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II.

AMONG THE HILLS.

PRELUDE.

Along the roadside, like the flowers of gold
That tawny Incas for their gardens wrought,
Heavy with sunshine droops the golden-rod,

And the red pennons of the cardinal-flowers 5 Hang motionless upon their upright staves.

The sky is hot and hazy, and the wind,
Wing-weary with its long flight from the south,
Unfelt; yet, closely scanned, yon maple leaf

With faintest motion, as one stirs in dreams, 10 Confesses it. The locust by the wall

Stabs the noon-silence with his sharp alarm.
A single hay-cart down the dusty road
Creaks slowly, with its driver fast asleep

On the load's top. Against the neighboring hill, 15 Huddled along the stone wall's shady side,

The sheep show white, as if a snowdrift still
Defied the dog-star. Through the open door
A drowsy smell of flowers - - gray heliotrope,

And white sweet clover, and shy mignonette 20 Comes faintly in, and silent chorus lends

To the pervading symphony of peace.

No time is this for hands long over-worn
To task their strength: and (unto Him be praise
Who giveth quietness!) the stress and sti

2. The Incas were the kings of the ancient Peruvians. At Yucay, their favorite residence, the gardens, according to Pres. cott, contained “forms of vegetable life skillfully imitated in gold and silver." See listory of the Conquest of Peru, i. 130.

25 Of years that did the work of centuries

Have ceased, and we can draw our breath once

more

Freely and full. So, as yon harvesters
Make glad their nooning underneath the elms

With tale and riddle and old snatch of song, 30 I lay aside grave themes, and idly turn The leaves of memory's sketch-book, dreaming

o'er
Old summer pictures of the quiet hills,
And human life, as quiet, at their feet.

And yet not idly all. A farmer's son, 35 Proud of field-lore and harvest craft, and feeling

All their fine possibilities, how rich
And restful even poverty and toil
Become when beauty, harmony, and love

Sit at their humble hearth as angels sat
40 At evening in the patriarch's tent, when man

Makes labor noble, and his farmer's frock
The symbol of a Christian chivalry
Tender and just and generous to her

Who clothes with grace all duty; still, I know 45 Too well the picture has another side,

How wearily the grind of toil goes on
Where love is wanting, how the eye and ear
And heart are starved amidst the plenitude

Of nature, and how hard and colorless 50 Is life without an atmosphere. I look

Across the lapse of half a century,
And call to mind old homesteads, where no flower
Told that the spring had come, but evil weeds,

Nightshade and rough-leaved burdock in the place 26. The volume in which this poem stands first, and to which it gives the name, was published in the fall of 1868.

55 Of the sweet doorway greeting of the rose

And honeysuckle, where the house walls seemed
Blistering in sun, without a tree or vine
To cast the tremulous shadow of its leaves

Across the curtainless windows from whose panes 60 Fluttered the signal rags of shiftlessness;

Within, the cluttered kitchen floor, unwashed
(Broom-clean I think they called it); the best

room

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Stifling with cellar damp, shut from the air

In hot midsummer, bookless, pictureless 65 Save the inevitable sampler hung

Over the fireplace, or a mourning piece,
A green-haired woman, peony-cheeked, beneath
Impossible willows; the wide-throated hearth

Bristling with faded pine-boughs half concealing 70 The piled-up rubbish at the chimney's back;

And, in sad keeping with all things about them,
Shrill, querulous women, sour and sullen men,
Untidy, loveless, old before their time,

With scarce a human interest save their own 75 Monotonous round of small economies,

Or the poor scandal of the neighborhood;
Blind to the beauty everywhere revealed,
Treading the May-flowers with regardless feet;

For them the song-sparrow and the bobolink
80 Sang not, nor winds made music in the leaves;

For them in vain October's holocaust
Burned, gold and crimson, over all the hills,
The sacramental mystery of the woods.

Church-goers, fearful of the unseen Powers, 85 But grumbling over pulpit-tax and pew-rent,

Saving, as shrewd economists, their souls
And winter pork with the least possible outlay
Of salt and sanctity; in daily life

Showing as little actual comprehension 90 Of Christian charity and love and duty,

As if the Sermon on the Mount had been
Outdated like a last year's almanac :
Rich in broad woodlands and in half-tilled fields,

And yet so pinched and bare and comfortless, 95 The veriest straggler limping on his rounds,

The sun and air his sole inheritance,
Laughed at poverty that paid its taxes,
And hugged his rags in self-complacency!

Not such should be the homesteads of a land 100 Where whoso wisely wills and acts may dwell

As king and lawgiver, in broad-acred state,
With beauty, art, taste, culture, books, to make
His hour of leisure richer than a life

Of fourscore to the barons of old time, 105 Our yeoman should be equal to his home

Set in the fair, green valleys, purple walled,
A man to match his mountains, not to creep
Dwarfed and abased below them. I would fain

In this light way (of which I needs must own 110 With the knife-grinder of whom Canning sings,

Story, God bless you! I have none to tell you!")
Invite the eye to see and heart to feel
The beauty and the joy within their reach,
Home, and home loves, and the beatitudes

110. The Anti-Jacobin was a periodical published in England in 1797-98, to ridicule democratic opinions, and in it Canning, who afterward became premier of England, wrote many light verses and jeux d'esprit, among them a humorous poem called the Needy Knife-Grinder, in burlesque of a poem by Southey. The knife-grinder is anxiously appealed to to tell his story of wrong and injustice, but answers as here :

"Story, God bless you! I 've none to tell."

115 Of nature free to all. Haply in years

That wait to take the places of our own,
Heard where some breezy balcony looks down
On happy homes, or where the lake in the moon

Sleeps dreaming of the mountains, fair as Ruth, I 20 In the old Hebrew pastoral, at the feet

Of Boaz, even this simple lay of mine
May seem the burden of a prophecy,
Finding its late fulfilment in a change

Slow as the oak’s growth, lifting manhood up 125 Through broader culture, finer manners, love,

And reverence, to the level of the hills.

O Golden Age, whose light is of the dawn,
And not of sunset, forward, not behind,
Flood the new heavens and earth, and with thee

bring
130 All the old virtues, whatsoever things

Are pure and honest and of good repute,
But add thereto whatever bard has sung
Or seer has told of when in trance and dream

They saw the Happy Isles of prophecy !
135 Let Justice hold her scale, and Truth divide

Between the right and wrong, but give the heart
The freedom of its fair inheritance;
Let the poor prisoner, cramped and starved so

long,
At Nature's table feast his ear and eye
140 With joy and wonder; let all harmonies

Of sound, form, color, motion, wait
The princely guest, whether in soft attire
Of leisure clad, or the coarse frock of toil,

And, lending life to the dead form of faith, 145 Give human nature reverence for the sake

134. See note to l. 337, p. 185.

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