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AMONG THE HILLS.
Along the roadside, like the flowers of gold
And the red pennons of the cardinal-flowers 5 Hang motionless upon their upright staves.
The sky is hot and hazy, and the wind,
With faintest motion, as one stirs in dreams, 10 Confesses it. The locust by the wall
Stabs the noon-silence with his sharp alarm.
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
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
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
Freely and full. So, as yon harvesters
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
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
Sit at their humble hearth as angels sat
Makes labor noble, and his farmer's frock
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
Of nature, and how hard and colorless 50 Is life without an atmosphere. I look
Across the lapse of half a century,
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
Across the curtainless windows from whose panes 60 Fluttered the signal rags of shiftlessness;
Within, the cluttered kitchen floor, unwashed
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,
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,
With scarce a human interest save their own 75 Monotonous round of small economies,
Or the poor scandal of the neighborhood;
For them the song-sparrow and the bobolink
For them in vain October's holocaust
Church-goers, fearful of the unseen Powers, 85 But grumbling over pulpit-tax and pew-rent,
Saving, as shrewd economists, their souls
Showing as little actual comprehension 90 Of Christian charity and love and duty,
As if the Sermon on the Mount had been
And yet so pinched and bare and comfortless, 95 The veriest straggler limping on his rounds,
The sun and air his sole inheritance,
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,
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,
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!")
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,
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
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,
Are pure and honest and of good repute,
They saw the Happy Isles of prophecy !
Between the right and wrong, but give the heart
Of sound, form, color, motion, wait
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.