« PreviousContinue »
For plenty here her fulness pours
In rich profusion o'er the land,
There prowls no tyrant's hireling band.
Great God! we thank thee for this home
This bounteous birthland of the free; Where wanderers from afar may come,
And breathe the air of liberty ! Still may her flowers untrampled spring,
Her harvests wave, her cities rise ; And yet, till Time shall fold his wing,
Remain Earth's loveliest paradise !
THE WOMEN OF THE MAYFLOWER.
BY ELIZABETH OAKES SMITH.
In the northeast part of our country there is a lowly evergreen plant, a species of the arbutus, I believe, for I never analyzed it,—we never do analyze anything that we love,but which is called by children and people who do not affect to be scientific, the May Flower. It is an exceedingly delicate and lovely flower, of a pale pink, growing in clusters amid the rich evergreen leaves, and so fragrant as to scent the air with its violet-like perfume. I remember the delight with which, in my childhood, I used to join our group of school-girls in quest of this harbinger of spring, peering with its sunny yet timid aspect from amid
• The springy moss just crisping back,"
as the little foot of a companion left the yet spongy hillock.
The first of May is a great day to the child of that northern climate, pent for so many months from the green blessedness of nature ; and my heart beats now at the remembered thrill, and the spontaneous shout, that recorded the discovery of a May Flower. How the little group gathered about it. How daintily we took it from the wet soil. How eagerly it passed from nose to rose. Your pardon, reader, if you have
not a proper respect for that delicate sense, the perfection of which is the best indication of “ thorough breeding."
How the cry of “May Flowers ! May Flowers !” extended the circle. . How the girls came leaping and bounding from knoll to knoll, over “sodden logs," out from the verge of the woods, down from the ledge, round by the black pool, and all up to the bit of firm ground upon the side of the hill, where the May Flower had ventured thus into the sunshine, although
“The snow yet in the hollow lies.”
God be praised for the memory of such things; and for the love he has planted in our hearts for his own beautiful creations. The love that will make us encounter peril and discomfort in any shape, that we may look upon his " handy work.” The heart has much to fear for itself, that does not glow with pleasure at the sight of a flower : it has wandered far from the gate of heaven; for the sense of the beautiful is the link that binds us to the angels.
At first sight, the name, "May Flower,"—for this lovely yet lowly evergreen, appearing as it often does in sunny spots and uplands even in March, when the season is moderate, ready to bloom at the first caressings of sunshine in our cold northern latitude, -seems inefficient and indefinite ; but a glance at historic association will give the name, “ May Flower,” a peculiar and touching appositeness.
It was the name of the frail bark that bore the Pilgrims to our shores. This pale, pink blossom, with its surpassing
fragrance, was the first to greet the eye of woman, when the bleak winter abated its rigors; and the sunshine, in revealing its beauty, whispered, all is not utterly barren and desolate in this “howling wilderness ;" and she called it the May Flower, partly in reference to the ship that had borne her hither, partly in memory of the Maypole, bedecked with blossoms in "fatherland."
To me, this flower is a link binding the sex of the present day to the suffering, struggling, devoted, and unrecorded matrons of that day of hardy toil, and self-sacrificing love and duty. I look into its meek face, and
eye, the pale, drooping women of those days, who stifled the weakness of the sex, smothered the heart's yearnings, and nobly and patiently died, while their sterr husbands and fathers laid the corner-stone of empire, and planted, in the midst of blood and peril, the handful of corn, the "fruit thereof to shake like Lebanon."
Ay, touching, most touching, in this point of view, does this blossom become to me, emblematic, as flowers always are, of the tenderness, the beauty, and the devotedness of woman, blessing with her life-restoring love, not the garden and the palace wall alone, but the waste places of poverty, and the desolate and arid wilds of grief and pain.
The May Flower, blooming amidst sleet and snow, fragrant, lowly, evergreen, and most beautiful, is peculiarly appropriate as an emblem of the wives and the daughters of the Pilgrim Fathers. This one blossom decking the hoary crown of winter, is like the pitying gift of spring ; so they with their hardy graces must have served somewhat to abate the savageness of virtue in those hard principled, hard thinking men ;and there let me not be supposed to speak irreverently.
It has sometimes been attempted to soften down the asperities of the Pilgrim character into something more accordant with the genialities of life than what appears upon the face of history. It is a futile task. They were men of a great age, men habituated to daring and subtle thought, who had learned to grasp what they believed to be truth, even with the desperation of those who clung to the horns of the altar ; and they had accustomed themselves to the heroic bearing of those ready to lay down their lives for its sake. They were Cromwell-men, Milton-men, full of the arrogance of manly prerogative, little careful for the gentleness suited to lady's bower, and rarely disposed to turn aside to the “delectable fields" of merely domestic enjoyment.
Indeed, men who had nobly converted the hearth-stone into an altar for the Most High, and each declared himself, "Priest unto the Lord,” in the stern simplicity of primitive worship, inasmuch as they had spurned from them the vestments of popery, were likely, in assuming the sacred office, by an instinctive reverence, to assume a portion of the monkishness hitherto associated therewith ; and hence arose, in part, that severity of life, that sternness of discipline, that ascetic renunciation of the natural tendencies of the human heart, that rejection of human sympathy, and rooting out as it were of human sensibilities.
They had engrafted the unyieldingness of the stoic upon