Then he climbed to the tower of the old North Church, By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread, To the belfry chamber overhead, And startled the pigeons from their perch On the sombre rafters, that round him made Masses and moving shapes of shade; By the trembling ladder, steep and tall, To the highest window in the wall, Where he paused to listen, and look down A moment on the roofs of the town, And the moonlight flowing over all.
Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead In their night encampment on the hill, Wrapped in silence so deep and still That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread, The watchful night wind, as it went, Creeping along from tent to tent, And seeming to whisper, "All is well!" A moment only he feels the spell Of the place and hour, and the secret dread Of the lonely belfry and the dead, For suddenly all his thoughts are bent On a shadowy something far away, Where the river widens to meet the bay, A line of black, that bends and floats On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.
Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride, Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere. Now he patted his horse's side, Now gazed on the landscape far and near, Then impetuous stamped the earth, And turned and tightened his saddle girth; But mostly he watched with eager search The belfry tower of the old North Church, As it rose above the graves on the hill, Lonely and spectral, and sombre and still. And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height A glimmer, and then a gleam of light! He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns, But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight A second lamp in the belfry burns.
A harry of hoofs in a village street, A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark, And beneath from the pebbles, in passing, a spark Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet; That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light, The fate of a nation was riding that night; And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight, Kindled the land into flame with its heat. He has left the village and mounted the steep, And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep, Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides; And under the alders, that skirt its edge, Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge, Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.
It was twelve by the village clock When he crossed the bridge into Medford town. He heard the crowing of the cock, And the barking of the farmer's dog, And felt the damp of the river fog, That rises after the sun goes down.
It was one by the village clock When he galloped into Lexington, He saw the gilded weathercock Swim in the moonlight as he passed, And the meeting house windows, blank and bare, Gaze at him with a spectral glare As if they already stood aghast At the bloody work they would look upon.
It was two by the village clock When he came to the bridge in Concord town. He heard the bleating of the flock, And the twittering of birds among the trees, And felt the breath of the morning breeze Blowing over the meadows brown. And one was safe and asleep in his bed Who at the bridge would be first to fall, Who that day would be lying dead, Pierced by a British musket ball.
You know the rest. In the books you have read How the British regulars fired and fled— How the farmers gave them ball for ball, From behind each fence and farmyard wall, Chasing the red coats down the lane, Then crossing the fields to emerge again Under the trees at the turn of the road, And only pausing to fire and load.
So through the night rode Paul Revere; And so through the night went his cry of alarm To every Middlesex village and farm— A cry of defiance, and not of fear— A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door, And a word that shall echo forever-more; For borne on the night wind of the past, Through all our history to the last, In the hour of darkness and peril and need, The people will waken and listen to hear The hurrying hoof beats of that steed, And the midnight message of Paul Revere.
Henry W. Longfellow.
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies grow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly, Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved; and now we lie In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe! To you, from failing hands, we throw The torch. Be yours to hold it high! If ye break faith with us who die, We shall not sleep, though poppies blow In Flanders fields.
In Flanders Fields: An Answer
In Flanders fields the cannon boom And fitful flashes light the gloom, While up above, like eagles, fly The fierce destroyers of the sky; With stains the earth wherein you lie Is redder than the poppy bloom, In Flanders fields.
Sleep on, ye brave. The shrieking shell, The quaking trench, the startled yell, The fury of the battle hell Shall wake you not; for all is well. Sleep peacefully; for all is well.
Your flaming torch aloft we bear, With burning heart an oath we swear To keep the faith, to fight it through, To crush the foe, or sleep with you In Flanders fields.
Little Boy Blue
The little toy dog is covered with dust, But sturdy and stanch he stands; And the little toy soldier is red with rust, And his musket moulds in his hands. Time was when the little toy dog was new And the soldier was passing fair, And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue Kissed them and put them there.
"Now, don't you go till I come," he said, "And don't you make any noise!" So toddling off to his trundle-bed He dreamt of the pretty toys. And as he was dreaming, an angel song Awakened our Little Boy Blue,— Oh, the years are many, the years are long, But the little toy friends are true.
Ay, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand, Each in the same old place, Awaiting the touch of a little hand, The smile of a little face. And they wonder, as waiting these long years through, In the dust of that little chair, What has become of our little Boy Blue Since he kissed them and put them there.
To him who in the love of Nature holds Communion with her visible forms, she speaks A various language; for his gayer hours She has a voice of gladness, and a smile And eloquence of beauty, and she glides Into his darker musings with a mild And healing sympathy, that steals away Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts Of the last bitter hoar come like a blight Over thy spirit, and sad images Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall, And breathless darkness, and the narrow house, Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart;— Go forth, under the open sky, and list To Nature's teachings, while from all around— Earth and her waters, and the depths of air,— Comes a still voice—Yet a few days, and thee The all-beholding sun shall see no more In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground, Where thy pale form was laid with many tears. Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist Thy image. Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again, And, lost each human trace, surrendering up Thine individual being, shalt thou go To mix forever with the elements, To be a brother to the insensible rock And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould. Yet not to thine eternal resting-place Shalt thou retire alone—nor couldst thou wish Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down With patriarchs of the infant world—with kings. The powerful of the earth—the wise, the good, Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past, All in one mighty sepulchre. The hills, Rock-ribbed, and ancient as the sun,—the vales Stretching in pensive quietness between; The venerable woods—rivers that move In majesty, and the complaining brooks That make the meadows green; and, poured round all, Old ocean's gray and melancholy waste,— Are but the solemn decorations all Of the great tomb of man. The golden sun, The planets, all the infinite host of heaven, Are shining on the sad abodes of death, Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread The globe are but a handful to the tribes That slumber in its bosom. Take the wings Of morning, pierce the Barcan wilderness, Or lose thyself in the continuous woods Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound, Save his own dashings—yet, the dead are there; And millions in those solitudes, since first The flight of years began, have laid them down In their last sleep—the dead reign there alone. So shalt thou rest, and what if thou withdraw In silence from the living, and no friend Take note of thy departure? All that breathe Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care Plod on, and each one as before will chase His favorite phantom; yet all these shall leave Their mirth and their employments, and shall come And make their bed with thee. As the long train Of ages glide away, the sons of men,— The youth in life's green spring, and he who goes In the full strength of years, matron, and maid, And the sweet babe, and the gray-headed man,— Shall one by one be gathered to thy side, By those who in their turn shall follow them.
So live, that when thy summons comes to join The innumerable caravan which moves To the pale realms of shade, where each shall take His chamber in the silent halls of death, Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night, Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.
William Cullen Bryant.
The First Settler's Story
It ain't the funniest thing a man can do— Existing in a country when it's new; Nature, who moved in first—a good long while— Has things already somewhat her own style, And she don't want her woodland splendors battered, Her rustic furniture broke up and scattered, Her paintings, which long years ago were done By that old splendid artist-king, the sun, Torn down and dragged in civilization's gutter, Or sold to purchase settlers' bread and butter. She don't want things exposed from porch to closet, And so she kind o' nags the man who does it. She carries in her pockets bags of seeds, As general agent of the thriftiest weeds; She sends her blackbirds, in the early morn, To superintend his fields of planted corn; She gives him rain past any duck's desire— Then maybe several weeks of quiet fire; She sails mosquitoes—leeches perched on wings— To poison him with blood-devouring stings; She loves her ague-muscle to display, And shake him up—say every other day; With, thoughtful, conscientious care she makes Those travelin' poison-bottles, rattlesnakes; She finds time, 'mongst her other family cares, To keep in stock good wild-cats, wolves, and bears.
Well, when I first infested this retreat, Things to my view looked frightful incomplete; But I had come with heart-thrift in my song, And brought my wife and plunder right along; I hadn't a round trip ticket to go back, And if I had there wasn't no railroad track; And drivin' East was what I couldn't endure: I hadn't started on a circular tour.
My girl-wife was as brave as she was good, And helped me every blessed way she could; She seemed to take to every rough old tree, As sing'lar as when first she took to me. She kep' our little log-house neat as wax, And once I caught her fooling with my axe. She learned a hundred masculine things to do: She aimed a shot-gun pretty middlin' true, Although in spite of my express desire, She always shut her eyes before she'd fire. She hadn't the muscle (though she had the heart) In out-door work to take an active part; Though in our firm of Duty and Endeavor She wasn't no silent partner whatsoever. When I was logging, burning, choppin' wood, She'd linger round and help me all she could, And keep me fresh-ambitious all the while, And lifted tons just with her voice and smile. With no desire my glory for to rob, She used to stan' around and boss the job; And when first-class success my hands befell, Would proudly say, "We did that pretty well!" She was delicious, both to hear and see— That pretty wife-girl that kep' house for me.
Well, neighborhoods meant counties in those days; The roads didn't have accommodating ways; And maybe weeks would pass before she'd see— And much less talk with—any one but me. The Indians sometimes showed their sun-baked faces, But they didn't teem with conversational graces; Some ideas from the birds and trees she stole, But 'twasn't like talking with a human soul; And finally I thought that I could trace A half heart-hunger peering from her face. Then she would drive it back and shut the door; Of course that only made me see it more. 'Twas hard to see her give her life to mine, Making a steady effort not to pine; 'Twas hard to hear that laugh bloom out each minute, And recognize the seeds of sorrow in it. No misery makes a close observer mourn Like hopeless grief with hopeful courage borne; There's nothing sets the sympathies to paining Like a complaining woman uncomplaining. It always draws my breath out into sighs To see a brave look in a woman's eyes.
Well, she went on, as plucky as could be, Fighting the foe she thought I did not see, And using her heart-horticultural powers To turn that forest to a bed of flowers. You cannot check an unadmitted sigh, And so I had to soothe her on the sly, And secretly to help her draw her load; And soon it came to be an up-hill road. Hard work bears hard upon the average pulse, Even with satisfactory results; But when effects are scarce, the heavy strain Falls dead and solid on the heart and brain. And when we're bothered, it will oft occur We seek blame-timber; and I lit on her; And looked at her with daily lessening favor, For what I knew she couldn't help, to save her. And Discord, when he once had called and seen us, Came round quite often, and edged in between us.
One night, when I came home unusual late, Too hungry and too tired to feel first-rate, Her supper struck me wrong (though I'll allow She hadn't much to strike with, anyhow); And when I went to milk the cows, and found They'd wandered from their usual feeding ground, And maybe'd left a few long miles behind 'em, Which I must copy, if I meant to find 'em, Flash-quick the stay-chains of my temper broke, And in a, trice these hot words I had spoke: "You ought to've kept the animals in view, And drove 'em in; you'd nothing else to do. The heft of all our life on me must fall; You just lie round and let me do it all."
That speech—it hadn't been gone a half a minute Before I saw the cold black poison in it; And I'd have given all I had, and more, To've only safely got it back in-door. I'm now what most folks "well-to-do" would call I feel to-day as if I'd give it all, Provided I through fifty years might reach And kill and bury that half-minute speech.
She handed back no words, as I could hear; She didn't frown; she didn't shed a tear; Half proud, half crushed, she stood and looked me o'er, Like some one she had never seen before! But such a sudden anguish-lit surprise I never viewed before in human eyes. (I've seen it oft enough since in a dream; It sometimes wakes me like a midnight scream.)
Next morning, when, stone-faced, but heavy-hearted, With dinner pail and sharpened axe I started Away for my day's work—she watched the door. And followed me half way to it or more; And I was just a-turning round at this, And asking for my usual good-by kiss; But on her lip I saw a proudish curve, And in her eye a shadow of reserve; And she had shown—perhaps half unawares— Some little independent breakfast airs; And so the usual parting didn't occur, Although her eyes invited me to her! Or rather half invited me, for she Didn't advertise to furnish kisses free; You always had—that is, I had—to pay Full market price, and go more'n half the way. So, with a short "Good-by," I shut the door, And left her as I never had before. But when at noon my lunch I came to eat. Put up by her so delicately neat— Choicer, somewhat, than yesterday's had been, And some fresh, sweet-eyed pansies she'd put in— "Tender and pleasant thoughts," I knew they meant— It seemed as if her kiss with me she'd sent; Then I became once more her humble lover, And said, "To-night I'll ask forgiveness of her."
I went home over-early on that eve, Having contrived to make myself believe, By various signs I kind o' knew and guessed, A thunder-storm was coming from the west. ('Tis strange, when one sly reason fills the heart, How many honest ones will take its part: A dozen first-class reasons said 'twas right That I should strike home early on that night.)
Half out of breath, the cabin door I swung, With tender heart-words trembling on my tongue; But all within looked desolate and bare: My house had lost its soul,—she was not there! A penciled note was on the table spread, And these are something like the words it said: "The cows have strayed away again, I fear; I watched them pretty close; don't scold me, dear. And where they are, I think I nearly know: I heard the bell not very long ago.... I've hunted for them all the afternoon; I'll try once more—I think I'll find them soon. Dear, if a burden I have been to you, And haven't helped you as I ought to do. Let old-time memories my forgiveness plead; I've tried to do my best—I have indeed. Darling, piece out with love the strength I lack, And have kind words for me when I get back."
Scarce did I give this letter sight and tongue— Some swift-blown rain-drops to the window clung, And from the clouds a rough, deep growl proceeded: My thunder-storm had come, now 'twasn't needed. I rushed out-door. The air was stained with black: Night had come early, on the storm-cloud's back: And everything kept dimming to the sight, Save when the clouds threw their electric light; When for a flash, so clean-cut was the view, I'd think I saw her—knowing 'twas not true. Through my small clearing dashed wide sheets of spray, As if the ocean waves had lost their way; Scarcely a pause the thunder-battle made, In the bold clamor of its cannonade. And she, while I was sheltered, dry, and warm, Was somewhere in the clutches of this storm! She who, when storm-frights found her at her best, Had always hid her white face on my breast!
My dog, who'd skirmished round me all the day, Now crouched and whimpering, in a corner lay; I dragged him by the collar to the wall, I pressed his quivering muzzle to a shawl— "Track her, old boy!" I shouted; and he whined, Matched eyes with me, as if to read my mind, Then with a yell went tearing through the wood, I followed him, as faithful as I could. No pleasure-trip was that, through flood and flame; We raced with death: we hunted noble game. All night we dragged the woods without avail; The ground got drenched—we could not keep the trail, Three times again my cabin home I found, Half hoping she might be there, safe and sound; But each time 'twas an unavailing care: My house had lost its soul; she was not there!
When, climbing—the wet trees, next morning-sun. Laughed at the ruin that the night had done, Bleeding and drenched, by toil and sorrow bent, Back to what used to be my home I went. But as I neared our little clearing-ground— Listen!—I heard the cow-bell's tinkling sound. The cabin door was just a bit ajar; It gleamed upon my glad eyes like a star, "Brave heart," I said, "for such a fragile form! She made them guide her homeward through the storm!" Such pangs of joy I never felt before. "You've come!" I shouted and rushed through the door.
Yes, she had come—and gone again. She lay With all her young life crushed and wrenched away— Lay, the heart-ruins of oar home among, Not far from where I killed her with my tongue. The rain-drops glittered 'mid her hair's long strands, The forest thorns had torn her feet and hands, And 'midst the tears—brave tears—that one could trace Upon the pale but sweetly resolute face, I once again the mournful words could read, "I have tried to do my best—I have, indeed."
And now I'm mostly done; my story's o'er; Part of it never breathed the air before. 'Tisn't over-usual, it must be allowed, To volunteer heart-history to a crowd, And scatter 'mongst them confidential tears, But you'll protect an old man with his years; And wheresoe'er this story's voice can reach, This is the sermon I would have it preach:
Boys flying kites haul in their white-winged birds: You can't do that way when you're flying words. "Careful with fire," is good advice we know: "Careful with words," is ten times doubly so. Thoughts unexpressed may sometimes fall back dead, But God himself can't kill them when they're said! Yon have my life-grief: do not think a minute 'Twas told to take up time. There's business in it. It sheds advice: whoe'er will take and live it, Is welcome to the pain it cost to give it.
I ain't afeard uv snakes, or toads, or bugs, or worms, or mice, An' things 'at girls are skeered uv I think are awful nice! I'm pretty brave, I guess; an' yet I hate to go to bed, For, when I'm tucked up warm an' snug an' when my prayers are said, Mother tells me "Happy dreams!" and takes away the light, An' leaves me lying all alone an' seein' things at night!
Sometimes they're in the corner, sometimes they're by the door, Sometimes they're all a-standin' in the middle uv the floor; Sometimes they are a-sittin' down, sometimes they're walkin' round So softly an' so creepylike they never make a sound! Sometimes they are as black as ink, an' other times they're white— But the color ain't no difference when you see things at night!
Once, when I licked a feller 'at had just moved on our street, An' father sent me up to bed without a bite to eat, I woke up in the dark an' saw things standin' in a row, A-lookin' at me cross-eyed an' p'intin' at me—so! Oh, my! I was so skeered that time I never slep' a mite— It's almost alluz when I'm bad I see things at night!
Lucky thing I ain't a girl, or I'd be skeered to death! Bein' I'm a boy, I duck my head an' hold my breath; An' I am, oh! so sorry I'm a naughty boy, an' then I promise to be better an' I say my prayers again! Gran'ma tells me that's the only way to make it right When a feller has been wicked an' sees things at night!
An' so, when other naughty boys would coax me into sin, I try to skwush the Tempter's voice 'at urges me within; An' when they's pie for supper, or cakes 'at's big an' nice, I want to—but I do not pass my plate f'r them things twice! No, ruther let Starvation wipe me slowly out o' sight Than I should keep a-livin' on an' seein' things at night!
The Raggedy Man
Oh, The Raggedy Man! He works fer Pa; An' he's the goodest man ever you saw! He comes to our house every day, An' waters the horses, an' feeds 'em hay; An' he opens the shed—an' we all ist laugh When he drives out our little old wobblely calf; An' nen—ef our hired girl says he can— He milks the cows fer 'Lizabuth Ann.— Ain't he a' awful good Raggedy Man? Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!
W'y, The Raggedy Man—he's ist so good, He splits the kindlin' an' chops the wood; An' nen he spades in our garden, too, An' does most things 'at boys can't do.— He clumbed clean up in our big tree An' shocked a' apple down fer me— An' 'nother 'n', too, fer 'Lizabuth Ann— An' 'nother 'n', too, fer The Raggedy Man.— Ain't he a' awful kind Raggedy Man? Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!
An' The Raggedy Man one time say he Pick' roast' rambos from a' orchard-tree, An' et 'em—all ist roas' an' hot! An' it's so, too!—'cause a corn-crib got Afire one time an' all burn' down On "The Smoot Farm," 'bout four mile from town— On "The Smoot Farm"! Yes—an' the hired han' 'At worked there nen 'uz The Raggedy Man! Ain't he the beanin'est Raggedy Man? Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!
The Raggedy Man's so good an' kind He'll be our "horsey," an' "Haw" an' mind Ever'thing 'at you make him do— An' won't run off—'less you want him to! I drived him wunst 'way down our lane An' he got skeered, when it 'menced to rain, An' ist rared up an' squealed and run Purt' nigh away!—An' it's all in fun! Nen he skeered ag'in at a' old tin can. Whoa! y' old runaway Raggedy Man! Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!
An' The Raggedy Man, he knows most rhymes, An' tells 'em, ef I be good, sometimes: Knows 'bout Giants, an' Griffuns, an' Elves, An' the Squidgicum-Squees 'at swallers the'rselves! An', wite by the pump la our pasture-lot, He showed me the hole 'at the Wunks is got, 'At lives 'way deep in the ground, an' can Turn into me, er 'Lizabuth Ann! Er Ma, er Pa, er The Raggedy Man! Ain't he a funny old Raggedy Man? Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!
An' wunst when The Raggedy Man come late, An' pigs ist root' thue the garden-gate, He 'tend like the pigs 'uz bears an' said, "Old Bear-shooter'll shoot 'em dead!" An' race' an' chase' em, an' they'd ist run When he pint his hoe at 'em like it's a gun An' go "Bang!-Bang!" nen 'tend he stan' An' load up his gun ag'in! Raggedy Man! He's an old Bear-Shooter Raggedy Man! Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!
An' sometimes The Raggedy Man lets on We're little prince-children, an' old king's gone To get more money, an' lef us there— And Robbers is ist thick ever'where; An' nen-ef we all won't cry, fer shore— The Raggedy Man he'll come and "splore The Castul-halls," an' steal the "gold"— And steal us, too, an' grab an' hold An' pack us off to his old "Cave"!-An' Haymow's the "Cave" o' The Raggedy Man!— Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!
The Raggedy Man—one time, when he Wuz makin' a little bow-'n'-orry fer me, Says "When you're big like your Pa is, Air you go' to keep a fine store like his— An' be a rich merchunt—an' wear fine clothes?— Er what air you go' to be, goodness knows?" An' nen he laughed at 'Lizabuth Ann, An' I says "'M go' to be a Raggedy Man!— I'm ist go' to be a nice Raggedy Man!" Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!
James Whitcomb Riley.
Maud Muller, on a summer's day, Raked the meadow sweet with hay.
Beneath her torn hat glowed the wealth Of simple beauty and rustic health.
Singing, she wrought, and her merry glee The mock-bird echoed from his tree.
But when she glanced to the far-off town, White from its hill-slope looking down,
The sweet song died, and a vague unrest And a nameless longing filled her breast,—
A wish, that she hardly dared to own, For something better than she had known.
The Judge rode slowly down the lane, Smoothing his horse's chestnut mane.
He drew his bridle in the shade Of the apple-trees, to greet the maid,
And asked a draught from the spring that flowed Through the meadow across the road.
She stooped where the cool spring bubbled up, And filled for him her small tin cup,
And blushed as she gave it, looking down On her feet so bare, and her tattered gown.
"Thanks!" said the Judge; "a sweeter draught From a fairer hand was never quaffed."
He spoke of the grass and flowers and trees, Of the singing birds and the humming' bees;
Then talked of the haying, and wondered whether The cloud in the west would bring foul weather.
And Maud forgot her brier-torn gown, And her graceful ankles bare and brown;
And listened, while a pleased surprise Looked from her long-lashed hazel eyes.
At last, like one who for delay Seeks a vain excuse, he rode away.
Maud Muller looked and sighed: "Ah, me! That I the Judge's bride might be!
"He would dress me up in silks so fine, And praise and toast me at his wine.
"My father should wear a broadcloth coat; My brother should sail a painted boat.
"I'd dress my mother, so grand and gay, And the baby should have a new toy each day.
"And I'd feed the hungry and clothe the poor, And all should bless me who left our door."
The Judge looked back as he climbed the hill, And saw Maud Muller standing still.
"A form more fair, a face more sweet. Ne'er hath it been my lot to meet,
"And her modest answer and graceful air Show her wise and good as she is fair.
"Would she were mine, and I to-day, Like her, a harvester of hay:
"No doubtful balance of rights and, wrongs Nor weary lawyers with endless tongues,
"But low of cattle and song of birds, And health and quiet and loving words."
But he thought of his sisters proud and cold, And his mother vain of her rank and gold.
So, closing his heart, the Judge rode on, And Maud was left in the field alone.
But the lawyers smiled that afternoon, When he hummed in court an old love-tune;
And the young girl mused beside the well Till the rain on the unraked clover fell.
He wedded a wife of richest dower, Who lived for fashion, as he for power.
Yet oft, in his marble hearth's bright glow, He watched a picture come and go;
And sweet Maud Muller's hazel eyes Looked out in their innocent surprise.
Oft, when the wine in his glass was red, He longed for the wayside well instead;
And closed his eyes on his garnished rooms To dream of meadows and clover-blooms.
And the proud man sighed, with a secret pain, "Ah, that I were free again!
"Free as when I rode that day, Where the barefoot maiden raked her hay."
She wedded a man unlearned and poor, And many children played round her door.
But care and sorrow, and childbirth pain, Left their traces on heart and brain.
And oft, when the summer sun shone hot On the new-mown hay in the meadow lot,
And she heard the little spring brook fall Over the roadside, through the wall,
In the shade of the apple-tree again She saw a rider draw his rein.
And, gazing down with timid grace, She felt his pleased eyes read her face.
Sometimes her narrow kitchen walls Stretched away into stately halls;
The weary wheel to a spinnet turned, The tallow candle an astral burned,
And for him who sat by the chimney lug, Dozing and grumbling o'er pipe and mug,
A manly form at her side she saw, And joy was duty and love was law.
Then she took up her burden of life again, Saying only, "It might have been."
Alas for maiden, alas for Judge, For rich repiner and household drudge!
God pity them both! and pity us all, Who vainly the dreams of youth recall.
For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: "It might have been!"
Ah, well! for us all some sweet hope lies Deeply buried from human eyes;
And, in the hereafter, angels may Roll the stone from its grave away!
John G. Whittier.
Sister and I
We were hunting for wintergreen berries, One May-day, long gone by, Out on the rocky cliff's edge, Little sister and I. Sister had hair like the sunbeams; Black as a crow's wing, mine; Sister had blue, dove's eyes; Wicked, black eyes are mine. Why, see how my eyes are faded— And my hair, it is white as snow! And thin, too! don't you see it is? I tear it sometimes; so! There, don't hold my hands, Maggie, I don't feel like tearing it now; But—where was I in my story? Oh, I was telling you how We were looking for wintergreen berries; 'Twas one bright morning in May, And the moss-grown rocks were slippery With the rains of yesterday. But I was cross that morning, Though the sun shone ever so bright— And when sister found the most berries, I was angry enough to fight! And when she laughed at my pouting— We were little things, you know— I clinched my little fist up tight, And struck her the biggest blow! I struck her—I tell you—I struck her, And she fell right over below— There, there, Maggie, I won't rave now; You needn't hold me so— She went right over, I tell you, Down, down to the depths below! 'Tis deep and dark and horrid There where the waters flow! She fell right over, moaning, "Bessie, oh, Bessie!" so sad, That, when I looked down affrighted, It drove me mad—mad! Only her golden hair streaming Out on the rippling wave, Only her little hand reaching Up, for someone to save; And she sank down in the darkness, I never saw her again, And this is a chaos of blackness And darkness and grief since then. No more playing together Down on the pebbly strand; Nor building our dolls stone castles With halls and parlors grand; No more fishing with bent pins, In the little brook's clear waves; No more holding funerals O'er dead canaries' graves; No more walking together To the log schoolhouse each morn; No more vexing the master With putting his rules to scorn; No more feeding of white lambs With milk from the foaming pail; No more playing "see-saw" Over the fence of rail; No more telling of stories After we've gone to bed; Nor talking of ghosts and goblins Till we fairly shiver with dread; No more whispering fearfully And hugging each other tight, When the shutters shake and the dogs howl In the middle of the night; No more saying "Our Father," Kneeling by mother's knee— For, Maggie, I struck sister! And mother is dead, you see. Maggie, sister's an angel, Isn't she? Isn't it true? For angels have golden tresses And eyes like sister's, blue? Now my hair isn't golden, My eyes aren't blue, you see— Now tell me, Maggie, if I were to die, Could they make an angel of me? You say, "Oh, yes"; you think so? Well, then, when I come to die, We'll play up there, in God's garden— We'll play there, sister and I. Now, Maggie, you needn't eye me Because I'm talking so queer; Because I'm talking so strangely; You needn't have the least fear, Somehow I'm feeling to-night, Maggie, As I never felt before— I'm sure, I'm sure of it, Maggie, I never shall rave any more. Maggie, you know how these long years I've heard her calling, so sad, "Bessie, oh, Bessie!" so mournful? It always drives me mad! How the winter wind shrieks down the chimney, "Bessie, oh, Bessie!" oh! oh! How the south wind wails at the casement, "Bessie, oh, Bessie!" so low, But most of all when the May-days Come back, with the flowers and the sun, How the night-bird, singing, all lonely, "Bessie, oh, Bessie!" doth moan; You know how it sets me raving— For she moaned, "Oh, Bessie!" just so, That time I struck little sister, On the May-day long ago! Now, Maggie, I've something to tell you— You know May-day is here— Well, this very morning, at sunrise, The robins chirped "Bessie!" so clear— All day long the wee birds singing, Perched on the garden wall, Called "Bessie, oh, Bessie!" so sweetly, I couldn't feel sorry at all. Now, Maggie, I've something to tell you— Let me lean up to you close— Do you see how the sunset has flooded The heavens with yellow and rose? Do you see o'er the gilded cloud mountains Sister's golden hair streaming out? Do you see her little hand beckoning? Do you hear her little voice calling out "Bessie, oh, Bessie!" so gladly, "Bessie, oh, Bessie! Come, haste"? Yes, sister, I'm coming; I'm coming, To play in God's garden at last!