Page images

Listening with quickened heart and ear intent
To each sharp clause of that stern argument,
I still can hear at times a softer note
Of the old pastoral music round me float,
While through the hot gleam of our civil strife
Looms the green mirage of a simpler life.
As, at his alien post, the sentinel
Drops the old bucket in the homestead well,
And hears old voices in the winds that toss
Above his head the live-oak’s beard of moss,
So, in our trial-time, and under skies
Shadowed by swords like Islam's paradise,
I wait and watch, and let my fancy stray
To milder scenes and youth's Arcadian day;
And howsoe'er the pencil dipped in dreams
Shades the brown woods or tints the sunset

The country doctor in the foreground seems,
Whose ancient sulky down the village lanes
Dragged, like a war-car, captive ills and pains.

I could not paint the scenery of my song, Mindless of one who looked thereon so long ; Who, night and day, on duty's lonely round, Made friends o' the woods and rocks, and knew

the sound Of each small brook, and what the hillside trees Said to the winds that touched their leafy keys; Who saw so keenly and so well could paint The village-folk, with all their humors quaint, — The parson ambling on his wall-eyed roan, Grave and erect, with white hair backward

blown; The tough old boatman, half amphibious grown; The muttering witch-wife of the gossip's tale, And the loud straggler levying his black mail, Old customs, habits, superstitions, fears, All that lies buried under fifty years. To thee, as is most fit, I bring my lay, And, grateful, own the debt I cannot pay.

OVER the wooded northern ridge,

Between its houses brown,
To the dark tunnel of the bridge

The street comes straggling down.

You catch a glimpse through birch and pine

Of gable, roof, and porch,
The tavern with its swinging sign,

The sharp horn of the church.

The river's steel-blue crescent curves

To meet, in ebb and flow,
The single broken wharf that serves

For sloop and gundelow.

With salt sea-scents along its shores

The heavy hay-boats crawl, The long antennæ of their oars

In lazy rise and fall.

Along the gray abutment's wall

The idle shad-net dries;
The toll-man in his cobbler's stall

Sits smoking with closed eyes.

You hear the pier's low undertone

Of waves that chafe and gnaw; You start, — a skipper's horn is blown

To raise the creaking draw.

At times a blacksmith's anvil sounds

With slow and sluggard beat, Or stage-coach on its dusty rounds

Wakes up the staring street.

A place for idle eyes and ears,

A cobwebbed nook of dreams; Left by the stream whose waves are years

The stranded village seems.

And there, like other moss and rust,

The native dweller clings,
And keeps, in uninquiring trust,

The old, dull round of things.

The fisher drops his patient lines,

The farmer sows his grain, Content to hear the murmuring pines

Instead of railroad-train.

Go where, along the tangled steep

That slopes against the west, The hamlet's buried idlers sleep

In still profounder rest.

Throw back the locust's flowery plume,

The birch's pale-green scarf, And break the web of brier and bloom

From name and epitaph.

« PreviousContinue »