AND OTHER POEMS.
JOSEPH L. CHESTER.
N E W-Y O R K :
PUBLISHED BY SAXTON AND MILES,
BOSTON-3AXTON, PEIKCE &. CO.,
133 Washington st .
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1843, by
JOSEPH L. CHESTER,
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States, for the
Southern District of New York.
S. W. BENEDICT, & CO., PRINT.
128 Fulton St., N. Y.
TO HIS WIFE
(NOT KNOWING A BETTER FRIEND)
THE AUTHOR DEDICATES
THE author feels that the following poems, if they please any,
will please only a certain class of readers. To those who delight
only in classical allusions, and to another class who prefer the
mawkishly sentimental, this volume will be entirely unacceptable.
For the former the author could not for the latter he would not,
write. He only hopes to please those who love poetry in its hum
bler garb who can delight in simplicity and who prefer to have
the feelings of the very heart awakened, to all the effect that can
be produced by majestic verse or flowery rhythm. He desires to
have his poetry appreciated by those with whom he can familiarly
sit down and converse, and find ready sympathy, rather than by
those who would look upon his writings merely as literary per
formances, and as entitled to respect only so far as they conform
to the fixed rules of poetical composition.
Many of the following pieces have already been published in
the magazines and newspapers, and some of them are familiar
to the musical world, having been wedded to beautiful airs by
Messrs. Dempster and W. J. Wetmore, and published by Mr. Millet
New York, January, 1843.
Greenwood Cemetery, . . .13
My Spirit's Bride, . :....- .1 . . 18
The Lonely Auld Wife, ' "* . \;*. * , " . 21
The Lonely Auld Gudeman, . $ '% . .23
The Wakon Bird, ^ . ^-. . .25
The Indian Lovers, . " . . - . 27
The Indian Widow, . . * . .29
The Return Home, . . , . . , ,._. . 31
The Spirit's Communings, . . '.*'., . 35
Non Omnis Moriar, , . ^ .^ 39
Places for Prayer, . \ % . , . ..^ 41
The Magdalen, .... .43
The Power of Love, (?-%' A**'
The Daughters of Columbia, . \ 48
To the Proud One, . ,'*;. . . .50
Sonnet " The Oracles of God," ? . V ** ' 53
Farewell Address to Cinque, . . . .54
Fame, . .^ . . 57
The Wifeless, ...... 59
The Sisterless, . ., V V<f . *'". 64
The Motherless, . '-* .67
The Warrior's Prayer^ . , . . "*\ . * 71
The Mourner's Tear, . . . . * . 74
On a Venus de Medicis By Cariova, ... 75
To a Beautiful Lady, . W - * . .76
The Under-Current, .... v 78
A Song of Freedom, . . .80
; The Pair of our Land, ... 82 \
; Music, . . . . . . .84'
j My Repose is Fled, . . "& 86 j
I love him yet, ? .88
The Gipsy Girl's Address, . 90
The Seaman's Song, . . ' . 91 ;
The Beauty of the Mind, . . 92 ;
i * i
: The Missing Bride, . 94 >
j Morning, ... 96 J
; Midnight, ....... 98
j The Working-Man's Soliloquy, . . . . . . 100
j To My Wife, on returning from a journey, . .102
j On the Death of an aged Female Friend, . . 105
' John Quincy Adams, . . -"*. . 108
I The Stilling of the Waves, . . -<#, . 109
; The Molian Harp, . . '^ ., . . .112
j On the Death of President Harrison, . . . 114
; On the loss of the Steam-ship President, . . .117
? Plea for the Sailor, 119
The Captives of L'Amistad, *.' . . . '\. 121
The Reformed Drunkard's Farewell to the Demon, . 124
Extracts from " Sarrahka" Scenery on the Hudson, . 126
" " " LakeMoran, . ." . 127
" " " The Indian Girl's Prayer, . 128
ii " The Indian Girl's Song, . 130
" " " The Lover's Leap, . 131
" " June, . . 132
THE solemn stillness of these grand old woods,
Amid whose labyrinthine paths I roam,
Sinks to the very soul, and so reveals
A language which the heart alone can read.
This is the land of shadows ! Human life,
Save that within my breast, is here unknown.
The silent numbers in the graves beneath
Greet not th' intruder on their peaceful rest ;
Yet few the years since this decaying dust
Was animate, and gladness filled the eyes
That shone in Youth and Beauty. Sunny locks
Lay on those shrunken brows, or softly swept
The cheeks once rosy with the bloom of health.
Around those necks Affection twined its arms,
And pressed the lips where now are lips no more
14 GREENWOOD CEMETERY.
And such shall be my fate ! Think well, my soul !
Art thou prepared to yield this body up,
To be resolved into its native clay,
And mingle with its kind beneath this turf?
Oh ! if the parted soul have aught of care
For what hath been its tried companion long,
Methinks it could not choose a fitter spot
For its long dreamless sleep than this !
Here is the unshorn forest : Man, as yet,
Hath not destroyed the handiwork of God.
The hardy oak uplifts his stalwart arms,
Rejoicing in his strength and by his side
The melancholy aspen waves her boughs,
And makes sad music with her fluttering leaves.
The clinging vine, with its delicious fruit,
And all unpruned, a grateful arbor weaves,
While flowers, uncultured, breathe on every side,
And spring, luxuriant, from the turf beneath.
And here are streams, that softly glide along
'Mid verdant banks and shrubs that fringe their shores,
Making a pleasant murmur on their way.
And here are limpid lakes, whose depths reveal
The smooth white pebbles on the sand below.
And here are mountains, easy of ascent,
Whose summits overlook enchanting scenes :
Most worthily the chief of these maintains
The name of him whom every freeman loves :
I stand upon Mount WASHINGTON, and gaze
Enraptured on the view within my sight :
The city's spires its broad and noble bay
Lie, like a vivid panorama, spread
By master hands in lines of glowing life :
Turning, the restless ocean meets my eye,
And faintly, when the southern breeze is full,
I hear thy roar, far-sounding Rockaway !
When Winter comes, the arctic winds will howl
Among the rocking boughs, and snows will spread
Their fleecy mantle o'er the summer sward,
But what have they who sleep to fear ? Ere long
The breath of gentle Spring will melt the frost
Unlock the icy portals of the streams
And scatter beauty on the withered turf.
Again the flowers shall bloom again the trees
Put on their garniture of fragrant leaves,
And stand arrayed in flowing robes of life.
So till the end shall come !
Oh! if to die
Doth fill the parting soul with secret dread,
Methinks she would more willingly depart
Could she but know her consort here would rest.
Already am I half in love with Death!
What feet are entering on my solitude ?
I see, by yonder thicket, one who walks
With nervous pace, casting a hasty glance
On every grave that meets his restless eye.
I know him, by the sombre garb he wears,
And by the tell-tale features on his face,
To be a mourner, and, if I may judge,
But late a husband, just returned from sea,
To find that she whose image he had kept
For months of absence safe within his heart,
And hoped to cherish, when his roving feet
Should bound again upon his native shore
Is numbered with the breathless host that dwell
In charnel-house and sepulchre ! He stops
By yon green mound, and for a moment looks
With anxious eye upon the board that tells
The sleeper's name : It is the grave he sought,-
And, ere he kneels, he bares his manly brow,
GREENWOOD CEMETERY. 17
And lifts his clear blue eye to heaven. He speaks
I'll listen and record his words :
" And they have laid thee here, dear one, to rest
Far from the turmoil of the distant town,
Here, where thy blest and beautiful repose
Is not disturbed by shouts of revelry,
Nor the sweet flowers that bloom upon thy grave
Spoiled of their fragrance by unhallowed feet.
I looked not for thy dwelling where arose
In mockery the tall white monument :
Such sign I needed not to tell me where
Thy loved remains reposed. These modest flowers
The sweet wild-rose and small leaved violet,
Half-hidden by the soft, luxuriant grass
Are fittest watchers of thy peaceful sleep.
When first I spied them in their hiding-place
My anxious search was ended, for I knew
No mean flowers, dearest, from thy dust would grow !"
I will no more. 'Tis treason thus to spy
The secret workings of a mourner's grief.
I'll bend my footsteps towards the world again,
And be a graver and a better man.
MY SPIRIT'S BRIDE.
WHEN Evening spreads her robe of gloom
O'er all the scenes of busy day,
And hides within his nightly tomb
The Sun's expiring ray,
Unwatched, I leave the haunts of men,
And from the crowded city glide,
That I may rnuse on thee again,
My own my Spirit's Bride !
Reclining on a mossy bed,
Beside some softly murmuring stream,
Whose music soothes my aching head,
Of heaven and thee I dream.
Thy tones of love I seem to hear
I seem to see thee by my side ;
And oh ! I hold communion dear
With thee my Spirit's bride !
MY SPIRIT'S BRIDE. 19
What though another claims my care,
And 'minds me of my plighted vow ?
She heareth not the fervent prayer
My lips are speaking now.
What though cold-hearted Duty calls,
And bids me hasten to her side 1
Upon my ear the mandate falls
In vain my Spirit's Bride !
What though my babe, with laughing eye,
Essays to speak its father's name ?
Till midnight I remain to sigh,
And hide my pain and shame.
For, though to speak it be a sin,
And though I wound thy maiden pride
That laughing cherub should have been
Thine own my Spirit's Bride !
Yes, I am bound for life for life
By legal chains that men have made,
To cherish and protect my wife
And they shall be obeyed.
But can they force the heart to love 1
As well control the swelling tide !
20 MY SPIRIT'S BRIDE.
My heart I swear by heaven above
Is thine my Spirit's Bride !
Thine, though a thousand chains of steel
Were forged to force me to comply ;
Thine, though the rack and torturing wheel
Were ranged before my eye :
Thine, were the fatal edict passed,
That doomed me to the angry tide :
Thine, though the word should be my last
Still thine my Spirit's Bride !
But ah ! how's this ? The vision flies,
That filled my dreaming hours with bliss !
My own dear wife, with beaming eyes,
Salutes me with a kiss.
The angel of my dream I see,
In her who presses to my side,
And she alone shall ever be
My own my Spirit's Bride !
THE LONELY AULD WIFE.
[It was formerly (and I believe still is) customary among the
natives of Scotland, when one of an aged couple died, to leave the
chair, which the deceased usually occupied, standing in its accus
tomed corner, until the survivor should also be called to join its
former occupant in the world of spirits.]
BESIDE the old hearth she hath cherished for life,
Silent and sad sits the Lonely Auld Wife :
Time hath left many a trace on her brow,
But Grief hath not troubled her spirit till now.
There are tears in her eyes that are dim with age,
And she looketh in vain on the holy page
For she cannot see aught but an old oak chair,
That vacant and lonely is standing there.
22 THE LONELY AULD WIFE.
Long ago, when her bosom was swelling with pride,
The Lonely Auld Wife was a gay young bride
And the rose on her cheek wore its richest bloom,
When she gave her hand to the joyous groom.
Faded and worn is her beauty now
Gray are the hairs on her wrinkled brow
Silent she sits by the old hearth-stone
Sad are her thoughts she is there alone.
Her gudeman is gone to his dreamless rest,
And the Lonely Auld Wife hath a troubled breast
Yet not for the world would she banish away
The chair he hath sat in for many a day.
She speaketh not, save with a trembling breath,
But hopeth, and waiteth, and prayeth for death
For joyless and dark are the days of her life,
When the gudeman is gone from the Lonely Auld Wife.
A COUNTERPART OF THE PRECEDING.
TREMBLING and slowly the Gudeman goes
To lay his auld Wife in her last repose,
And the cold clods are heaped on her aged breast
With a sound that is breaking his peaceful rest.
He hath laid her down where no eye can come,
And lonely and cheerless is now his home :
For fifty years she hath soothed his care,
And cheerily borne of his woes her share.
He had won her love when his step was gay,
And his voice was clear as a child's at play,
And his manly form was a pleasant sight
When he led her forth on their bridal night.
He leaneth now on his stalwart cane,
And his voice is that of a child again,
And it seems not true that the once gay groom
Is the trembling form at the auld wife's tomb.
THE LONELY AULD GUDEM AN.
Sadly he goes to his home again,
And he tries to smile, but he tries in vain,
For a tear creeps up to his withered eye,
And his auld heart breaks with a mournful sigh.
His life is now as a troubled dream
Yet scarcely of life do his actions seem :
And happy, thrice happy, that hour shall be,
When the Gudeman's soul shall at last be free.
THE WAKON BIRD.
[Among some tribes of the North American Indians, there ex
ists a fancy that a peculiar species of bird, to which this name is
given, contains the spirit of some deceased friend. It is only seen
at twilight, and in the dusk of the evening, hovering about the
graves of the dead, and anon tamely entering the tenements of the
friends of the departed ; and it sometimes even submits to be taken
WHEN Twilight hath spread its thin veil o'er the land,
And Silence hath fallen on forest and plain
The Wakon Bird flieth from Manitou's hand,
And breathes to the mourner its sorrowful strain.
Beneath the soft down of its snowy white breast,
A warrior's spirit hath found its retreat,
And now, from its home in the land of the blest,
The loved of his life it returneth to greet.
26 THE WAKON BIRD.
'Tis a bird of the spirit-land spotless and fair !
No taint of the earth on its plumage is found
And when its low music is breathed on the air,
The grief of the mourner is hushed by the sound.
It teacheth the heart of the widowed to sing,
And cheers by its presence the gloomiest shade
Till tired with its labors, it foldeth its wing
On the grief-riven breast of a loverless maid.
Blest bird of the spirit-land wanderer free !
I watch thee as homeward thou wingest thy flight,
And sigh for the hour, when, unfettered like thee,
My spirit may soar to the regions of light.
Oh then, from those fields of unchangeable green,
Where all the brave warriors in council are met
Each evening my spirit, like thee, shall be seen
Amid those loved haunts that I ne'er can forget.
THE INDIAN LOVERS.
NIGHT hath spread her ebon cloud
O'er Sarrahka's* breast of blue
Chilling winds are whistling loud
Lightnings glance upon the view..
On the beach Leolah stands
Stands beside her lover there,
High to heaven she lifts her hands
Whispers low her fervent prayer.
In the camp her chieftain-sire
Raves in anger deep and wild
Dooms her lover to the fire
To the knife his maiden child.
Twenty warriors, fierce and bold,
Gather at his loud halloo :
Who shall bid their arrows hold ?
Save them, mighty Manitou !
* The old Indian name for Saratoga.
THE INDIAN LOVERS.
See, he hears ! A light canoe,
Guided by a spirit hand,
Cleaves Sarrahka's breast of blue
Rests before them on the strand.
" Fly !" she cries, and o'er the lake,
Swift as arrows part the air,
Deep within a tangled brake
Safe she clasps her lover there.
THE chief to the battle hath fled
His war-whoop hath died on the hill
The eagle-plume waves o'er his head,
As he leaps over streamlet and rill.
Exultingly proud is the heart
That beats in the breast of his bride,
When she sees her bold warrior depart
In the dusk of a calm eventide.
She offers the rich sacrifice
She prays to the Great Manitou
Nor sleeps till the bountiful skies
Hare steeped her dark hair in their dew.
She fasts till the light of the morn
Reveals to her weariless sight
The tribe on their joyful return,
But where is the chief of the night ?
30 THE INDIAN WIDOW.
In vain doth she tremblingly ask
How her warrior fared in the strife }
All shrink from the pitiful task
Of blasting the hopes of her life.
She reads her dark fate in their eyes
She sinks on the green heather there
" Great Spirit ! receive me" she cries,
And breathes out her soul with the prayer !
THE RETURN HOME.
ONCE more at home ! Full fifty years have passed,
And stamped their traces deeply on my brow
Since on my head the same warm sky hath cast
Its light, amid my youthful haunts as now.
Tired of the world, the wanderer hath come
To make his grave where was his early home.
Again I stand within the humble cot
That saw my birth, my infancy, and youth :
Yea, often here, upon this sacred spot,
My young heart leaped in buoyancy and truth.
Yet oh, how changed ! The crumbling hearth and wal
Bespeak the dwelling hastening to its fall.
32 THE RETURN HOME.
Around this hearth, now desolate, how oft
Have I made one amid the family,
To listen to our mother's voice, so soft
When harshest and the glittering tear to see,
That from the fount of her affection sprung,
And trembling on the dark hued lashes hung.
And then how often, at the close of day,
When shades were gathering on the western sky,
Have I beside her chair knelt down to pray,
Meekly, with upraised hands and half-shut eye ;
While she, her child's devotion pleased to see,
Would join his vespers on her bended knee.
Alas, my native hearth is desolate !
The cricket only singeth here its lay :
The place is vacant where my father sate
My mother, brothers, sisters, where are they ?
Go, ask the guardian of the gate of heaven
They passed his portals on the wings of even !
Once more I wander through the busy street,
Yet all unnoticed by a word or bow :
Yes, where an hundred would my coming greet,
There's not an eye to smile upon me now.
I am forgotten age and care destroy
Each well-known feature of the gladsome boy.
I enter now the lane where oft I've strayed,
And seek the one who nursed my youth the while :
Her faithful breast my infant couch was made
Sure, she will greet me with her wonted smile.
But no ! That hillock, by the garden's side,
Tells but too plainly that she too hath died.
Where shall I wander now 1 Sick, sick at heart,
I gaze around for one familiar face
In vain. These are not childish tears that start
And roll successive o'er my withered face :
Their secret fountain is within the soul,
Where Memory's turbid waters darkly roll.
I'll turn me to my wild and favorite stream,
Where oft I've bathed, or caught the golden roach :
I fancy that the gems more brightly gleam,
And leap more merrily at my approach.
Bless thee, dear stream ! Art thou the only thing
To bid me welcome with thy murmuring ?
34 THE RETURN HOME.
Once more amid the rocky hills ! Once more
Where I would oft the hours of youth beguile :
They yet are true and, from a foreign shore,
Their rugged faces greet me with a smile.
Thanks to their honest hearts ! Though friends forget,
I am remembered by the gray rocks yet !
I am not quite alone. Around me glide
Unnumbered beings of the unseen world ;
And one dear spirit, hovering by my side,
Hath o'er my form her snow-white wings unfurled.
It is a token that my end is nigh,
And they but wait to bear my soul on high.
I'll hie me to the churchyard, where are laid
Those friends who loved me ere they joined the dead
Beneath this willow shall my grave be made,
Where I may lay at rest my weary head ;
Then, all forgetting what in life hath passed,
Will the tired wanderer have a home at last.
THE SPIRIT'S COMMUNINQ8.
I FEEL them with their rustling pinions sweeping
The damp dew gathering on my brow :
I see them in their lonely vigils, keeping
Their midnight watch beside me now.
I know that chainless spirits, in their love,
Are gazing on me from their homes above
I feel upon my cheek their gentle breathing,
As silently I stand alone, .
And know that from their pure brows they are wreath
A chaplet to adorn my own.
The world is present, but 'tis nought to me
Though earth may clog, my spirit will be free.
36 THE SPIRIT'S COMMUNINGS.
Angelic spirits with my soul communing,
Lifting me far above the earth,
Where seraphim their golden harps are tuning,
To melodies of heavenly birth
These these are round me, and to cheer my soul,
When waves of sorrow darkly o'er me roll.
Earth, earth, away ! My sympathies are leaving
The sickly things of thy estate.
Angelic spirits, come ! My soul is cleaving
To thee, as to the dove its mate.
Heaven-born attendants ! To thy company
Admit a spirit struggling to be free.
Then shall I rove where summer winds are dwelling,
Gathering rich glories on my way :
Then my freed spirit, holy rapture swelling,
Shall bask in one unending day :
Then shall I gaze with unbeclouded eye
On regions of eternal purity.
Yet to the dark earth's shadowy dominion,
When to my God my vows are paid,
Oft will I wander on my viewless pinion,
THE SPIRIT'S COMMUNINGS. 37
At midnight's holy hour of shade,
Back unto those whose friendship, unforgot,
Shall hallow every still remembered spot.
Then to the old oak with its branches waving,
Where I have sat with her I love
Or to the streamlet, the rich greensward laving,
Where we have watched the worlds above
I will return and guard her, though unseen,
Whispering to her the things that once have been.
And then, when resting sweetly on her pillow,
Amid the dreamy hours of night,
I'll leave the old oak and the murmuring billow,
And guided by the moonbeam's light,
Haste to her couch, and in her dream of bliss,
Upon her brow imprint an unfelt kiss.
Yet shall she know me, and in visions smiling
Struggle to clasp me to her breast :
Then will I watch her, and with words beguiling
'Mind her of an eternal rest :
And then, when death shall set her spirit free,
Will guard her home to glory and to me.
38 THE SPIRIT'S COMMUNINGS.
Earth, earth, away ! My spirit upward soaring,
Gladly would leave thy low estate :
Angelic spirits in my breast are pouring
Rich streams of joy, and now they wait
To bear me swiftly to my home on high,
Where I may dwell in endless purity.
NON OMNIS MORIAR.
/ may not wholly die ! The green -leaved tree
May by the lightning's fearful stroke be rent ;
Its lordly trunk may to the earth be bent,
And die but there is no such death for me.
The violet, that lifts its modest head,
Wet with the dew drops of the opening raorn-
Ere night may lie upon the sward, uptorn,
And fairies sing a requiem o'er the dead.
The wild gazelle, whose bright and melting eye
Seems to bespeak a human soul beneath,
May lie a stricken corse upon the heath,
Ere one day's sun can pass athwart the sky.
NON OMNIS MORIAR.
The nightingale, whose simple melody
Breaks on the silence of the deep midnight,
May cease its music ere the morning's light,
And on the turf with blood-stained plumage lie.
As the tree falleth shall it rest for aye
When the flower droops it will not bloom again
Nor shall the bird, by some rude archer slain,
Awake and sing but / may never die !
; Though through my veins the blood may cease to fly ;
Though from my eye the lustre may depart,
And the quick pulses stop within the heart ;
Yet, ev'n in death, I cannot wholly die !
Is there no region where the bird may flee,
When the fell shaft is plunged within its breast,
Up 'mid the summer clouds, and ever rest ?
None for the bird, and yet there's one for me !
PLACES FOR PRAYER.
AWAY to the forest, where tall trees are bending
Their green-mantled summits beneath the wild
Where lightning-lit vines, in their flame-wreaths as
Enwrap in their folds the oak's patriarch form :
When the tempest-born whirlwind in madness is rush
Against the firm trunks, and their giant forms crushing,
And its furious roar every low breeze is hushing
Then haste to its depths, and thy matins perform.
Away from the world to the tempest-tossed ocean,
Where cavern-born billows their white crests up-
When the sea and the sky are in mingled commotion,
And the dark shades of night in the distance appear :
42 PLACES FOR PRAYER.
When the storm-spirit utters its wild, fitful crying,
And through the strained cordage the strong wind is