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Songs of every day life online

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MAY 7 1883




Press of

G, P. Putnam's Sons

New York

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NONE of the following poems were originally writ-
ten for the general public. Most of them, espe-
cially the longer ones, were meant only for my own
family and a circle of intimate personal friends ; whence
it results that many of them refer, to a greater extent
than would otherwise be the case, and than I could wish
were the case, to myself, my personal experiences, hopes,
beliefs, doubts, and feelings. It would be entirely too
sweeping a generalization, however, to conclude that
every thing to be found here i§ a transcript of my own
outer and inner life ; for instance, it would not be safe to
conclude from " Such a Night as This " that I am a
widower, or from " The Voiceless ** that I am a woman !
Just how much of what seems personal herein is fact, and
how much of it is fancy, it will be time enough to tell
when I come to write my autobiography. And I have
not yet begun to write my autobiography.

The first poem in the volume has been the subject of
considerable controversy. It was written late in the fall
of 1862, and the next spring was sent to Arthur's Home
Magazine^ Philadelphia, appearing therein in the number
for July, 1863. One E. Bulmer, of Illinois, copied it,
signed his own name to it, and sent it (as his own) to the

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Farmers* Advocate^ Chicago. The editor of some Wiscon-
sin paper (whose name I have forgotten, if I ever knew)
clipped it from the Farmers* Advocate for his own col-
umns ; but supposing that there was a misprint in the
signature, changed the " m " therein to a " w," and thus
the name of " Bulwer " became attached to the poem.
An immense accession of popularity immediately fol-
lowed. Copies of papers containing it — credited to Bul-
wer — have been sent me from nearly every State in the
Union, and from England, Scotland, and Ireland ; it is
to be found in orthodox and spiritual hymn and song
books, in at least one school reader in wide use, and in a
score of bound volumes of selections ; it has been
quoted from in speeches in the Legislatures of several
States, and several times in the Congress of the United
States. On the last day of January, 1880, I had the
pleasure of sitting in the Strangers' Gallery of the House
of Representatives, in Washington, D. C, and hearing
the Hon. Mr. Coffroth, Member of Congress from Penn-
sylvania, in his oration on the death of Hon. Rush Clark,
Member of Congress from Iowa, quote a portion of this
poem, which thus became embalmed (credited to Bulwer,
as usual) in the Congressional Record (see 46th Cong., 2d
Sess., Part i, p. 638). Every reader can decide for him-
self whether this wide-spread popularity has its basis in
the merits of the poem or in the celebrity of its supposed

In a volume of verse growing up under the circum-
stances which gave origin to these poems — the com-
monplace incidents of every-day home life, the ordinary
joys and grief$ of every household, the aspirations.

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hopes, fears, doubts, and questions felt by every human
heart, expressed in the simplest language within reach
that could be woven into rhyme and rhythm, upon the
impulse of the passing moment, with no ulterior pur-
pose in view by the writer of seeking reputation or
achieving recognition as a poet — of course nothing new
or startling is to be expected. My Pegasus is a courser
without pedigree or training, and has never been regu-
larly entered in the race for fame ; he has been left to wan-
der whither he chose, without provocation of spur or re-
straint of bridle ; and he has not aspired to climb Par-
nassian heights, nor to wander into unfrequented ways
in search of some hitherto undiscovered Pierian foun-
tain. He has seen fit to " browse around " in common
fields, and travel in well-trodden paths — ^whither any
reader may follow who chooses. May he not be dis-
appointed in his hope of finding here and there by the
wayside some humble flower sufficient to reward him for
his trouble.

J. L. McC.

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There is no Death i

The World is Waiting . . 4

To-day and To-morrow 6

The Plowboy 9

The Child's Prayer I2

Musings in Spring 14

My Friend and His Friend 17

A Year Ago 32

My Maple • . . -33

To My Wife in Her Absence 35

Usefulness Better than Fame 36

Waiting for the Morning . 38

Voices of the Soul ......... 40

The Voiceless 57

God Strengthen Me ! .61

Living Stones 63

She had Nothin' Agin' Him .65

On Such a Night as This 68

The Voice of Duty . . . 69

The Quaker Boy's Sermon 72

Second Childhood 75

The Beautiful Land 76

Hearth and Home 78

Good-Night Song 80

Myrtle in Heaven 81

Before the Lava-Beds 97

Iris at Midnight 99

Lazarus and Dives 100

The Philosophical Sparrows 103

After All iii

My Silver Wedding 116

For an Autograph Album 132

For a Lady's Album 132

A Poet's Reasons 133


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* With second-rate poetry no one ought to be allowed to trouble
mankind. There is quite enough of the best — more than we can
ever read in the length of a life ; and it b literal sin in any person
to encumber us with inferior work. All inferior poetry is injury to
the good, inasmuch as it takes away from the freshness of rhjrmes,
gives a wretched commonality to good thoughts, and in general adds
to the weight of human weariness in a most woful and culpable
manner."— John Ruskin.

AN owl sat aloft on a barren limb,
Looking as wise as such birds will.
And at every sound that was wafted to him
He angrily hooted : " Be still ! be still ! "

" It is well," he said, " for the nightingale
To laden the palpitant air with her song ;

And the voice of the lark, as she mounts from the vale,
May not, perhaps, be very far wrong ;

" But the garrulous sparrow, the cawing crow,
The ceaseless, monotonous whippoorwill,

And a multitude more that I 'm glad I don't know.
Oh, why can not they," cried the critic, " keep still ! "

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A cricket that lived at the root of the tree,
By this sort of hooting indignantly stirred,

No whit dismayed, as we '11 presently see,
Was moved to respond to the solemn old bird :

" Not meaning to hint that an owl could usurp
A position or power not rightly his due.

Allow me to say that when I want to chirp

I shall chirp — ^without asking permission of you !

" Nor thought I, moreover, what sensitive ear
In delight or disfavor my music might scan,

Save that of my Maker, who places me here.
And bids me do simply the best that I can !

" My song is a homely affair, no doubt ;

But when my heart and throat are athrill
With a thought or a joy that I want to let out.

Though owls may complain, I will not keep still !

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Songs of Toil and Triumph.


THERE is no death ! the stars go down
To rise upon some other shore,
And bright in heaven's jewelled crown
They shine for evermore.

There is no death ! the forest leaves

Convert to life the viewless air ;
The rocks disorganize to feed

The hungry moss they bear.

There is no death ! the dust we tread

Shall change, beneath the summer showers.

To golden grain, or mellow fruit,
Or rainbow-tinted flowers.

There is no death ! the leaves may fall,
The flowers may fade and pass away —

They only wait, through wintry hours,
The warm, sweet breath of May.

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There is no death ! the choicest gifts
That heaven hath kindly lent to earth

Are ever first to seek again
The country of their birth ;

And all things that for growth or joy

Are worthy of our love or care,
Whose loss has left us desolate,

Are safely garnered there.

Though life become a desert waste,
We know its fairest, sweetest flowers,

Transplanted into paradise,
Adorn immortal bowers.

The voice of birdlike melody

That we have missed and mourned so long
Now mingles with the angel choir

In everlasting song.

There is no death ! although we grieve

When beautiful, familiar forms
That we have learned to love are torn

From our embracing arms, —

Although with bowed and breaking heart.
With sable garb and silent tread.

We bear their senseless dust to rest.
And say that they are " dead," —

They are not dead ! they have but passed
Beyond the mists that blind us here,

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Into the new and larger life .
Of that serener sphere.

They have but dropped their robe of clay
To put their shining raiment on ;

They have not wandered far away, —
They are not " lost," nor " gone."

Though disenthralled and glorified.
They still are here and love us yet ;

The dear ones they have left behind
They never can forget.

And sometimes, when our hearts grow faint
Amid temptations fierce and deep,

Or when the wildly raging waves
Of grief or passion sweep,

We feel upon our fevered brow

Their gentle touch, their breath of balm,
Their arms enfold us, and our hearts

Grow comforted and calm.

And ever near us, though unseen.
The dear, immortal spirits tread —

For all the boundless universe
Is Life : — there are no dead !

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THE blood-stained earth has had enough of warriors,
conquerors, and kings,
And in the light of better days waits hopefully for better

things ;
Those at the prestige of whose name the trembling world

was wont to bow.
Are mouldering with their kindred dust, and she would

fain forget them now ;
Her battle-fields — her Marathons and Borodinos — ^bear
The golden harvests that shall feed the sons of those who

perished there ;
The servile multitude no more some Caesar or Napoleon

To Actiums or Waterloos ; for greater men and grander


Humanity is waiting !

Welcome the coming golden age ; farewell the passing age

of gold.
When worth is worthless without wealth, and hearts and

souls are bought and sold ;
Men ask not of the millionnaire what hath his heartless

history been —
They tarry but to trample down the helpless victim of his



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But from the sunlit mountain-top, where rests e'en now a
brighter ray,

The patient Watcher welcomes glad the dawning of an-
other day —

A day when Truth and Righteousness the sceptre of the
world shall hold,

And man live for his fellow-man, as now he lives for self
and gold :

For this the world is waiting !

For warriors undaunted, who shall battle bravely for the

With weapons keen pursuing Error to her native realms

of Night ;
For rich men — rich in boundless store of cheering words

and helpful deeds.
Unfailing love, unfainting faith, to minister to human

needs ;
For poets who shall clothe the truth in robes of rare and

winsome beauty ;
For orators whose thunder tones shall rouse the laggard

to his duty ;
For men whose hearts with love to God and love to man

shall be imbued ;
For men and women who shall live the lives that men and

women should :

For these the world is waiting !

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AWAKE, my soul — with eager zeal
Thy daily task beginning ;
For labor hath its pleasures, real,

And amply worth the winning !
What though, with toil and care oppressed,

The day seem long and dreary ?
We should not know the joy of rest.

If we were never weary.
Then up ! and banish sloth away,

Nor care nor trouble borrow ;
For patient, earnest toil to-day

Wins triumph for to-morrow.

For God designed that man should gain

His living by his labor ;
And he far worse than lives in vain

Who lives upon his neighbor.
Though lily hands and costly clothes

Are sometimes won by shirking.
Still " Nature's noblemen " are those

Who earn their bread by working.
Then up ! and banish sloth away,
•"With labor brave and thorough ;
For those too proud to work to-day

May beggars prove to-morrow.

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What though the heedless crowd around

May greet us with their laughter ?
It proves that they have never found

What we are seeking after :
The lofty joy, the pure delight,

That lights the path of duty,—
That makes the earth about us bright,

And life a thing of beauty.
Then up ! and banish sloth away.

At work-bench or in furrow ;
Let others laugh at us to-day —

We '11 laugh at them to-morrow.

This lesson Nature still instils,

As well as Revelation :
That every thing created fills

Some chasm in creation ;
There 's not a grass-blade in the vale,

Or flower that looks to heaven,
To. which, could we but read the tale,

Some use has not been given.
Then up ! let us of nobler clay,

From these a lesson borrow ;
For sloth and idleness to-day

Will bring regret to-morrow.

The meanest worm that crawls the dust.

Before its life is ended.
Accomplishes the purpose just

For which it was intended ;
Think ye that man alone hath been

Placed in the world to mar it ?

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Shall we live, and our fellow-men

Be none the better for it ?
No ! let us lend a feeble ray

To light the gloom of sorrow ;
For we, who proffer aid to-day,

May need the same to-morrow.

Though weak and frail, we each can make

The world a little brighter ;
With every cheering word we speak,

Somebody's heart is lighter ;
And should misfortune be our share.

With grief and pain attended,
Each pang with patience let us bear —

We know 't will soon be ended !
Though rough and thorny be our way.

And paved with pain and sorrow —
Though we may sow in tears to-day.

We '11 reap in joy to-morrow !

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HALF-BURIED in the morning mists
The meadows silent lie,
The sun is slowly climbing up

The ruddy eastern sky,
As, light of heart, the farmer boy

Begins his daily toil,
To guide the team and hold the plow
And turn the mellow soil.

Keep every furrow trim and straight,

With practised eye and hand ;
And when the whole is overturned,

" Strike out " another " land."
Search where you may, the world contains

No nobler field of labor ;
More proud than that of him who wields

The flashing spear or sabre.

What though the hand be rough that holds

The handle of the plow ?
What though the summer sun hath poured

Its fierceness on your brow ?
What though your pantaloons may boast

A patch on either knee ?

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These are but badges that proclaim
Nature's nobility.

What though the brainless fop may sneer

In supercilious pride ?
What though the child of luxury

Pass by the other side ?
What though no gilt-edged note invites

To strut where fashion reigns
O'er thronging crowds of thoughtless fools

With softer hands and brains ?

The school-boy reads the ancient tale :

How foreign foes unfurled
Their flag before the walls of Rome,

Proud mistress of the world ;
Then rallied they whose lives had passed

Where clashing squadrons wheeled,
And chose for leader one whose home

Was the un-tented field.

When patriot sires of freedom fought

Against the tyrant foemen.
Our country found her best defence

Her brave and sturdy yeomen ;
When traitors from within assailed

Our flag by land and sea,
Theirs were the stalwart hands that kept

Our country one and free.

But on a bloodless battle-field
Are made your conquests now ;

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Your foes are falling, rank by rank,
Before the conquering plow ;

The plow, more potent than the sword,
The bayonet, or the ball —

Whose victims, friendless and unwept,
Are buried where they fall.

Not yours the widow's wail of woe,

The starving orphan's tear,
The dying groan of agony

With none to pity near ;
But by the labor of your hands

The hungry shall be fed.
And life and plenty crown the earth,

Now drear, and dark, and dead.

Then on ! work on ! forgetting not

A world in waiting stands ;
The field of human progress calls

For fearless hearts and hands.
With patient faith, with earnest zeal,

The laborer there must toil ;
And many a furrow, broad and deep.

Must overturn the soil.

Then shall we see the giant weeds

Of Error overthrown.
And in their native soil, the seeds

Of Truth and Beauty sown.
Now, on our vision from afar

The golden harvest gleams —
More bounteous than our wishes are.

More glorious than our dreams.

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" Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep ;
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take."

THROUGH all the gathering mists of age
One scene and season lingers yet —
The first enstamped on memory's page,

The last I ever can forget ;
'T was when the orb of day declined

Beneath the golden-tinted west,
I sought my mother's knee to find

Upon her bosom perfect rest ;
And when the stars began to shine

From out the ether blue and deep,
I said the prayer whose opening line

Was " Now I lay me down to sleep."

O childhood hours — how calm, how bright —

How like a dream they passed away !
That mother sank to sleep one night.

And woke in everlasting day !
Then manhood, with its perils, came —

Its high-wrought hopes, its vague desires ;
Ambition's fervid, quenchless flame,

And passion's baleful furnace-fires;

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But oft the thought had power to sway,

Amid temptations fierce and deep —
If thus I sin, how can I say,

" I pray the Lord my soul to keep " ?

Around us flit, on viewless wing,

The silent messengers of death ;
Where health is now, an hour may bring

The burning brow and fevered breath ;
Alas ! how many sparkling eyes

That close to-night on scenes of mirth,
Before another sun shall rise

Shall look their last on scenes of earth !
Ere morning dawns again for me,

The silver cord of life may break ;
O Father, take me home to Thee,

" If I should die before I wake " !

Our clay shall mingle with the dust,

And o'er it grow the grassy sod —
Yet something lives, to dwell, we trust,

Safe in the bosom of its God.
Amid the gathering gloom of night

We near the river deep and wide.
But friends we love, with forms of light,

Are waiting on the other side :
When life's low tide is ebbing fast.

And sense and thought their throne forsake,
Then be my earliest prayer my last —

" I pray the Lord my soul to take."

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OH, how rich with rarest beauty
Is this sunny world of ours,
When the virgin Spring comes blushing,

Like a bride, arrayed in flowers ;
When the wanton warblers waken

Merry melody that seems
Like the gentle, joyous music
Wafted from the land of dreams !

Welcome, Spring ! again thou bringest

Flowers fair and odors sweet.
While the woodland birds are singing

Thy return with joy to greet ;
All the beauty that lay buried —

Bound by winter's icy chain, —
All the joys we feared had perished.

Thou hast brought to life again.

No, not all ! my restless spirit

From thy presence sadly turns,
And for one thou canst not bring me

With a weary longing yearns ;
Oh, my heart — my heart is buried

Where the weeping willows wave ;
Spring, thy fairest flowers are growing

Green upon my mother's grave.

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At thy presence beauty smileth

Bright from every flower and tree —
But 't is not the smile of kindness

That my mother had for me !
Thou hast taught the merry songsters

At thy coming to rejoice —
But ye bring me not the music

Of my mother's gentle voice !

Winter had the earth enshrouded

With a snowy winding-sheet,
When the angels came to bear her

To her home with noiseless feet :
Then the sun went out in heaven,

While my heart grew faint and chill,
And though all about be brightness,

Winter rests upon it still !

Midnight darkness gathered o'er me

As we looked that last good-night —
I to roam this world of sorrow,

She to tread the halls of light ;
And *t is only when in slumber,

Freed, my spirit soars above.
That she walks again beside me

With her olden smile of love.

And in dreamy mood I often

Roam amid the forest wild,
Heedless of the world around me.

In her arms again, a child :

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Or beside the placid river
Wander when the day is o'er,

Listening as the mimic billows
Wash against the pebbly shore :

And I wonder when the angel,

Death, shall come to bear me on
O'er the dark and silent river

To the land where she is gone !
For the fragrance of its flowers

Morning zephyrs ofttimes bring,
And I almost catch the music

From that land of endless spring.

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BE it known, to begin with, that I have a friend ;
And the greatest of blessings that fortune can send,

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