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And ever, when a louder blast
Shook beam and rafter as it passed,
The merrier up its roaring draught
The great throat of the chimney laughed,
The house dog on his paws outspread
Laid to the fire his drowsy head;
The cat's dark silhouette on the wall
A couchant tiger's seemed to fall;
And, for the winter fireside meet,
Between the andirons' straddling feet,
The mug of cider simmered slow.
The apples sputtered in a row,
And close at hand the basket stood,
With nuts from brown October's wood.
From ripening corn the pigeons flew,
The partridge drummed in wood, the mink
Went fishing down the river brink.
In fields with bean or clover gay,
The woodchuck, like a hermit gray,
Peered from the doorway of his cell;
The muskrat plied the mason's trade,
And tier by tier his mud walls laid,
And from the shag bark overhead
The grizzled squirrel dropped his shell.
What matter how the night behaved ?
What matter how the north wind raved ?
Blow high, blow low, not all its snow
Could quench our hearth-fire's ruddy glow.
We sped the time with stories old,
Wrought puzzles out, and riddles told,
Or stammered from our school book lore
The Chief of Gambia's golden shore.
At last the great logs, crumbling low,
Sent out a dull and duller glow,
The bull's eye watch that hung in view,
Ticking its weary circuit through,
Pointed with mutely warning sign
Its black hand to the hour of nine.
That sign the pleasant circle broke:
My uncle ceased his pipe to smoke,
Knocked from its bowl the refuse gray,
And laid it tenderly away;
Then roused himself to safely cover
The dull red brands with ashes over.
Our uncle, innocent of books,
Was rich in lore of fields and brooks,
The ancient teachers never dumb
Of Nature's unhoused lyceum.
In moons and tides and weather wise,
He read the clouds as prophecies,
And foul or fair could well divine,
By many an occult hint and sign,
Holding the cunning warded keys
To all the woodcraft mysteries;
Himself to Nature's heart so near
That all her voices in his ear
Of beast or bird, had meanings clear.
And while with care our mother laid
The work aside, her steps she stayed
One moment, seeking to express
Her grateful sense of happiness
For food and shelter, warmth and health,
And love's contentment more than wealth,
With simple wishes (not the weak,
Vain prayers which no fulfillment seek,
But such as warm the generous heart,
O'er prompt to do with heaven its part)
That none might lack, that bitter night,
For bread and clothing warmth and light.
A simple, guileless, childlike man,
Content to live where life began;
Strong only on his native grounds,
The little world of sights and sounds
Whose girdle was the parish bounds,
Whereof his fondly partial pride
The common features magnified,
He told how teal and loon he shot,
And how the eagle's eggs he got,
The feats on pond and river done,
The prodigies of rod and gun;
Within our beds awhile we heard
The wind that round the gables roared,
With now and then a ruder shock,
Which made our very bedsteads rock.
We heard the loosened clapboards tost,
The board-nails snapping in the frost;
And on us, through the unplastered wall,
Felt the light sifted snowflakes fall
But sleep stole on, as sleep will do
When hearts are light, and life is new;
Faint and more faint the murmurs grew;
Till in the summer land of dreams
They softened to the sound of streams,
Low stir of leaves, and dip of oars,
And lapsing waves on quiet shores.
- John Greenleaf Whittier.
Till, warming with the tales he told,
Forgotten was the outside cold,
The bitter wind unheeded blew,
In the spring of 1863, two great armies were encamped on either side of the Rappahannock River, one dressed in blue and the other in gray. As twilight fell the bands on the Union side began to play, The Star Spangled Banner," and "Rally Round the Flag,” The challenge was taken up by those on the other side, and they responded with the "Bonnie Blue Flag,” and “Away Down South in Dixie. It was born upon the soul of a single soldier in one of those bands of music to begin a sweeter, more tender air, and slowly as he played it all the instruments upon the Union side joined in, until finally a great and mighty chorus swelled up and down the army"Home, Sweet Home.” When they had finished there was no challenge yonder, for every band upon that further shore had taken up the lovely air, and one chorus of the two great hosts went up to God.
It was this incident which inspired the following poem:
'HE sun had dropped into the distant west,
And when the faintest echo seemed to die,
The cannons ceased to roar, which tell of rest, The last huzza been wafted to the sky,
Rest from the shedding of a nation's blood,
The boys in blue had lain them down to rest,
Rest to lay their comrades 'neath the sod.
With gun and bayonet closely hugged to breast. 'Twas early spring, and calm and still the night, There came from Southern hill with gentle swell, The moon had risen, casting softest light;
The air of "Dixie,” which was loved so well On either side of stream the armies lay;
By every one who wore the coat of gray, Waiting for morn, to then renew the fray.
And still revered and cherished to this day. So near together a sound was heard by all
In “Dixie's land,” they swore to live and die, Each could hear the other's sentry-call,
That was their watchword, that their battle cry, The bivouac fires burned brightly on each hill,
Then rose on high the wild Confederate yell, And save the tramp of pickets, all was still.
Resounding over every hill and dell; The Rappahannock silently flows on
Cheer after cheer went up that starry night Between the hills so fair to look upon,
From men as brave as ever saw the light! Whose dancing waters, tinged with silver light,
Now all is still. Each side has played its part, Vie in their beauty with the starry night.
How simple songs will fire a soldier's heart! But list! from Northern hill there steal along,
But hark! from Rappahannock's stream there floats The softest strains of music and of song,
Another air; but ah! how sweet the notesThe “Starry Banner,” our nation's glorious air,
Not those which lash men's passions into foam, Which tells to all of gallant flag "still there."
But, richest gem of song, 'twas “Home, Sweet Home." Then "Hail Columbia," a thousand voices sing
Played by the band, which reached the very soul, With all their soul, which makes the hill-tops ring, And down the veteran's cheeks the tear-drop stole, From fire to fire, from tent to tent then flew,
Men who would march to very cannon's mouth, The welcome words, “Lads, sing the 'Boys in Blue."" Wept like children, from both North and South. And well they sang. Each heart was filled with joy, Beneath those well worn coats of gray and blue, From first in rank to little drummer boy;
Were generous tender hearts, both brave and true; Then loud huzzas, and wildest cheers were given, The sentry stopped and rested on his gun, Which seemed to cleave the air and reach to heaven. While back to home his thoughts did swiftly run.
The lusty cheering reached the Southern ear-
Men who courted danger, knew no fear,
Whilst talking o'er their scanty evening meal,
And each did grasp his trusty blaue of steel.
Those very strains of music which of yore
Did raise the blood, are felt by them no more. ljeer,
How changed! What now they scorn and taunt and
Was once to them as sacred, just as dear;
Thinking of loving wife and children there,
With no one left to guide them, none to care.
Stripling lads not strong enough to bear
The weight of sabre, or the knapsack wear,
Tried to stop with foolish boyish pride
The starting tear; as well try stop the tide
Of ceaseless rolling ocean, just as well,
As stop those tears which fast and faster fell.
Y business on the jury's done—the quibblin' all is
throughI've watched the lawyers, right and left, and give my
verdict true; I stuck so long unto my chair, I thought I would grow
in; And if I do not know myself, they'll get me there again. Bnt now the court's adjourned for good, and I have got
my pay; I'm loose at last, and thank the Lord. I'm goin' hoine
to-day. I've somehow felt uneasy like since first day I come
down ; It's an awkward game to play the gentleman in town; And this 'ere Sunday suit of mime, on Sunday rightly
sets, But when I wear the stuff a week, it somehow galls and
frets; I'd rather wear my homespun rig of pepper-salt and
grayI'll have it on in half a jiff, when I get home to-day. I have no doubt my wife looked out, as well as any one, As well as any woman could-to see that things were
done: For though Melinda, when I'm there, wont set her foot
H, father! sitting at thy hearth,
With sunny heads around and lisping talk, For whom the world without and all the earth Is naught to this; and to the strong deep love Which, mixed with pity, all thy soul doth move; Strong worker, watching o'er the tottering walk And feeble limbs and growing thought and brain, Rejoicing in each new found gain As the first sire, alone in Paradise; And patient and content to work all day, If with the eve returning from thy toil Thou canst put off the sad world's stain and soil, And bending downward to thy children's eyes, Rise cleansed and pure as they. I know not if life holds a more divine Or fairer lot than thine, Strong, patient worker, king of those who can To its high goal of Things to be, Its goal of Fate and Mystery, Lead forth the race of Man!
Thy way is ofttimes hard,
And toilsome oft thy feet;
Thine are the days of anxious care,
When the spent brain reels, or the strong arm tires;
Yet all the ease and charm of days that were,
And pleasure paling all their fading fires,
Allure no more, but the tired hunter now,
Or now the worker with the furrowed brow
On frozen wastes or sun-struck thou dost show;
By mart or loom, or mine, or bending down
Chained to thy desk within the stifling town,
Thou toilest daily that thy brood may live.
Cares are thine, cares and the unselfish mind
Which spends itself for others and can find
How blest it is without return to give.
Whate'er thy race or speech, thou art the same;
Before thy eyes Duty, a constant flame,
Shines always steadfast with unchanging light,
Through dark days and through bright.
Sometimes, by too great misery bowed down,
Or poison draughts brought lower than the beast,
Thou comest to hate the hollow eyes around,
Dreading thy cares increased,
And dost despise thy own.
And canst thy dead heart steel against their cries,
And mark unmoved the hunger in their eyes;
Or sometimes, filled with love, art powerless to aid.
Oh, misery, to make our souls afraid!
To leave the safe and sacred walls of home,
For whose young souls, Lise, like a cruel city,
Spreads out her nets of sin.
Thou knowest well of old
The strong allurements which they scarce may shun,
The subtle wiles, the innocent lives undone,
The tide of passion scorning all control,
And thou art filled with an immense despair,
Wherefrom thy heart beats slow, thy eyes grow dim,
As when of yore thou heardst them lisp a hymn
With early childish lips; thou canst not bear
To think of that young whiteness soiled and foul,
Or that thick darkness blotting the young soul,
Yet from thy grief and pain
Comes ofttimes greater gain
Than all thy loss.
Thou knowest what it is to grieve,
And from the burden of thy cross
Thou comest to believe.
I pass by the rich-chamber'd mansions that shine,
Overflowing with splendor like goblets with wine.
I have fought, I have vanquished the dragon of toil,
And before me my golden Hesperides smile!
And oh! but Love's flowers make rich the gloam,
When I come home, when I come home.
ROUND me Life's hell of fierce ardors burns,
When I come home, when I come home; Over me Heaven with her starry heart yearns,
When I come home, when I come home;
For the feast of God's garnished the palace of Night,
At a thousand star-windows, is throbbing with light;
London makes mirth! but I know God hears
The sobs in the dark and the dropping of tears.
For I feel that He listens down Night's great dome,
When I come home, when I come home,
Home, home; when I come home,
Far in the night when I come home.
O the sweet merry mouths upturn'd to be kist,
When I come home, when I come home!
How the younglings yearn from the hungry nest
When I come home, when I come home!
My weary worn heart into sweetness is stirr'd,
And it dances and sings like a singing bird
On the branch nighest heaven-a-top of my life;
As I clasp thee, my winsome, wooing wife !
And thy pale cheek, with rich tender passion doth
I walk under Night's triumphal arch,
When I come home, when I come home, Exulting with life, like a conqueror's march,
When I come home, when I come home!