Three Hours; or, The Vigil of Love; and Other Poems by Mrs. Sarah Josepha
Hale (Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1848).
WHICH, FOR TEN YEARS, I HAVE BEEN EDITOR,
TO MY VERY DEAR FRIENDS,
PREFACE It is often said that poetry is not of much account in
this practical age. Yet, the young always love poetry; and America is
the land of youth and hope. The truth is, that besides having easy access
to all the literature of past ages, so many poetical works attract and
divide the attention, that no one writer, either ancient or modern, receives
the homage of old offered to the Bards. Still, there are many, many readers
of poetry, and warm admirers of the "art divine," and the writer
of these Legends feels assured her friends-the whole world of the Lady's
Book---will give this little work a cordial reception. Some of the shorter
poems will be familiar to them; but the volume will be mostly new to the
public. As an attempt to impart poetical interest to the ordinary events
of woman's life, and show glimpses of domestic character connected with
early American history, the author believes the larger poems, particularly
the first, will be found to possess originality of design. This first
poem was never before printed, the last never published, though a small
edition was issued for a charitable purpose. In preparing these Legends,
the author has scrupulously sought to devote whatever talents she may
possess to the grandest purpose of the true Bard:
amid all life's quests,
There seems but worthy one--'tis to do good."
HOURS; OR, THE VIGIL OF LOVE
sin who tell us Love can die,
With Life all other passions fly;
All others are but vanity.
Its holy flame forever burneth;
From heaven it came, to heaven returneth.
Many, many years ago,
When the months moved very slow,
Keeping time with minds of men,---
Human thought was slumbering then;
Long ago a Cottage stood
Where God's Temple rises now,
And there frowned a sullen wood
On a bleak Hill's shaggy brow,
Just above the humble dwelling:---
'Tis no fairy Tale I'm telling,
But a History of the heart,
When nature triumphed over art.
The scenery then was wild and strange,
But time and man have wrought a change.
As Thought can use the lightning's wings,
A single season often brings
Such plans of power and deeds of fame
As centuries past could never claim.
The shaggy Hill is smiling now,
Like warrior who has won the day,
And on its green, uplifted brow
The palace of a State holds sway;
And yet, like hopes that never die,
Beneath the Pile, our gaze that wins,
Roots of the sere, old forest lie
That flourished ere my Tale begins.
"Nine o'clock!"---it strikes the hour,
Not the clock of the lofty tower,---
Many a conquering year must go,
Bearing its banner of bloom and blight,
Gathering its spoils of joy and wo,
Ere stands the Church on the Cottage site!
"Nine o'clock---he is not here---
I cannot check this creeping fear,
That thrills my heart at Time's death-tone,
---It strikes so loud when I'm all alone!"
She raised her eyes to the old brass clock,
Whose calm face seemed her fears to mock;
It stood in pride so stiff and tall,
As though it propped the Cottage wall,
And to and fro swung its pendulum ball.
We feel there is a God above
When seeing tokens of His love,---
That angels there must be on high
When human beauty meets our eye.
And oh! how angel lovely seemed
The Lady of that Cottage home,---
It was as though some Bard had dreamed
A radiant star-nymph on him beamed,
And when he woke had found her come!
As easy 'twere the nymph to bind
As tell the charm the Lady bore;
True beauty never was defined---
And features painted to the mind
Are perfect only to the blind
Who never scan the image o'er.---
Oh! very beautiful was she,
A loveliness most rare to see.
Her eyes were like th'ethereal hue
From Chimborazo's skyward view,
When stars begin to tremble through,
And not a vapor dims the blue;---
And clustering curls of soft, blond hair,
Around her throat and shoulders flow
Like morning light on mountain snow,---
And face so delicately fair!
'Twas like a lily newly blown,
Or, like breathing Parian stone,
Softened by a heart within,
Sending love-light through the skin!
Ay, the soul's transparent vase
Seemed that pure, pale, loving face.
Kneeling by a cradle-bed,
On the clock she gazed in awe,---
Turning thence, her fears seemed fled
When her sleeping boy she saw;
And her beauty caught new grace,
As she smiled, a trusting smile,
Sad forebodings had given place,
Hope, like new-fledged dove, the while,
Nestled in her mother's breast
As she watched her infant's rest.
"Better, ay, he'll soon be well---
Saviour-God, I bless thy name!"
Silvery sweet her accents fell,---
From her heart the blessing came.
Then she rose and gently raised
The pine-knots on the hearth that blazed;
Beneath her touch they burn so bright
Every shadow seems to flee:---
The bed's blue damask canopy,
And a tall, carved chair of ebony,
Stiff as knight in armor dight,
Were strongly painted in the light;---
And strangely mingling with them, stood,
Like humble friends, the bench of wood,
And table, shaped with axe and saw---
On which a silver flagon shone,---
None of these her notice draw;
The Lady's gaze is turned alone
On a rude shelf filled with books;
Or, as listening for his moan,
On her sleeping boy she looks.
A blessing on the printer's art!
Books are the Mentors of the heart.
The burning soul, the burdened mind,
In books alone companions find.
We never speak our deepest feelings;
Our holiest hopes have no revealings,
Save in the gleams that light the face,
Or fancies that the pen may trace:
And hence to books the heart must turn,
When with unspoken thoughts we yearn;
And gather from the silent page
The just reproof, the counsel sage,
The consolation kind and true
That soothes and heals the wounded heart,
As on the broken plant the dew
Calls forth fresh leaves and buds to view,
More lovely as the old depart.
And when, with gloomy fears oppressed,
The trembling-hearted fain would rest,
No opiate like a book, that charms,
By its deep spell, the mind's alarms;
Opening, as Genius has the key,
Some haunt of mirth, or mystery,
Or trusting faith, or tender love,
As vista to the heaven above,
Where the lone wandering one may come,
Refreshed and glad, as though at home;
And feel the soul has wells of joy,
Like springs that gush in cavern's gloom,
And hopes like gold without alloy,
Or diamonds buried in a tomb.
But there's a fever of the soul,
Beyond this opiate control;
When the book-charm its influence loses,
The mind will wander where it chooses:
We see the page, but never heed,
Or thought is busy while we read;
And strange revealings fill the gloom---
A song of joy, or dirge of doom
Seems writ on every page we turn,
With spirit lore we fain would learn.
Even thus she sat in reverie,
An open book upon her knee,
That Lady pale, while far away
Her thoughts, like truant children, stray.
Her heart---no, not her heart---went back,
'Twas memory trod the long, dim track.
On, on, like beam of light she sped,
Or thought that flies to seek the dead;
On, over the ocean's wintry foam,
Where surges heave as mountains high,
As 'twere to join the sea and sky;
And now the blesséd land is nigh---
And she has reached her childhood's home!
She sees the grand ancestral Hall,
The pictured warriors on the wall,---
There frowns a grim old ancestor,
As might have scowled the Saxon Knight,
Who perished in the fatal fight
That made Duke William "Conqueror!"
Then came a Lady, very fair,
Even in her faded semblance there,
Companioned by a stern, dark Knight,---
Like morning shrinking back from night---
And told, like page of History,
The Talbot's genealogy;---
Told, too, how stern the sires had been---
Their harsh and haughty Norman blood;
While gentler flowed the stream within
The Saxon daughters, fair and good.
And she, the lovely dreamer there,
Like marble form in the tall, dark chair,
She was the last Lord Talbot's heir!
Grace Talbot! in her pride of place
She had been called the Lady Grace.
And since her gentle mother died,---
The daughter then was only seven---
She had been taught to foster pride,
As though high birth might be allied,
Or rather was, to rank in heaven!
Her stern, cold father loved her not,
And often murmured at the lot
That gave no son to well the fame
And honors of the Talbot name.
But as his bud became a flower,
His selfish soul was gratified;
He saw her wondrous beauty's power
Would be the prop to raise his pride---
As vine the bending tree sustains,
And with its foliage hides the stains---
And she should wed, to please her sire,
A noble duke with vast estate;
Ah! her destiny was higher,
Far, far above the worldly great.
'Tis well there are some minds on earth
That bear the impress of the skies,
Hearts that seem hallowed from their birth,
A pure and willing sacrifice
To lure the loving angels near
Our low abode of sin and fear,
And show the soul a title clear
To hope for immortality,
By proving what the good can be.
'Tis well for us that such a soul
Will 'scape the snare of earth's control;
That wealth, and rank, and pride in vain
Attempt o'er such a heart to reign.
And when a gentle being bears
This sweetest seal of woman's mind,
The virtues like a garland wears,
And makes her very pleasures kind,---
Then, with the lapsing years that steal
The loveliness of youth away,
Will come the graces that reveal
The angel in the form of clay.
And thus the gentle Grace seemed come,
Like dove, that wandered from its home
In heaven, the olive-leaf to bring,
And harbinger the human spring;
When love shall bloom without a thorn,
And peace descend like April showers,
And hopes of bliss that gild youth's morn
Grow brightest in life's evening hours.
They met---the lovely Lady Grace
And Sydney Morton met!
A scion he of the strong-souled race
Whose Bible was their Amulet;
A model of the heaven-taught man
That rose in the ranks of the Puritan!
Bold in the cause of God he stood,
Like Templar in the Holy Land;
And never Knight of princely blood
In lady's bower more bland.
His high, broad forehead, marble fair,
Told of the power of Thought within;
And strength was in his raven hair,---
But when he smiled a spell was there
That more than power or strength could win.
And to the loved and good his eye,
That glowed with purpose firm and high,
Was mild as light when storms go by:
---But when it flashed his spirit's might
Against the foes of truth and right,
'Twas like the bold from cloud of night!
They met---the lovely Lady Grace
And Sydney Morton met,
As kindred stars will find their place
Within a cluster set.
They met and loved, as such hearts would,
They loved the true, the pure, the good
That each could in the other see;
They loved the charms that last for ever---
And vain it were such hearts to sever,
---True love is for eternity.
The history of their truthful love,
And all that served their faith to prove,
And all the trials that befell---
These were a tale o'er long to tell.
'Tis sad to think, beneath the sun,
What deeds of darkness have been done!
What multitudes have pined and died
Through human prejudice and pride!
What prison secrets will be told
When the last Record is unrolled!
God's Record of the sins of men---
Oh! where will flee the guilty then?
Thanks be to God, one Land is free
From deeds of blood iniquity!
The "bannered stars" have never shed
Their glory o'er a victim's head;
Nor drop of blood has flowed to dower
The fabric of the Union's power!
But to our Tale---we may not here
Its strange and sudden turns make clear;
How deep within a dungeon chained
Morton was sentenced to the block,
And but one day of life remained,
When he was told, as if to mock
His sorrows, that his day of death
Would be Grace Talbot's bridal day!
(Her haughty sire had thus decreed
His pride and vengeance both to feed;)
Ah! well he used his parting breath,
For when the hours had passed away,
His cell and chains were found alone---
Prisoner and keeper both were gone!
And she went, too, his Grace, his wife,
His all of wealth, his more than life,
She fled with Morton over the sea---
Such was their love's sharp history.
Her cottage home the sequel tells---
They reached the green Peninsula,
Where the Tri-Mountain sentinels
Looked over the broad Bay!
O glorious scene of Land and Sea!
There Morton felt that he was free;
And in his consecrating prayer,
When to the New-World's hope and faith
He pledged his race for life and death,
Besought his God, with earnest zeal,
As Moses for his brethren's weal,
That Freedom's birth-place might be THERE:
Her light go forth, till o'er the earth
All nations hailed its place of birth;
And Boston should become to them
As Liberty's Jerusalem!
Many, many years ago,
When all the world moved very slow;
Before the light of Science broke,
Or Freedom's eagle glance awoke,
Many a fantasy was rife,
Linked with the mystery of life:---
Portents strange were on the air,
Shadowing forth the wrath of heaven;
And prodigies were everywhere,
For an humbler warning given.
Dreams and omens came to all,
And held the strongest minds in thrall;
And even the wisest wore the chain,
Forged by these phantoms of the brain.
"Ten o'clock!"---it strikes the hour---
On her knees the Lady bows;
She believes her prayers have power
To keep the foul fiend from the house;
So when young her mother told her,---
Few there be can change when older
Creeds received in childhood's days---
The girl believed---the woman prays.
It was the story of a Knight,
Prisoner in a haunted castle,
Where, from eve till morning light,
Evil spirits held their wassail;
He was pious, and his prayer
Kept the demon from his bed,---
But he heard it everywhere---
Heard its whisper, heard its tread;
Sometimes, with a stealthy brushing,
Like a cat it crept around;
Sometimes like a strong wing's rushing
Came the heart-appalling sound;---
Sometimes underneath his feet,
Like a slimy serpent twining,---
Once he turned his foe to meet,
And saw its eyes like hot coals shining,---
But it vanished with a growl,
Short and fierce like stifled howl!
Then the mother told her child,
While she listened, wonder wild,---
How at length the Knight was taught,
By an angel from above,
That if he would fix his thought,
In a prayer of faith and love,
At the close of every hour,
Till the clock had ceased its sound,
Never a demon would have the power
Even to enter the castle's bound.
"And," her mother said, "he breathed the prayer,
And never again was the demon there.
So, Grace, would you conquer the Evil power,
Be sure and pray at each passing hour."
Such strange wild tales, with withering blight,
Came over her mind this long, lone night;
And as she prayed, and the clock struck ten,
It seemed to echo her low "Amen!"
Its last vibration thrilled her ear,
As some sweet, soothing whisper near,---
She thought---"My husband will be here!
Even now, perchance, he's almost home---
I'll open the window and see him come:"
The door was barred where the Indian trod,
And she opened the shutter and looked abroad.
It was an early autumn night,
The moon should be above the trees;
But gathering clouds obscured the light,
And heavy from the neighbouring seas
The ghost-like mist in masses crept,
As though to crush the rising breeze,
And shroud the dying plants it wept.
And cold and clammy was the mist,
As its lips the Lady kissed,
While she leaned far out to see
What a moving shape might be!
"Ah!"---she sighed---"it is not he!"
'Twas a bush that shook in the rising blast,
As the wind, in strength, came rushing past---
Tearing the mist, and tossing it high,
The foam of night, in the face of the sky,
Till the stars were veiled by the rolling rack,
And her hope in heaven seemed beaten back!
She drew within, the shutter closed,
And wished her child would wake;
And yet so sound the boy reposed,
It seemed a sin to break
His slumbers---"Ah! he has no fear---
His guardian angel must be near,---
And like a child I, too, will trust;"
As she spoke a furious gust
Tore open the shutter, and trampled the room,
Howling around like a voice of doom,
And left its breath of chill and gloom!
Then came another mournful tale,
Syllabled by the wind's deep wail
Like words, to her awakened thought,---
How a cruel King was brought
Into an abbey to 'scape his doom;
The fiend couldn't enter the holy room,---
The door was blessed by a fasting friar---
The hearth was red with a palm-wood fire;---
But the window was weak, and the fiend burst in,
As he bursts a storm---with dreadful din!
The cruel King he breathed his last
Ere the storm was o'er, or the window fast.
And while such fearful visions rose,
Loud and louder the tempest blows!
It shook the door with a strong man's might,
---She thought she heard her husband there---
The sound, it died in the arms of night,
And all was still as grave-yards are!
She rose to unbar the cottage door,
But paused until the gust was o'er,---
Her husband's voice was heard no more.
And tears gushed as she turned away,
By her lone hearth to watch and pray.
Then a fierce crash shook the roof,
Like a giant's arm descending,---
Heart of man would scarce be proof
To the danger thus impending:
Craunching on, it seemed to tear
Downward to the cottage eaves---
Then leaped madly through the air,
Scattering wide the fallen leaves!
Upward gazed the Lady pale,---
And then another awful tale,
By unhallowed witchcraft wrought,
So freshly to her mind was brought,
---A story in her childhood heard,
When she believed it every word---
The weird-like drama seemed to ride
Even then before her straining eyes!
Or as our morning visions pass,
Or figures o'er a magic glass,
So came that old, unearthly tale,
---No marvel she was deathly pale.
Once a holy man was set
Watching where the witches met!
Open Bible, naked sword,---
And three candles on the board,---
There the godly man was set
Watching where the witches met;
Knowing well his dreadful doom,
Should they drive him from the room.
The candles three were burning bright,
The sword was flashing back the light,
As it struck the deep midnight;
While the holy Book he read,
And all was still as are the dead.
Suddenly there came a roar
Like breakers on a rocky shore,
When the ocean's thundering boom
Knells the mariner to his tomb!
The good man felt the struggling strife,
As the ship went down with its load of life!
His seat was shaken by the roar,
And upward seemed to rise the floor!
While round and round, as eddies hurl,
The room and table seemed to whirl!
Yet still the holy Book read he,
And prayed for those who sail the sea.
Then came a shrieking, wild and high,
As when flames are bursting nigh,
And their blood has stained the sky!
"Fly! fly! fly!" in a strangling cry,
Was hoarsely rattled on his ear---
While the crackling flames came near!
And still the holy Book read he,
And prayed for those where fires might be.
And then appeared a sight of dread;
The roof was opened above his head---
He saw, in the far-off, dusky view,
A bloody hand---and an arm---come through!
The Lady seemed to see them too.
Downward, pointing towards his head,
That long, bare arm, and hand blood-red,
Came slowly, like a thought of dread!
The Lady seemed to see them come---
That arm of might, and hand of doom---
Ah, the sword is in his hand!
Man of God, be valiant now;
In the name of Jesus, stand---
Strike! strike the blow!
'Tis done;---the chill of death came o'er her,
The bloody hand seems rolled before her!
We may smile, or coldly sneer,
The while such ghostly tales we hear;
And marvel why they were believed,
And how wise men could be deceived:---
---Bathing our renovated sight
In the free Gospel's glorious light,
We wonder it was ever night!
'Tis Christian Science makes our day,
And Freedom lends her gladdening ray;
And we forget, 'neath our fair skies,
The world that yet in shadow lies;---
That India bows to Juggernaut;
And China worships gods of clay;
And healing amulets are bought,
Even where our Saviour's body lay;
And holy miracles are wrought
Beneath St. Peter's cross-crowned sway;
And over Afric's wide domain
The powers of Death and Darkness reign!
Then marvel not, while thus was brought
Tales long believed, to her lone thought,
The Lady's heart was faint with fear---
That twice she thought the fiend was near,
And pressed so close he shook her chair---
She started---looked---and nothing there!
And twice she seemed to hear a sigh
As when the soul and body part,---
And then a chilling breath stole by
That checked the pulses of her heart,
And froze the current of her blood---
While on her brow the cold pearls stood.
---How could she gain the strength and power
To bear her through this long, lone Hour?
She cast her burden on the Lord;
She trusted and believed the Word:
The Bible in her hand she kept,
And watched her infant as he slept;
"And oh! my son," she firmly said,
"Never shall such tales of dread
Be told to you as I have heard,---
And never shall your soul be stirred,
While faith is warm, and reason slow,
With scenes of fear and thoughts of wo;---
I will teach you God is love,
And then such blesséd hopes instil,
That, through life, your joy 'twill prove
To read His word, and do His will."
And thus when Freedom's advent came,
Brave souls appeared to hail her light;
The mothers---they had lit the flame
That gave the People hope and might;
For trust in God must ever be
The Power that makes and keeps man free!
It was two hundred years ago,
When moved the world so very slow,
And when the wide Atlantic Sea
Appeared like an eternity:---
Few who crossed it e'er returned,---
'Twas then the Pilgrim fathers earned,
And not alone by faith and prayers,
Homes and graves for them and theirs.
Stern the struggle, sharp the strife,
Many a pilgrim hero died;
There was many a childless wife;
Many a widowed bride,---
Many a first-born, sleeping child
Awakened by the war-whoop yell,---
Midnight flames, and ravage wild,
Before the savage tribes they quell.
"Eleven o'clock!"---it strikes the hour,
The Lady feels the spell of power,---
Her latest vigil is begun;
And she, like the night-blooming flower,
Looks loveliest in the darkest hour---
Oh! would her watch were done.
"Eleven o'clock!---Ah! wo is me,
The murdering sachem may be near,---
I must not dream such misery,---
Oh, heaven will bring my husband here!
I will not weep"---and then she wept,
And closer to the cradle crept;
There she was not all alone,
Her boy still slept in heavy rest,
And to his cheek her lips she pressed;
Hot and dry his cheek had grown,
And his breath came short like a stifled moan.
As she upraised her pallid face
From that long, sweet, but sad embrace,
The candle in the socket fell,
Flickered a moment, and then died!
How dark it left her none can tell---
She had but one beside.
She watched the slowly smouldering brands,
And closely clasped her quivering hands---
"I shall not be forsaken quite,"
She murmured---"God will give me light."
The fire flashed up, even as she spoke,
The flash her little Sydney woke,
And as he lisped his mother's name,
What joyous rapture thrilled her frame!
And sweet as Spring her answer came.
And now the candle, 'twas her last,
She lighted that her child might see;
her gloomy fears and cares were past,
Her smile was glad as smile could be;
That taper shone to her as bright
As does to us a Drummon light!
She placed it where her boy would view,
And watched his large, black, lustrous eyes,
While he looked up in grave surprise,
As children woke from sleep will do.
---On her son, while thus she gazes,
Thought a kindred likeness raises;
And by the blush of love that came
And made her cheeks like summer roses;
And by her blue eye's kindling flame,
That the heart's warm throb discloses,---
And by the tear on her eye-lash brim,
She thinks of his father, while gazing on him.
"Water, water, mother, pray!"
Said the boy, in pleading tone;
Ere his hot, parched lips could say
The words, her feet had flown.
Who shall picture her despair?
Not a drop of water there!
In the vessel, where 'twas kept,
Was a fissure small;
While she watched, and prayed, and wept,
It had vanished all.
Drop by drop it stole away,
Like minutes from the shrinking day,
While all unmarked their silent flow---
They are gone is all we know.
The gliding sand will leave the glass,---
But who has ever heard it pass?
The lesson, rightly read, will show
The vanishing hope of things below.
How prone are men to garner up
Their life-draught in a single cup,---
Keeping their treasure in vessel of clay,
Till drop by drop it filters away.
And then, when thirsting, they must die,
Or do battle, hard and high
With dark thoughts that come like clouds
When the storm the night enshrouds;---
With wild wishes that like winds
Shake Hope's flower-seeds from our minds;
---Hopes are nursed 'neath sunny skies,
Passions on life's storms arise,---
And while their earthward burnings reign
The thirsty soul will seek in vain
For living waters,---draughts from heaven
Are only to the heaven-ward given.
---Constant blessings, common things,
From these how many a pleasure springs!
Take from us water, air, or light,
The world would be but Death and Night!
Would aught survive this night and death?
Ay, Woman's love, and Woman's faith.
Even now that loving Mother's eye,
The while her great loss she could trace,
Was calm as summer waters lie
Whene'er they would entice the sky,
And stoop the stars to their embrace.
There was water, cool and clear,
The gushing Spring the Lady knew;---
A sober Pond was sleeping near,
And tall, old trees their shadows threw
Around the green turf margin fair,---
Where you may see them any day;
The Turf, the Trees, the Pond are there,---
The Spring has oozed away.
Ah! pale she was, that Mother mild,
As tenderly she kissed her child;---
Placing the pillows to raise his head,
She propped him up in his cradle bed,
And gazed in his eyes with such tender love
As the Saviour may feel for his children above;
---And murmured---"Sydney will lie still,
And watch and see the candle burn,
While mother goes? and she'll return."
---Calmly the boy replied---"I will."
She knew that she might trust his word,
For, like young Samuel, to the Lord,
Even from his birth, had he been given,
And pure as cherubs are in heaven,
And truthful in his every thought
Was he, for thus he had been taught.
She took the flagon to depart,
And yet her feet were loath to move;
A tremor shook her boding heart---
But oh! the depth, the might of love!---
It can strengthen or subdue,---
It gave her power her task to do;
"The Saviour guard thee, precious one!"
Was the word to the child, and the mother is gone.
She drew the door with close, firm grasp,
Fastening its latch with a curious clasp,
A clasp that closed like a padlock true,
And she and one other could only undo.
And then she paused---though not in dread,
Her supernatural fears had fled;
The Mother's heart had broke their chain,
And freed her from the phantom's reign.
But other dangers might be met---
The Indian might her steps beset;
The path was long and lone by day---
Now darkness seemed to hedge the way;
And never in the night before
Had she stood alone without her door.
And so she paused and strained her sight,
But only saw the robe of night.
The warring winds had sunk to rest,
Like weary men with fight oppressed.
She listened with a quickened ear
That her heart's throbbing pulse could hear;
In vain---the earth seemed listening too;
But only heard the falling dew,
That came as still as heavenly grace,
Known only as it makes us blest,
And as we leave its holy trace
In blessings to a neighbor's breast:
And silent blessings are the best.
The lowly Cottage-home was placed
Where then was all a lonely waste;
For Morton, always first to come
At duty's call or danger's frown,
Had chosen there to fix his home,
Without the limits of the town,
Then to the narrow streets confined
That nearest to the water lay:
Around Fort Hill the dwellings wind,
And cluster near the open Bay;---
And westward then as now was heard
Like herald summons to be gone;
An undefined and wandering word,---
Its common import---further on.
And westward then had Morton gone
To draw the settlers further on.
And who would credit, standing there,
Where now the stately mansions rise,
And Temple turrets stud the air,
Painting their tall heads on the skies,
And "merchant princes" throng the way,
And Fashion flaunts her rich array,---
That there, two hundred years ago,
Lowly and lone one Cottage rose?
Like plant that could in desert grow,
Or hermit holding men as foes;---
For not a dwelling was in sight;
Above it was the bleak Hill's height,
And sweeping down the old trees stood---
The north was all a thick, dark wood,
Shadowing the lowly Cottage eaves,
And raining there the Autumn leaves.
---'Tis peopled now by silent men,
An d graves are thick as trees were then.
There sleep the parents of the Sage
Who beckoned lightning from the sky,
And left his impress on an age---
The Franklin, who will never die.
And while those garden-graves you see,
Where shrub has ta'en the place of tree;
The holy, shadowed resting-place,
Where garnered lies the precious dust
Of those who led the Pilgrim race,
And stamped their motto---"Try and Trust!"
---Then think how strong the Soul can be---
And through what perils Men have trod,
Who held one purpose---to be free;
One faith---the Bible faith in God.
This faith sustained the Lady's soul;
As there in loneliness she stood,
A tranquil trusting o'er her stole,---
God could protect her, and he would.
And though the East was coffin black,
And not a star sent down its ray,
Yet she could keep the narrow track
She knew so well by day,---
An Indian trail that reached the Spring;
And surely not a living thing
Would haunt the path on such a night;---
And yet her step was very light.
Camilla's footing scarce could pass
More lightly o'er the feathery grass;
Cornelia's soul was not more true---
The Lady had her jewel too;
Her son's sweet face seemed ever present,
---For his dear sake the toil was pleasant:
Thus God upholds the mother's love,
And aids her from His strength above.
On, on she sped like arrow true,
One hope to buoy, one goal in view,---
When sudden, on her quickened ear,
A sound, a rustling noise comes near!
She listens---'tis the playful breeze
Creeping amid the tall, dark trees;
And then, a welcome sight I ween,
She saw the Old Elm's crown of green,
The Patriarch of the sylvan scene.
And still that forest Patriarch stands;
And though its aged arms decay,
The heart is sound as it was the day
It welcomed the Pilgrim Bands.
Oh! guard it well, that brave old Tree,
Where first our Eagle shook his wings,
Till from the heaving Sunset Sea,
And Rio Grande, flowing free,
The Union-Olive-Branch he brings.
And friend of mine, whoe'er thou art,
The Author's friend, or friend in heart,
Remember, shouldst thou ever be
Shadowed beneath that old Elm Tree,---
While visions of the Past float by,
As 'twere between the mind and eye,
Fair forms, and never seen, perchance,
Save by Imagination's glance:---
To her the Peri power is given,
Roving o'er earth, to rest in heaven,
And there such glorious scenes behold
As tongue nor pen have never told!
Ay, feeble as the sun's eclipse
To represent his noon-tide ray,
Would be the language of the lips
These heavenly visions to portray.
But such high raptures rarely come
'Mid heart-warm thoughts of friends and home;
Then dream, among thy fancies free,
The Spring was gushing near that Tree,
Its waters pure as loves of home,
And thither had the Lady come.
She filled her flagon, and homeward flies
Like wind-driven cloud across the skies;
Fast and faster her hurrying feet,
Quick and quicker her heart's wild beat;
While an echo strangely hollow
On her footsteps seemed to follow!
Not Mother-Earth's short, sobbing speeches,
As when the coffin-lid she reaches---
But her tone, low, muffled, dull,
As when a grave is nearly full!
And yet the sky above was clearer---
The Lady felt that God was near her;
And then her heart was warm with prayer,
---Oh! her home---she's almost there.
Horror! what has she espied?
The Cottage door is open wide!
And see, a shadow dark and tall
Is rising to the ceiling wall!
It lifts its grisly hand to mock!---
Its finger points to the old brass clock!
It is the fiend---there was none to pray---
The hour has struck, and she away!
For a moment fixed she stood,
Paralyzed in every limb;
Curdling at her heart the blood,
And her straining eye-balls dim;
Then, like heaven's electric flame,
Love's reviving current came:
Her soul seemed, like a new-strung bow,
Strong for the struggle with evil or wo,
As she rushed with a cry, like the plover wild,
Over the threshold, "My child! my child!"
Morton clasps her to his breast
And kisses all her tears away;
And oh, how fervently they pray!
How sweet and soothing is their rest,
While Grace recounts her heart's alarms,
Safe sheltered in her husband's arms!
And Morton feels 'tis blest to live
While such dear shelter he can give;
And that in blessing he is blest,
While on her faith his heart can rest;
That home to fallen man was given
To keep alive his hope in heaven;
And that the truth of future bliss,
Of happiness in worlds above,
Is proven when we show in this
That Earth can be a Heaven of love.