Page images

A change !— The steepled town no more

Stretches along the sail-thronged shore;

Like palace-domes in sunset's cloud,

Fade sun-gilt spire and mansion proud!

Spectrally rising where they stood,

I see the old, primeval wood:

Dark, shadow-like, on either hand

I see its solemn waste expand: .

It climbs the green and cultured hill,

It arches o'er the valley's rill;

And leans from cliff and crag, to throw

Its wild arms o'er the stream below.

Unchanged, alone, the same bright river

Flows on, as it will flow forever!

I listen, and I hear the low

Soft ripple where its waters go;

I hear behind the panther's cry,

The wild bird's scream goes thrilling by,

And shyly on the river's brink

The deer is stooping down to drink.

But hark !— from wood and rock flung back,
What sound comes up the Merrimack?
What sea-worn barks are those which throw
'The light spray from each rushing prow?
Have they not in the North Sea's blast
Bowed to the waves the straining mast?
Their frozen sails the low, pale sun
Of Thule's night has shone upon;
Flapped by the sea-wind's gusty sweep
Round icy drift, and headland steep.
Wild Jutland's wives and Lochlin's daughters
Have watched them fading o'er the waters,
Lessening through driving mist and spray,
Like white-winged sea-birds on their way!

Onward they glide—and now I view
Their iron-armed and stalwart crew;
Joy glistens in each wild blue eye,
Turned to green earth and summer sky:
Each broad, seamed breast has cast aside
Its cumbering vest of shaggy hide;
Bared to the sun and soft warm air,
Streams back the Norsemen's yellow hair.
I see the gleam of axe and spear,
The sound of smitten shields I hear,
Keeping a harsh and fitting time
To Saga's chant, and Runic rhyme;
Such lays as Zetland's Skald has sung,
His gray and naked isles among;
Or muttered low at midnight hour
Round Odin's mossy stone of power.
The wolf beneath the Arctic moon
Has answered to that startling rune;
The Gaal has heard its stormy swell,
The light Frank knows its summons well;
Iona's sable-stoled Culdee
Has heard it sounding o'er the sea,
And swept with hoary beard and hair
His altar's foot in trembling prayer!

'Tis past — the 'wildering vision dies
In darkness on my dreaming eyes!
The forest vanishes in air —
Hill-slope and vale lie starkly bare;
I hear the common tread of men,
And hum of work-day life again:
The mystic relic seems alone
A broken mass of common stone;
And if it be the chiseled limb
Of Berserkar or idol grim —
A fragment of Valhalla's Thor,
The stormy Viking's god of War,
Or Praga of the Runic lay,
Or love awakening Siona,
I know not — for no graven line,
Nor Druid mark, nor Runic sign,
Is left me here, by which to trace
Its name, or origin, or place.

Yet, for this vision of the Past,
This glance upon its darkness cast,
My spirit bows in gratitude
Before the Giver of all good,
Who fashioned so the human mind,
That, from the waste of Time behind
A simple stone, or mound of earth,
Can summon the departed forth;
Quicken the Past to life again —
The Present lose in what hath been,
And in their primal freshness show
The buried forms of long ago.
As if a portion of that Thought
By which the Eternal will is wrought,
Whose impulse fills anew with breath
The frozen solitude of Death,
To mortal mind were sometimes lent,
To mortal musings sometimes sent,
To whisper — even when it seems
But Memory's phantasy of dreams —
Through the mind's waste of wo and sin,
Of an immortal origin!


[In the following ballad, the author has endeavored to display the strong enthusiasm of the early Quaker, the short-sighted intolerance of the clergy and magistrates, and that sympathy with the oppressed, which the "common people," when not directly under the control of spiritual despotism, have ever evinced. He is not blind to the extravagance of language and action which characterized some of the pioneers of Quakerism in New England, and which furnished persecution with its solitary but most inadequate excuse.

The ballad has its foundation upon a somewhat remarkable event in the history of Puritan intolerance. Two young persons, son and daughter of Lawrence Southwick, of Salem, who had himself been imprisoned and deprived of all his property for having entertained two Quakers at his house, were fined ten pounds each for non-attendance at church, which they were unable to pay. The case being represented to the General Court, at Boston, that body issued an order, which may still be seen on the court records, bearing the signature of Edward Eawson, Secretary, by which the treasurer of the County was "fully empowered to sell the said persons to any of the English nation at Virginia or Barbadoes, to answer said fines." An attempt was made to carry this barbarous order into execution, bat no shipmaster was found willing to convey them to the West Indies.—Vide Sewall'b Histobt, pp. 225-6, G. Bisnor.]

To the God of all sure mercies let my blessing rise to-day,
From the scoffer and the cruel He hath plucked the spoil away,—
Yea, He who cooled the furnace around the faithful three,
And tamed the Chaldean lions, hath set His handmaid free!

Last night I saw the sunset melt through my prison bars,
Last night across my damp earth-floor fell the pale gleam of

In the coldness and the darkness all through the long night time,
My grated casement whitened with Autumn's early rime.

Alone, in that dark sorrow, hour after hour crept by;
Star after star looked palely in and sank adown the sky;

No sound amid night's stillness, save that which seemed to be The dull and heavy beating of the pulses of the sea;

All night I sat unsleeping, for I knew that on the morrow The ruler and the cruel priest would mock me in my sorrow, Dragged to their place of market, and bargained for and sold, Like a lamb before the shambles, like a heifer from the fold!

Oh, the weakness of the flesh was there — the shrinking and the shame;

And the low voice of the Tempter like whispers to me came:
"Why sit'st thou thus forlornly!" the wicked murmur said,
"Damp walls thy bower of beauty, cold earth thy maiden* bed?

""Where be the smiling faces, and voices soft and sweet,
Seen in thy father's dwelling, heard in the pleasant street?
"Where be the youths, whose glances the summer Sabbath through
Turned tenderly and timidly unto thy father's pew?

"Wiry sit'st thou here, Cassandra ?— Bethink thee with what mirth

Thy happy schoolmates gather around the warm bright hearth; How the crimson shadows tremble on foreheads white and fair, On eyes of merry girlhood, half hid in golden hair.

Not for thee the hearth-fire brightens, not for thee kind words are spoken,

Not for thee the nuts of Wenham woods by laughing boys are broken,

No first-fruits of the orchard within thy lap are laid,

For thee no flowers of Autumn the youthful hunters braid.

"Oh ! weak, deluded maiden ! — by crazy fancies led,

With wild and raving railers an evil path to tread;

To leave a wholesome worship, and teaching pure and sound;

And mate with maniac women, loose-haired and sack-cloth-bound.

"Mad scoflers of the priesthood, who mock at things divine,
"Who rail against the pulpit, and holy bread and wine;
Sore from their cart-tail scourgings, and from the pillory lame,
Rejoicing in their wretchedness, and glorying in their shame.

« PreviousContinue »