Page images

All save the dear old friendship, and that shall grow older and dearer!”
Then the Captain advanced, and, bowing, saluted Priscilla,
Gravely, and after the manner of old-fashioned gentry in England,
Something of camp and of court, of town and of country, commingled,
Wishing her joy of her wedding, and loudly lauding her husband.
Then he said with a smile : “ I should have remembered the adage, -
If you would be well served, you must serve yourself: and moreover,
No man can gather cherries in Kent at the season of Christmas!”

Great was the people's amazement, and greater yet their rejoicing,
Thus to behold once more the sunburnt face of their Captain,
Whom they had mourned as dead; and they gathered and crowded about him,
Eager to see him and hear him, forgetful of bride and of bridegroom,
Questioning, answering, laughing, and each interrupt the other,
Till the good Captain declared, being quite overpowered and bewildered,
He had rather by far break into an Indian encampment,
Than come again to a wedding to which he had not been invited.

Meanwhile the bridegroom went forth and stood with the bride at the doorway,
Breathing the perfumed air of that warm and beautiful morning.
Touched with autumnal tints, but lonely and sad in the sunshine,
Lay extended before them the land of toil and privation;
There were the graves of the dead, and the barren waste of the sea-shore,
There the familiar fields, the groves of pine, and the meadows;
But to their eyes transfigured, it seemed as the Garden of Eden,
Filled with the presence of God, whose voice was the sound of the ocean.

Soon was their vision disturbed by the noise and stir of departure,
Friends coming forth from the house, and impatient of longer delaying,
Each with his plan for the day, and the work that was left uncompleted.
Then from a stall near at hand, amid exclamations of wonder,
Alden the thoughtful, the careful, so happy, so proud Priscilla,
Brought out his snow-white steer, obeying the hand of its master,
Led by a cord that was tied to an iron ring in its nostrils,
Covered with crimson cloth, and a cushion placed for a saddle.
She should not walk, he said, through the dust and heat of the noonday;
Nay, she should ride like a queen, not plod along like a peasant.
Somewhat alarmed at first, but reassured by the others,
Placing her hand on the cushion, her foot in the hand of her husband,
Gaily, with joyous laugh, Priscilla mounted her palfrey.
Nothing is wanting now," he said, with a smile, but the distaff ;
Then you would be in truth my queen, my beautiful Bertha !”

Onward the bridal procession now moved to their new habitation,
Happy husband and wife, and friends conversing together.
Pleasantly murmured the brook, as they crossed the ford in the forest,
Pleased with the image that passed, like a dream of love, through its bosom,
Tremulous, floating in air, o'er the depths of the azure abysses.
Down through the golden leaves the sun was pouring his splendours,
Gleaming on purple grapes, that, from branches above them suspended,
Mingled their odorous breath with the balm of the pine and the fir-tree,
Wild and sweet as the clusters that grew in the valley of Eschol.
Like a picture it seemed of the primitive, pastoral ages,
Fresh with the youth of the world, and recalling Rebecca and Isaac,
Old and yet ever new, and simple and beautiful always,
Love immortal and young in the endless succession of lovers.
So through the Plymouth woods passed onward the bridal procession.



THE ROPE-WALK, In that building long and low, With its windows all a row,

Like the port-holes of a hulk, Human spiders spin and spin, Backward down their threads so thin,

Dropping, each, a hempen bulk.
At the end an open door ;
Squares of sunshine on the floor

Light the long and dusky lane;
And the whirling of a wheel,
Dull and drowsy, makes me feel

All its spokes are in my brain.
As the spinners to the end
Downward go and re-ascend,

Gleam the long threads in the sun; While within this brain of mine Cobwebs brighter and more fine

By the busy wheel are spun. Two fair maidens in a swing, Like white doves upon the wing,

First before my vision pass; Laughing, as their gentle hands Closely clasp the twisted strands,

At their shadow on the grass. Then a booth of mountebanks, With its smell of tan and planks,

And a girl poised high in air On a cord, in spangled dress, With a faded loveliness,

And a weary look of care.
Then a homestead among farms,
And a woman with bare arms,

Drawing water from a well;
As the bucket mounts apace,
With it mounts her own fair face,

As at some magician's spell.
Then an old man in a tower
Ringing loud the noontide hour,

While the rope coils round and round, Like a serpent, at his feet, And again in swift retreat

Almosts lifts him from the ground.

Then within a prison-yard,
Faces fixed, and stern, and hard,

Laughter and indecent mirth;
Ah! it is the gallows-tree!
Breath of Christian charity,

Blow, and sweep it from the earth! Then a schoolboy, with his kite, Gleaming in a sky of light,

And an eager, upward look ; Steeds pur ued through lane and field; Fowlers with their snares concealed,

And an angler by a brook. Ships rejoicing in the breeze, Wrecks that float o'er unknown seas, Anchors dragged through faithless

sand; Sea-fog drifting overhead, And with lessening line and lead

Sailors feeling for the land. All these scenes do I behold, These and many left untold,

In that building long and low; While the wheels go round and round With a drowsy, dreamy sound,

And the spinners backward go.


PORTS. A MIST was driving down the British

Channel, The day was just begun, And through the window-panes, on floor

and panel, Streamed the red autumn sun. It glanced on flowing flag and rippling

pennon, And the white sails of ships; And, from the frowning rampart, the

black cannon Hailed it with feverish lips. Sandwich and Romney, Hastings

Hythe and Dover,
Were all alert that day,

[ocr errors]

To see the French war-steamers speed

ing over, When the fog cleared away. Sullen and silent, and like couchant

lions, Their cannon through the night, Holding their breath, had watched in

grim defiance The sea-coast opposite. And now they roared at drum-beat from

their stations On every citadel; Each answering each with morning

salutations That all was well. And down the coast, all taking up the

Replied the distant forts,
As if to summon from his sleep the

And Lord of the Cinque Ports.
Him shall no sunshine from the fields

of azure,
No drum-beat from the wall,
No morning-gun from the black fort's

embrasure Awaken with their call.

Nomore surveying with an eye impartial

The long line of the coast,
Shall the gaunt figure of the old Field-

Be seen upon his post.
For in the night, unseen, a single

In sombre harness mailed,
Dreaded of man, and surnamed the

The rampart wall has scaled.
He passed into the chamber of the

The dark and silent room;
And as he entered, darker grew and

The silence and the gloom.
He did not pause to parley or dissemble,

But smote the Warden hoar;
Ah! what a blow! that made all Eng-

land tremble,
And groan from shore to shore.
Meanwhile, without the surly cannon

waited, The sun rose bright o'erhead; Nothing in Nature's aspect intimated

That a great man was dead!

Two Angels, one of Life, and one of Death,

Passed o'er the village as the morning broke;
The dawn was on their faces; and beneath,

The sombre houses capped with plumes of smoke.
Their attitude and aspect were the same;

Alike their features and their robes of white;
And one was crowned with amaranth, as with flame,

And one with asphodels, like flakes of light.
I saw them pause on their celestial way:-

Then said I, with deep fear and doubt oppressed,
“Beat not so loud, my heart, lest thou betray

The place where thy beloved are at rest!
And he who wore the crown of asphodels,

Descending at my door, began to knock;
And my soul sank within me, as in wells

The waters sink before an earthquake's shock.
I recognised the nameless

The terror, and the tremor, and the pain-
That oft before had filled and haunted me,

And now returned with threefold strength again. * Inspired by the birth of a child to the writer, and the death of Mrs. Maria Lowell, the wife of another American poet, on the same day, at Cambridge, U.S.


The door I opened to my heavenly guest,

And listened, for I thought I heard God's voice;
And, knowing whatsoe'er He sent was best,

Dared neither to lament nor to rejoice.
Then with a smile that filled the house with light-
• "My errand is not Death, but Life,” he said;
And, ere I answered, passing out of sight,

On his celestial embassy he sped.
'Twas at thy door, O friend, and not at mine,

The angel with the amaranthine wreath,
Pausing, descended; and, with voice divine,

Whispered a word, that had a sound like Death.
Then fell upon the house a sudden gloom-

A shadow on those features fair and thin:
And softly, from that hushed and darkened room,

Two angels issued, where but one went in.
All is of God! If He but wave His hand,

The mists collect, the rains fall thick and loud;
Till, with a smile of light on sea and land,

Lo! He looks back from the departing cloud.
Angels of Life and Death alike are His;

Without His leave they pass no threshold o'er;
Who, then, would wish or dare, believing this,

Against His messengers to shut the door?

OF Prometheus, how undaunted

On Olympus' shining bastions
His audacious foot he planted,
Myths are told and songs are chaunted,

Full of promptings and suggestions.
Beautiful is the tradition
Of that fight through heavenly

The old classic superstition
Of the theft and the transmission

Of the fire of the Immortals ! First the deed of noble daring,

Born of heavenward aspiration, Then the fire with mortals sharing, Then the vulture,-the despairing

Cry of pain on crags Caucasian.
All is but a symbol painted

Of the Poet, Prophet, Seer;
Only those are crowned and sainted
Who with grief have been acquainted,

Making nations nobler, freer.
In their feverish exultations,

In their triumph and their yearning,

In their passionate pulsations,
In their words among the nations,

The Promethean fire is burning.
Shall it, then, be unavailing,

All this toil for human culture ? Through the cloud-rack, dark and

trailing, Must they see above them sailing

O’er life's barren crags the vulture? Such a fate as this was Dante's,

By defeat and exile maddened ; Thus were Milton and Cervantes, Nature's priests and Corybantes,

By affliction touched and saddened. But the glories so transcendent

That around their memories cluster, And, on all their steps attendant, Make their darkened lives resplendent

With such gleams of inward lustre ! All the melodies mysterious, Through the dreary

darkness chaunted; Thoughts in attitudes imperious, Voices soft, and deep, and serious, Words that whispered, songs that


All the soul in rapt suspension,

All the quivering, palpitating Chords of life in utmost tension, With the fervour of invention,

With the rapture of creating!
Ah, Prometheus ! heaven-scaling!

In such hours of exultation
Even the faintest heart, unquailing,
Might behold the vulture sailing

Round the cloudy crags Caucasian ! Though to all there is not given

Strength for such sublime endeavour, Thus to scale the walls of heaven, And to leaven with fiery leaven

All the hearts of men for ever; Yet all bards, whose hearts unblighted

Honour and believe the presage, Hold aloft their torches lighted, Gleaming through the realms benighted,

As they onward bear the message!

All these must first be trampled down

Beneath our feet, if we would gain
In the bright fields of fair renown

The right of eminent domain.
We have not wings, we cannot soar;

But we have feet to scale and climb, By slow degrees, by more and more,

The cloudy summits of our time. The mighty pyramids of stone That wedge-like cleave the desert

airs, When nearer seen and better known,

Are but gigantic flights of stairs. The distant mountains, that uprear

Their solid bastions to the skies, Are crossed by pathways, that appear

As we to higher levels rise. The heights by great men reached and

kept Were not attained by sudden flight, But they, while their companions slept,

Were toiling upward in the night. Standing on what too long we bore With shoulders bent and downcast

eyes, We may discern-unseen before

A path to higher destinies.
Nor deem the irrevocable Past

As wholly wasted, wholly vain,
If, rising on its wrecks, at last
To something nobler we attain.



TINE. Saint AUGUSTINE! well hast thou said,

That of our vices we can frame A ladder, * if we will but tread Beneath feet each deed of

shame! All common things, each day's events,

That with the hour begin and end, Our pleasures and our discontents,

Are rounds by which we may ascend. The low desire, the base design,

That makes another's virtues less; The revel of the treacherous wine,

And all occasions of excess; The longing for ignoble things; The strife for triumph more than

truth; The hardening of the heart, that brings

Irreverence for the dreams of youth; All thoughts of ill; all evil deeds,

That have their root in thoughts of ill; Whatever hinders or impedes

The action of the noble will ;

* The words of St. Augustine are, “De vitiis nostris scalam nobis facimus, si vitia ipsa calcamus."-SERMON III. De Ascensione.

In Mather's Magnalia Christi,

Of the old colonial time,
May be found in prose the legend
That is here set down in rhyme.

* A detailed account of this “ apparition of a Ship in the Air” is given by Cotton Mather in his MagnaliaChristi, Book I. Ch. VI. It is contained in a letter from the Rev. James Pierpont, Pastor of New Haven. To this account Mather adds these words:

“Reader, there being yet living so many credible gentlemen that were eye-witnesses of this wonderful thing, I'venture to publish it for a thing as undoubted as 'tis wonderful.”

« PreviousContinue »