In Memory of John Greenleaf Whittier
Thou, too, hast left us. While with heads bowed low,
And sorrowing hearts, we mourned our summer's dead,
The flying season bent its Parthian bow,
And yet again our mingling tears were shed.
Was Heaven impatient that it could not wait
The blasts of winter for earth's fruits to fall?
Were angels crowding round the open gate
To greet the spirits coming at their call?
Nay, let not fancies, born of old beliefs,
Play with the heart-beats that are throbbing still,
And waste their outworn phrases on the griefs,
The silent griefs that words can only chill.
For thee, dear friends, there needs no high-wrought lay,
To shed its aureole round thy cherished name,—
Thou whose plain, home-born speech of Yes and Nay
Thy truthful nature ever best became.
Death reaches not a spirit such as thine,—
It can but steal the robe that hid thy wings;
Though thy warm breathing presence we resign,
Still in our hearts its loving semblance clings.
Peaceful thy message, yet for struggling right,—
When Slavery's gauntlet in our face was flung,—
While timid weaklings watched the dubious flight
No herald's challenge more defiant rung.
Yet was thy spirit tuned to gentle themes
Sought in the haunts thy humble youth had known.
Our stern New England's hills and vales and streams,—
Thy tuneful idyls made them all their own.
The wild flowers springing from thy native sod
Lent all their charms thy new-world song to fill,—
Gave thee the mayflower and the golden-rod
To match the daisy and the daffodil.
In the brave records of our earlier time
A hero's deed thy generous soul inspired,
And many a legend, told in ringing rhyme,
The youthful soul with high resolve has fired.
Not thine to lean on priesthood's broken reed;
No barriers caged thee in a bigot's fold;
Did zealots ask to syllable thy creed,
Thou saidst "Our Father," and thy creed was told.
Best loved and saintliest of our singing train,
Earth's noblest tributes to thy name belong.
A lifelong record closed without a stain,
A blameless memory shrined in deathless song.
Lift from its quarried ledge a flawless stone;
Smooth the green turf and bid the tablet rise,
And on its snow-white surface carve alone
These words,—he needs no more,—Here Whittier Lies.