCK" IN EL GHOR
THE SHADOW AND THE LIGHT
THE CRY OF A LOST SOUL
ANDREW RYKMAN'S PRAYER
THE ETERNAL GOODNESS
THE COMMON QUESTION
THE CLEAR VISION
THE BREWING OF SOMA
THE PRAYER OF AGASSIZ
THE FRIEND'S BURIAL
A CHRISTMAS CARMEN
THE TWO ANGELS
HYMN OF THE DUNKERS
GIVING AND TAKING
THE VISION OF ECHARD
ON A SUN-DIAL
ON A FOUNTAIN
THE MINISTER'S DAUGHTER
BY THEIR WORKS
THE INWARD JUDGE
LAYING UP TREASURE
AN EASTER FLOWER GIFT
THE MYSTIC'S CHRISTMAS
WHAT THE TRAVELLER SAID AT SUNSET
THE "STORY OF IDA"
THE LIGHT THAT IS FELT
THE TWO LOVES
HYMNS OF THE BRAHMO SOMAJ
POEMS OF NATURE
THE FROST SPIRIT
He comes, - he comes, - the Frost Spirit comes
You may trace his footsteps now
On the naked woods and the blasted fields and the
brown hill's withered brow.
He has smitten the leaves of the gray old trees
where their pleasant green came forth,
And the winds, which follow wherever he goes,
have shaken them down to earth.
He comes, - he comes, - the Frost Spirit comes!
from the frozen Labrador,
From the icy bridge of the Northern seas, which
the white bear wanders o'er,
Where the fisherman's sail is stiff with ice, and the
luckless forms below
In the sunless cold of the lingering night into
marble statues grow
He comes, - he comes, - the Frost Spirit comes
on the rushing Northern blast,
And the dark Norwegian pines have bowed as his
fearful breath went past.
With an unscorched wing he has hurried on,
where the fires of Hecla glow
On the darkly beautiful sky above and the ancient
He comes, - he comes, - the Frost Spirit comes
and the quiet lake shall feel
The torpid touch of his glazing breath, and ring to
the skater's heel;
And the streams which danced on the broken
rocks, or sang to the leaning grass,
Shall bow again to their winter chain, and in
mournful silence pass.
He comes, - he comes, - the Frost Spirit comes!
Let us meet him as we may,
And turn with the light of the parlor-fire his evil
And gather closer the circle round, when that
fire-light dances high,
And laugh at the shriek of the baffled Fiend as
his sounding wing goes by!
"The Indians speak of a beautiful river, far to the south,
which they call Merrimac." - SIEUR. DE MONTS, 1604.
Stream of my fathers! sweetly still
The sunset rays thy valley fill;
Poured slantwise down the long defile,
Wave, wood, and spire beneath them smile.
I see the winding Powow fold
The green hill in its belt of gold,
And following down its wavy line,
Its sparkling waters blend with thine.
There 's not a tree upon thy side,
Nor rock, which thy returning tide
As yet hath left abrupt and stark
Above thy evening water-mark;
No calm cove with its rocky hem,
No isle whose emerald swells begin
Thy broad, smooth current; not a sail
Bowed to the freshening ocean gale;
No small boat with its busy oars,
Nor gray wall sloping to thy shores;
Nor farm-house with its maple shade,
Or rigid poplar colonnade,
But lies distinct and full in sight,
Beneath this gush of sunset light.
Centuries ago, that harbor-bar,
Stretching its length of foam afar,
And Salisbury's beach of shining sand,
And yonder island's wave-smoothed strand,
Saw the adventurer's tiny sail,
Flit, stooping from the eastern gale;
And o'er these woods and waters broke
The cheer from Britain's hearts of oak,
As brightly on the voyager's eye,
Weary of forest, sea, and sky,
Breaking the dull continuous wood,
The Merrimac rolled down his flood;
Mingling that clear pellucid brook,
Which channels vast Agioochook
When spring-time's sun and shower unlock
The frozen fountains of the rock,
And more abundant waters given
From that pure lake, "The Smile of Heaven,"
Tributes from vale and mountain-side, -
With ocean's dark, eternal tide!
On yonder rocky cape, which braves
The stormy challenge of the waves,
Midst tangled vine and dwarfish wood,
The hardy Anglo-Saxon stood,
Planting upon the topmost crag
The staff of England's battle-flag;
And, while from out its heavy fold
Saint George's crimson cross unrolled,
Midst roll of drum and trumpet blare,
And weapons brandishing in air,
He gave to that lone promontory
The sweetest name in all his story;
Of her, the flower of Islam's daughters,
Whose harems look on Stamboul's waters, -
Who, when the chance of war had bound
The Moslem chain his limbs around,
Wreathed o'er with silk that iron chain,
Soothed with her smiles his hours of pain,
And fondly to her youthful slave
A dearer gift than freedom gave.
But look! the yellow light no more
Streams down on wave and verdant shore;
And clearly on the calm air swells
The twilight voice of distant bells.
From Ocean's bosom, white and thin,
The mists come slowly rolling in;
Hills, woods, the river's rocky rim,
Amidst the sea - like vapor swim,
While yonder lonely coast-light, set
Within its wave-washed minaret,
Half quenched, a beamless star and pale,
Shines dimly through its cloudy veil!
Home of my fathers! - I have stood
Where Hudson rolled his lordly flood
Seen sunrise rest and sunset fade
Along his frowning Palisade;
Looked down the Appalachian peak
On Juniata's silver streak;
Have seen along his valley gleam
The Mohawk's softly winding stream;
The level light of sunset shine
Through broad Potomac's hem of pine;
And autumn's rainbow-tinted banner
Hang lightly o'er the Susquehanna;
Yet wheresoe'er his step might be,
Thy wandering child looked back to thee!
Heard in his dreams thy river's sound
Of murmuring on its pebbly bound,
The unforgotten swell and roar
Of waves on thy familiar shore;
And saw, amidst the curtained gloom
And quiet of his lonely room,
Thy sunset scenes before him pass;
As, in Agrippa's magic glass,
The loved and lost arose to view,
Remembered groves in greenness grew,
Bathed still in childhood's morning dew,
Along whose bowers of beauty swept
Whatever Memory's mourners wept,
Sweet faces, which the charnel kept,
Young, gentle eyes, which long had slept;
And while the gazer leaned to trace,
More near, some dear familiar face,
He wept to find the vision flown, -
A phantom and a dream alone!
The sunlight glitters keen and bright,
Where, miles away,
Lies stretching to my dazzled sight
A luminous belt, a misty light,
Beyond the dark pine bluffs and wastes of sandy gray.
The tremulous shadow of the Sea!
Against its ground
Of silvery light, rock, hill, and tree,
Still as a picture, clear and free,
With varying outline mark the coast for miles around.
On - on - we tread with loose-flung rein
Our seaward way,
Through dark-green fields and blossoming grain,
Where the wild brier-rose skirts the lane,
And bends above our heads the flowering locust spray.
Ha! like a kind hand on my brow
Comes this fresh breeze,
Cooling its dull and feverish glow,
While through my being seems to flow
The breath of a new life, the healing of the seas!
Now rest we, where this grassy mound
His feet hath set
In the great waters, which have bound
His granite ankles greenly round
With long and tangled moss, and weeds with cool spray wet.
Good-by to Pain and Care! I take
Mine ease to-day
Here where these sunny waters break,
And ripples this keen breeze, I shake
All burdens from the heart, all weary thoughts away.
I draw a freer breath, I seem
Like all I see -
Waves in the sun, the white-winged gleam
Of sea-birds in the slanting beam,
And far-off sails which flit before the south-wind free.
So when Time's veil shall fall asunder,
The soul may know
No fearful change, nor sudden wonder,
Nor sink the weight of mystery under,
But with the upward rise, and with the vastness grow.
And all we shrink from now may seem
No new revealing;
Familiar as our childhood's stream,
Or pleasant memory of a dream
The loved and cherished Past upon the new life stealing.
Serene and mild the untried light
May have its dawning;
And, as in summer's northern night
The evening and the dawn unite,
The sunset hues of Time blend with the soul's new morning.
I sit alone; in foam and spray
Wave after wave
Breaks on the rocks which, stern and gray,
Shoulder the broken tide away,
Or murmurs hoarse and strong through mossy cleft and cave.
What heed I of the dusty land
And noisy town?
I see the mighty deep expand
From its white line of glimmering sand
To where the blue of heaven on bluer waves shuts down!
In listless quietude of mind,
I yield to all
The change of cloud and wave and wind
And passive on the flood reclined,
I wander with the waves, and with them rise and fall.
But look, thou dreamer! wave and shore
In shadow lie;
The night-wind warns me back once more
To where, my native hill-tops o'er,
Bends like an arch of fire the glowing sunset sky.
So then, beach, bluff, and wave, farewell!
I bear with me
No token stone nor glittering shell,
But long and oft shall Memory tell
Of this brief thoughtful hour of musing by the Sea.
A DREAM OF SUMMER.
Bland as the morning breath of June
The southwest breezes play;
And, through its haze, the winter noon
Seems warm as summer's day.
The snow-plumed Angel of the North
Has dropped his icy spear;
Again the mossy earth looks forth,
Again the streams gush clear.
The fox his hillside cell forsakes,
The muskrat leaves his nook,
The bluebird in the meadow brakes
Is singing with the brook.
"Bear up, O Mother Nature!" cry
Bird, breeze, and streamlet free;
"Our winter voices prophesy
Of summer days to thee!"
So, in those winters of the soul,
By bitter blasts and drear
O'erswept from Memory's frozen pole,
Will sunny days appear.
Reviving Hope and Faith, they show
The soul its living powers,
And how beneath the winter's snow
Lie germs of summer flowers!
The Night is mother of the Day,
The Winter of the Spring,
And ever upon old Decay
The greenest mosses cling.
Behind the cloud the starlight lurks,
Through showers the sunbeams fall;
For God, who loveth all His works,
Has left His hope with all!
4th 1st month, 1847.
The shadows round the inland sea
Are deepening into night;
Slow up the slopes of Ossipee
They chase the lessening light.
Tired of the long day's blinding heat,
I rest my languid eye,
Lake of the Hills! where, cool and sweet,
Thy sunset waters lie!
Along the sky, in wavy lines,
O'er isle and reach and bay,
Green-belted with eternal pines,
The mountains stretch away.
Below, the maple masses sleep
Where shore with water blends,
While midway on the tranquil deep
The evening light descends.
So seemed it when yon hill's red crown,
Of old, the Indian trod,
And, through the sunset air, looked down
Upon the Smile of God.
To him of light and shade the laws
No forest skeptic taught;
Their living and eternal Cause
His truer instinct sought.
He saw these mountains in the light
Which now across them shines;
This lake, in summer sunset bright,
Walled round with sombering pines.
God near him seemed; from earth and skies
His loving voice he beard,
As, face to face, in Paradise,
Man stood before the Lord.
Thanks, O our Father! that, like him,
Thy tender love I see,
In radiant hill and woodland dim,
And tinted sunset sea.
For not in mockery dost Thou fill
Our earth with light and grace;
Thou hid'st no dark and cruel will
Behind Thy smiling face!
Gone hath the Spring, with all its flowers,
And gone the Summer's pomp and show,
And Autumn, in his leafless bowers,
Is waiting for the Winter's snow.
I said to Earth, so cold and gray,
"An emblem of myself thou art."
"Not so," the Earth did seem to say,
"For Spring shall warm my frozen heart."
I soothe my wintry sleep with dreams
Of warmer sun and softer rain,
And wait to hear the sound of streams
And songs of merry birds again.
But thou, from whom the Spring hath gone,
For whom the flowers no longer blow,
Who standest blighted and forlorn,
Like Autumn waiting for the snow;
No hope is thine of sunnier hours,
Thy Winter shall no more depart;
No Spring revive thy wasted flowers,
Nor Summer warm thy frozen heart.
ON RECEIVING AN EAGLE'S QUILL FROM LAKE SUPERIOR.
All day the darkness and the cold
Upon my heart have lain,
Like shadows on the winter sky,
Like frost upon the pane;
But now my torpid fancy wakes,
And, on thy Eagle's plume,
Rides forth, like Sindbad on his bird,
Or witch upon her broom!
Below me roar the rocking pines,
Before me spreads the lake
Whose long and solemn-sounding waves
Against the sunset break.
I hear the wild Rice-Eater thresh
The grain he has not sown;
I see, with flashing scythe of fire,
The prairie harvest mown!
I hear the far-off voyager's horn;
I see the Yankee's trail, -
His foot on every mountain-pass,
On every stream his sail.
By forest, lake, and waterfall,
I see his pedler show;
The mighty mingling with the mean,
The lofty with the low.
He's whittling by St. Mary's Falls,
Upon his loaded wain;
He's measuring o'er the Pictured Rocks,
With eager eyes of gain.
I hear the mattock in the mine,
The axe-stroke in the dell,
The clamor from the Indian lodge,
The Jesuit chapel bell!
I see the swarthy trappers come
From Mississippi's springs;
And war-chiefs with their painted brows,
And crests of eagle wings.
Behind the scared squaw's birch canoe,
The steamer smokes and raves;
And city lots are staked for sale
Above old Indian graves.
I hear the tread of pioneers
Of nations yet to be;
The first low wash of waves, where soon
Shall roll a human sea.
The rudiments of empire here
Are plastic yet and warm;
The chaos of a mighty world
Is rounding into form!
Each rude and jostling fragment soon
Its fitting place shall find, -
The raw material of a State,
Its muscle and its mind!
And, westering still, the star which leads
The New World in its train
Has tipped with fire the icy spears
Of many a mountain chain.
The snowy cones of Oregon
Are kindling on its way;
And California's golden sands
Gleam brighter in its ray!
Then blessings on thy eagle quill,
As, wandering far and wide,
I thank thee for this twilight dream
And Fancy's airy ride!
Yet, welcomer than regal plumes,
Which Western trappers find,
Thy free and pleasant thoughts, chance sown,
Like feathers on the wind.
Thy symbol be the mountain-bird,
Whose glistening quill I hold;
Thy home the ample air of hope,
And memory's sunset gold!
In thee, let joy with duty join,
And strength unite with love,
The eagle's pinions folding round
The warm heart of the dove!
So, when in darkness sleeps the vale
Where still the blind bird clings
The sunshine of the upper sky
Shall glitter on thy wings!
"The spring comes slowly up this way."
'T is the noon of the spring-time, yet never a bird
In the wind-shaken elm or the maple is heard;
For green meadow-grasses wide levels of snow,
And blowing of drifts where the crocus should blow;
Where wind-flower and violet, amber and white,
On south-sloping brooksides should smile in the light,
O'er the cold winter-beds of their late-waking roots
The frosty flake eddies, the ice-crystal shoots;
And, longing for light, under wind-driven heaps,
Round the boles of the pine-wood the ground-laurel creeps,
Unkissed of the sunshine, unbaptized of showers,
With buds scarcely swelled, which should burst into flowers
We wait for thy coming, sweet wind of the south!
For the touch of thy light wings, the kiss of thy mouth;
For the yearly evangel thou bearest from God,
Resurrection and life to the graves of the sod!
Up our long river-valley, for days, have not ceased
The wail and the shriek of the bitter northeast,
Raw and chill, as if winnowed through ices and snow,
All the way from the land of the wild Esquimau,
Until all our dreams of the land of the blest,
Like that red hunter's, turn to the sunny southwest.
O soul of the spring-time, its light and its breath,
Bring warmth to this coldness, bring life to this death;
Renew the great miracle; let us behold
The stone from the mouth of the sepulchre rolled,
And Nature, like Lazarus, rise, as of old!
Let our faith, which in darkness and coldness has lain,
Revive with the warmth and the brightness again,
And in blooming of flower and budding of tree
The symbols and types of our destiny see;
The life of the spring-time, the life of the whole,
And, as sun to the sleeping earth, love to the soul!
Light, warmth, and sprouting greenness, and o'er all
Blue, stainless, steel-bright ether, raining down
Tranquillity upon the deep-hushed town,
The freshening meadows, and the hillsides brown;
Voice of the west-wind from the hills of pine,
And the brimmed river from its distant fall,
Low hum of bees, and joyous interlude
Of bird-songs in the streamlet-skirting wood, -
Heralds and prophecies of sound and sight,
Blessed forerunners of the warmth and light,
Attendant angels to the house of prayer,
With reverent footsteps keeping pace with mine, -
Once more, through God's great love, with you I share
A morn of resurrection sweet and fair
As that which saw, of old, in Palestine,
Immortal Love uprising in fresh bloom
From the dark night and winter of the tomb!
2d, 5th mo., 1852.
White with its sun-bleached dust, the pathway winds
Before me; dust is on the shrunken grass,
And on the trees beneath whose boughs I pass;
Frail screen against the Hunter of the sky,
Who, glaring on me with his lidless eye,
While mounting with his dog-star high and higher
Ambushed in light intolerable, unbinds
The burnished quiver of his shafts of fire.
Between me and the hot fields of his South
A tremulous glow, as from a furnace-mouth,
Glimmers and swims before my dazzled sight,
As if the burning arrows of his ire
Broke as they fell, and shattered into light;
Yet on my cheek I feel the western wind,
And hear it telling to the orchard trees,
And to the faint and flower-forsaken bees,
Tales of fair meadows, green with constant streams,
And mountains rising blue and cool behind,
Where in moist dells the purple orchis gleams,
And starred with white the virgin's bower is twined.
So the o'erwearied pilgrim, as he fares
Along life's summer waste, at times is fanned,
Even at noontide, by the cool, sweet airs
Of a serener and a holier land,
Fresh as the morn, and as the dewfall bland.
Breath of the blessed Heaven for which we pray,
Blow from the eternal hills! make glad our earthly way!
8th mo., 1852.
SUMMER BY THE LAKESIDE
White clouds, whose shadows haunt the deep,
Light mists, whose soft embraces keep
The sunshine on the hills asleep!
O isles of calm! O dark, still wood!
And stiller skies that overbrood
Your rest with deeper quietude!
O shapes and hues, dim beckoning, through
Yon mountain gaps, my longing view
Beyond the purple and the blue,
To stiller sea and greener land,
And softer lights and airs more bland,
And skies, - the hollow of God's hand!
Transfused through you, O mountain friends!
With mine your solemn spirit blends,
And life no more hath separate ends.
I read each misty mountain sign,
I know the voice of wave and pine,
And I am yours, and ye are mine.
Life's burdens fall, its discords cease,
I lapse into the glad release
Of Nature's own exceeding peace.
O welcome calm of heart and mind!
As falls yon fir-tree's loosened rind
To leave a tenderer growth behind,
So fall the weary years away;
A child again, my head I lay
Upon the lap of this sweet day.
This western wind hath Lethean powers,
Yon noonday cloud nepenthe showers,
The lake is white with lotus-flowers!
Even Duty's voice is faint and low,
And slumberous Conscience, waking slow,
Forgets her blotted scroll to show.
The Shadow which pursues us all,
Whose ever-nearing steps appall,
Whose voice we hear behind us call, -
That Shadow blends with mountain gray,
It speaks but what the light waves say, -
Death walks apart from Fear to-day!
Rocked on her breast, these pines and I
Alike on Nature's love rely;
And equal seems to live or die.
Assured that He whose presence fills
With light the spaces of these hills
No evil to His creatures wills,
The simple faith remains, that He
Will do, whatever that may be,
The best alike for man and tree.
What mosses over one shall grow,
What light and life the other know,
Unanxious, leaving Him to show.
Yon mountain's side is black with night,
While, broad-orhed, o'er its gleaming crown
The moon, slow-rounding into sight,
On the hushed inland sea looks down.
How start to light the clustering isles,
Each silver-hemmed! How sharply show
The shadows of their rocky piles,
And tree-tops in the wave below!
How far and strange the mountains seem,
Dim-looming through the pale, still light
The vague, vast grouping of a dream,
They stretch into the solemn night.
Beneath, lake, wood, and peopled vale,
Hushed by that presence grand and grave,
Are silent, save the cricket's wail,
And low response of leaf and wave.
Fair scenes! whereto the Day and Night
Make rival love, I leave ye soon,
What time before the eastern light
The pale ghost of the setting moon
Shall hide behind yon rocky spines,
And the young archer, Morn, shall break
His arrows on the mountain pines,
And, golden-sandalled, walk the lake!
Farewell! around this smiling bay
Gay-hearted Health, and Life in bloom,
With lighter steps than mine, may stray
In radiant summers yet to come.
But none shall more regretful leave
These waters and these hills than I
Or, distant, fonder dream how eve
Or dawn is painting wave and sky;