Read CHAPTER IV - WHITTIER’S UNCOLLECTED POEMS of Whittier-land A Handbook of North Essex , free online book, by Samuel T. Pickard, on

Between the years 1826 and 1835, Mr. Whittier was writing literally hundreds of poems which he never permitted to be collected in any edition of his works; and not only so, but he preserved no copies of them, in later years destroying such as came to his notice. Some of these verses went the rounds of the newspaper press of the country, giving him a widespread reputation as a poet. But in much of his early work we see traces of ambition for fame, and a feeling that the world was treating him harshly. When the change came over his spirit to which reference has been made in a preceding chapter, sweetening all the springs of life, he lost interest in these early productions, some of which were giving him the fame that in his earlier years he so much craved. It was this radical change which no doubt influenced him in his later life to omit from his collected works most of the verses written previous to it. I have in my possession more than three hundred poems which I have found in the files of old newspapers, the great mass of which I would by no means reproduce, although I find nothing of which a young writer of that period need be ashamed. A few of these verses are given below as specimens of the work he saw fit to discard.

The following poem, written when he was nineteen years of age, during his first term in the Haverhill Academy, shows in one or two stanzas the feeling that the world is giving him the cold shoulder:


I would not lose that romance wild,
That high and gifted feeling
The power that made me fancy’s child,
The clime of song revealing,
For all the power, for all the gold,
That slaves to pride and avarice hold.

I know that there are those who deem
But lightly of the lyre;
Who ne’er have felt one blissful beam
Of song-enkindled fire
Steal o’er their spirits, as the light
Of morning o’er the face of night.

Yet there ’s a mystery in song
A halo round the way
Of him who seeks the muses’ throng
An intellectual ray,
A source of pure, unfading joy
A dream that earth can ne’er destroy.

And though the critic’s scornful eye
Condemn his faltering lay,
And though with heartless apathy,
The cold world turn away
And envy strive with secret aim,
To blast and dim his rising fame;

Yet fresh, amid the blast that brings
Such poison on its breath,
Above the wreck of meaner things,
His lyre’s unfading wreath
Shall bloom, when those who scorned his lay
With name and power have passed away.

Come then, my lyre, although there be
No witchery in thy tone;
And though the lofty harmony
Which other bards have known,
Is not, and cannot e’er be mine,
To touch with power those chords of thine.

Yet thou canst tell, in humble strain,
The feelings of a heart,
Which, though not proud, would still disdain
To bear a meaner part,
Than that of bending at the shrine
Where their bright wreaths the muses twine.

Thou canst not give me wealth or fame;
Thou hast no power to shed
The halo of a deathless name
Around my last cold bed;
To other chords than thine belong
The breathings of immortal song.

Yet come, my lyre! some hearts may beat
Responsive to thy lay;
The tide of sympathy may meet
Thy master’s lonely way;
And kindred souls from envy free
May listen to its minstrelsy.

8th month, 1827.

During the first months of Whittier’s editorship of the “New England Review” at Hartford, his contributions of verse to that paper were numerous in some cases three of his poems appearing in a single number, as in the issue of October 18, 1830. Two of these are signed with his initials, but the one here given has no signature. That it is his is made evident by the fact that all but one stanza of it appears in “Moll Pitcher,” published two years later. It was probably because of the self-assertion of the concluding lines that the omitted stanza was canceled, and these lines reveal the ambition then stirring his young blood.


Land of the forest and the rock
Of dark blue lake and mighty river
Of mountains reared aloft to mock
The storm’s career the lightning’s shock,
My own green land forever!
Land of the beautiful and brave
The freeman’s home the martyr’s grave
The nursery of giant men,
Whose deeds have linked with every glen,
And every hill and every stream,
The romance of some warrior dream!
Oh never may a son of thine,
Where’er his wandering steps incline,
Forget the sky which bent above
His childhood like a dream of love
The stream beneath the green hill flowing
The broad-armed trees above it growing
The clear breeze through the foliage blowing;
Or hear unmoved the taunt of scorn
Breathed o’er the brave New England born;
Or mark the stranger’s Jaguar hand
Disturb the ashes of thy dead
The buried glory of a land
Whose soil with noble blood is red,
And sanctified in every part,
Nor feel resentment like a brand
Unsheathing from his fiery heart!

Oh greener hills may catch the sun
Beneath the glorious heaven of France;
And streams rejoicing as they run
Like life beneath the day-beam’s glance,
May wander where the orange bough
With golden fruit is bending low;
And there may bend a brighter sky
O’er green and classic Italy
And pillared fane and ancient grave
Bear record of another time,
And over shaft and architrave
The green luxuriant ivy climb;
And far towards the rising sun
The palm may shake its leaves on high,
Where flowers are opening one by one,
Like stars upon the twilight sky,
And breezes soft as sighs of love
Above the rich mimosa stray,
And through the Brahmin’s sacred grove
A thousand bright-hued pinions play!

Yet, unto thee, New England, still
Thy wandering sons shall stretch their arms,
And thy rude chart of rock and hill
Seem dearer than the land of palms!
Thy massy oak and mountain pine
More welcome than the banyan’s shade,
And every free, blue stream of thine
Seem richer than the golden bed
Of Oriental waves, which glow
And sparkle with the wealth below!

Land of my fathers! if my name,
Now humble, and unwed to fame,
Hereafter burn upon the lip,
As one of those which may not die,
Linked in eternal fellowship
With visions pure and strong and high
If the wild dreams which quicken now
The throbbing pulse of heart and brow,
Hereafter take a real form
Like spectres changed to beings warm;
And over temples worn and gray
The star-like crown of glory shine,
Thine be the bard’s undying lay,
The murmur of his praise be thine!

One of the poems in the same number which contained this spirited tribute to New England was the song given below, which was signed with the initials of the editor, else there might be some hesitation in assigning it to him, for there is scarcely anything like it to be found in his writings. It was evidently written for music, and some composer should undertake it.


That vow of thine was full and deep
As man has ever spoken
A vow within the heart to keep,
Unchangeable, unbroken.

’T was by the glory of the Sun,
And by the light of Even,
And by the Stars, that, one by one,
Are lighted up in Heaven!

That Even might forget its gold
And Sunlight fade forever
The constant Stars grow dim and cold,
But thy affection never!

And Earth might wear a changeful sign,
And fickleness the Sky
Yet, even then, that love of thine
Might never change nor die.

The golden Sun is shining yet
And at the fall of Even
There ’s beauty in the warm Sunset,
And Stars are bright in Heaven.

No change is on the blessed Sky
The quiet Earth has none
Nature has still her constancy,
And Thou art changed alone!

The “Review” for September 13, 1830, has a poem of Whittier’s prefaced by a curious story about Lord Byron:

The Spectre. There is a story going the rounds of our periodicals that a Miss G., of respectable family, young and very beautiful, attended Lord Byron for nearly a year in the habit of a page. Love, desperate and all-engrossing, seems to have been the cause of her singular conduct. Neglected at last by the man for whom she had forsaken all that woman holds dear, she resolved upon self-destruction, and provided herself with poison. Her designs were discovered by Lord Byron, who changed the poison for a sleeping potion. Miss G., with that delicate feeling of affection which had ever distinguished her intercourse with Byron, stole privately away to the funeral vault of the Byrons, and fastened the entrance, resolving to spare her lover the dreadful knowledge of her fate. She there swallowed the supposed poison and probably died of starvation! She was found dead soon after. Lord Byron never adverted to this subject without a thrill of horror. The following from his private journal may, perhaps, have some connection with it:

“I awoke from a dream well! and have not others dreamed? such a dream! I wish the dead would rest forever. Ugh! how my blood chilled and I could not wake and and

“Shadows to-night
Have struck more terror to the soul of Richard
Than could the substance of ten thousand
Armed all in proof

“I do not like this dream I hate its foregone conclusion. And am I to be shaken by shadows? Ay, when they remind us of no matter but if I dream again I will try whether all sleep has the like visions.” Moore’s “Byron,” page 324.

She came to me last night
The floor gave back no tread,
She stood by me in the wan moonlight
In the white robes of the dead
Pale pale, and very mournfully
She bent her light form over me
I heard no sound I felt no breath
Breathe o’er me from that face of death;
Its dark eyes rested on my own,
Rayless and cold as eyes of stone;
Yet in their fixed, unchanging gaze,
Something which told of other days
A sadness in their quiet glare,
As if Love’s smile were frozen there,
Came o’er me with an icy thrill
O God! I feel its presence still!
And fearfully and dimly
The pale cold vision passed,
Yet those dark eyes were fixed on me
In sadness to the last.
I struggled and my breath came back,
As to the victim on the rack,
Amid the pause of mortal pain
Life steals to suffer once again!
Was it a dream? I looked around,
The moonlight through the lattice shone;
The same pale glow that dimly crowned
The forehead of the spectral one!
And then I knew she had been there
Not in her breathing loveliness,
But as the grave’s lone sleepers are,
Silent and cold and passionless!
A weary thought a fearful thought
Within the secret heart to keep:
Would that the past might be forgot
Would that the dead might sleep!

These are the concluding lines of a long poem written in 1829, while he was editing the “American Manufacturer.” The poem as a whole was never in print; but these lines of it I find in the “Essex Gazette” of August 22, 1829, from which paper they were copied, as were most of his productions of that period, by the newspapers of the country. They were never in any collection of his works:


Lady, farewell! I know thy heart
Has angel strength to soar above
The cold reserve the studied art
That mock the glowing wings of love.
Its thoughts are purer than the pearl
That slumbers where the wave is driven,
Yet freer than the winds that furl
The banners of the clouded heaven.
And thou hast been the brightest star
That shone along my weary way
Brighter than rainbow visions are,
A changeless and enduring ray.
Nor will my memory lightly fade
From thy pure dreams, high-thoughted girl;
The ocean may forget what made
Its blue expanse of waters curl,
When the strong winds have passed the sky;
Earth in its beauty may forget
The recent cloud that floated by;
The glories of the last sunset
But not from thy unchanging mind
Will fade the dreams of other years,
And love will linger far behind,
In memory’s resting place of tears!

Many of Whittier’s early discarded verses are of a rather gruesome sort, but more are inspired by contemplation of sublime themes, like this apostrophe to “Eternity,” which was published in the “New England Review” in 1831:


Boundless eternity! the winged sands
That mark the silent lapse of flitting time
Are not for thee; thine awful empire stands
From age to age, unchangeable, sublime;
Thy domes are spread where thought can never climb,
In clouds and darkness where vast pillars rest.
I may not fathom thee: ’t would seem a crime
Thy being of its mystery to divest
Or boldly lift thine awful veil with hands unblest.

Thy ruins are the wrecks of systems; suns
Blaze a brief space of age, and are not;
Worlds crumble and decay, creation runs
To waste then perishes and is forgot;
Yet thou, all changeless, heedest not the blot.
Heaven speaks once more in thunder; empty space
Trembles and wakes; new worlds in ether float,
Teeming with new creative life, and trace
Their mighty circles, which others shall displace.

Thine age is youth, thy youth is hoary age,
Ever beginning, never ending, thou
Bearest inscribed upon thy ample page,
Yesterday, forever, but as now
Thou art, thou hast been, shall be: though
I feel myself immortal, when on thee
I muse, I shrink to nothingness, and bow
Myself before thee, dread Eternity,
With God coeval, coexisting, still to be.

I go with thee till time shall be no more,
I stand with thee on Time’s remotest age,
Ten thousand years, ten thousand times told o’er;
Still, still with thee my onward course I urge;
And now no longer hear the surge
Of Time’s light billows breaking on the shore
Of distant earth; no more the solemn dirge
Requiem of worlds, when such are numbered o’er
Steals by: still thou art on forever more.

From that dim distance I turn to gaze
With fondly searching glance, upon the spot
Of brief existence, when I met the blaze
Of morning, bursting on my humble cot,
And gladness whispered of my happy lot;
And now ’t is dwindled to a point a speck
And now ’t is nothing, and my eye may not
Longer distinguish it amid the wreck
Of worlds in ruins, crushed at the Almighty’s beck.

Time what is time to thee? a passing thought
To twice ten thousand ages a faint spark
To twice ten thousand suns; a fibre wrought
Into the web of infinite a cork
Balanced against a world: we hardly mark
Its being even its name hath ceased to be;
Thy wave hath swept it from us, thy dark
Mantle of years, in dim obscurity
Hath shrouded it around: Time what is Time to thee!

In 1832 a living ichneumon was brought to Haverhill, and was on exhibition at Frinksborough, a section of Haverhill now known as “the borough,” on the bank of the river above the railroad bridge. Three young ladies of Haverhill went to see it, escorted by Mr. Whittier. They found that the animal had succumbed to the New England climate, and had just been buried. One of the ladies, Harriet Minot, afterward Mrs. Pitman, a life-long friend of the poet, suggested that he should write an elegy, and these are the lines he produced:


Stranger! they have made thy grave
By the darkly flowing river;
But the washing of its wave
Shall disturb thee never!
Nor its autumn tides which run
Turbid to the rising sun,
Nor the harsh and hollow thunder,
When its fetters burst asunder,
And its winter ice is sweeping,
Downward to the ocean’s keeping.

Sleeper! thou canst rest as calm
As beside thine own dark stream,
In the shadow of the palm,
Or the white sand gleam!
Though thy grave be never hid
By the o’ershadowing pyramid,
Frowning o’er the desert sand,
Like no work of mortal hand,
Telling aye the same proud story
Of the old Egyptian glory!

Wand’rer! would that we might know
Something of thy early time
Something of thy weal or woe
In thine own far clime!
If thy step hath fallen where
Those of Cleopatra were,
When the Roman cast his crown
At a woman’s footstool down,
Deeming glory’s sunshine dim
To the smile which welcomed him.

If beside the reedy Nile
Thou hast ever held thy way,
Where the embryo crocodile
In the damp sedge lay;
When the river monster’s eye
Kindled at thy passing by,
And the pliant reeds were bending
Where his blackened form was wending,
And the basking serpent started
Wildly when thy light form darted.

Thou hast seen the desert steed
Mounted by his Arab chief,
Passing like some dream of speed,
Wonderful and brief!
Where the palm-tree’s shadows lurk,
Thou hast seen the turbaned Turk,
Resting in voluptuous pride
With his harem at his side,
Veiled victims of his will,
Scorned and lost, yet lovely still.

And the samiel hath gone
O’er thee like a demon’s breath,
Marking victims one by one
For its master Death.
And the mirage thou hast seen
Glittering in the sunny sheen,
Like some lake in sunlight sleeping,
Where the desert wind was sweeping,
And the sandy column gliding,
Like some giant onward striding.

Once the dwellers of thy home
Blessed the path thy race had trod,
Kneeling in the temple dome
To a reptile god;
Where the shrine of Isis shone
Through the veil before its throne,
And the priest with fixed eyes
Watched his human sacrifice;
And the priestess knelt in prayer,
Like some dream of beauty there.

Thou, unhonored and unknown,
Wand’rer o’er the mighty sea!
None for thee have reverence shown
None have worshipped thee!
Here in vulgar Yankee land,
Thou hast passed from hand to hand,
And in Frinksborough found a home,
Where no change can ever come!
What thy closing hours befell
None may ask, and none may tell.

Who hath mourned above thy grave?
None except thy ancient nurse.
Well she may thy being gave
Coppers to her purse!
Who hath questioned her of thee?
None, alas! save maidens three,
Here to view thee while in being,
Yankee curious, paid for seeing,
And would gratis view once more
That for which they paid before.

Yet thy quiet rest may be
Envied by the human kind,
Who are showing off like thee,
To the careless mind,
Gifts which torture while they flow,
Thoughts which madden while they glow,
Pouring out the heart’s deep wealth,
Proffering quiet, ease, and health,
For the fame which comes to them
Blended with their requiem!

The following poem, which I have never seen in print, I find in a manuscript collection of Whittier’s early poems, in the possession of his cousin, Ann Wendell, of Philadelphia. It is a political curiosity, being a reminiscence of the excitement caused by the mystery of the disappearance of William Morgan, in the vicinity of Niagara Falls, in 1826. It was written in 1830, three years before Whittier became especially active in the anti-slavery cause. He was then working in the interest of Henry Clay as against Jackson, and the Whigs had adopted some of the watchwords of the Anti-Masonic party:


Wild torrent of the lakes! fling out
Thy mighty wave to breeze and sun,
And let the rainbow curve above
The foldings of thy clouds of dun.
Uplift thy earthquake voice, and pour
Its thunder to the reeling shore,
Till caverned cliff and hanging wood
Roll back the echo of thy flood,
For there is one who slumbers now
Beneath thy bow-encircled brow,
Whose spirit hath a voice and sign
More strong, more terrible than thine.

A million hearts have heard that cry
Ring upward to the very sky;
It thunders still it cannot sleep,
But louder than the troubled deep,
When the fierce spirit of the air
Hath made his arm of vengeance bare,
And wave to wave is calling loud
Beneath the veiling thunder-cloud;
That potent voice is sounding still
The voice of unrequited ill.

Dark cataract of the lakes! thy name
Unholy deeds have linked to fame.
High soars to heaven thy giant head,
Even as a monument to him
Whose cold unheeded form is laid
Down, down amid thy caverns dim.
His requiem the fearful tone
Of waters falling from their throne
In the mid air, his burial shroud
The wreathings of thy torrent cloud,
His blazonry the rainbow thrown
Superbly round thy brow of stone.

Aye, raise thy voice the sterner one
Which tells of crime in darkness done,
Groans upward from thy prison gloom
Like voices from the thunder’s home.
And men have heard it, and the might
Of freemen rising from their thrall
Shall drag their fetters into light,
And spurn and trample on them all.
And vengeance long too long delayed
Shall rouse to wrath the souls of men,
And freedom raise her holy head
Above the fallen tyrant then.

This poem, which was published in “The Haverhill Gazette” in 1829, was copied in many papers of that time, but was never in any collection of its author’s works:


Dweller of the unpillared air,
Marshalling the storm to war,
Heralding its presence where
Rolls along thy cloudy car!
Thou that speakest from on high,
Like an earthquake’s bursting forth,
Sounding through the veiled sky
As an angel’s trumpet doth.

Bending from thy dark dominion
Like a fierce, revengeful king,
Blasting with thy fiery pinion
Every high and holy thing;
Smitten from their mountain prison
Thou hast bid the streams go free,
And the ruin’s smoke has risen,
Like a sacrifice to thee!

. . . . .

Monarch of each cloudy form,
Gathered on the blue of heaven,
When the trumpet of the storm
To thy lip of flame is given!
In the wave and in the breeze,
In the shadow and the sun,
God hath many languages,
And thy mighty voice is one!

Here is a poem of Whittier’s that will remind every reader of the hymn “The Worship of Nature,” which first appeared without a title in the “Tent on the Beach.” And yet there is no line in it, and scarcely a phrase, which was used in this last named poem. I find it in the “New England Review,” of Hartford, under date of January 24, 1831. It would seem that “The Worship of Nature” was a favorite theme of his, for a still earlier treatment of it I have found in the “Haverhill Gazette” of October 5, 1827, written before the poet was twenty years of age. It is a curious fact that while in the version of 1827 there are a few lines and phrases which were adopted forty years afterward, the lines given here are none of them copied in the final revision of the poem.


There is a solemn hymn goes up
From Nature to the Lord above,
And offerings from her incense-cup
Are poured in gratitude and love;
And from each flower that lifts its eye
In modest silence in the shade
To the strong woods that kiss the sky
A thankful song of praise is made.

There is no solitude on earth
“In every leaf there is a tongue”
In every glen a voice of mirth
From every hill a hymn is sung;
And every wild and hidden dell,
Where human footsteps never trod,
Is wafting songs of joy, which tell
The praises of their maker God.

Each mountain gives an altar birth,
And has a shrine to worship given;
Each breeze which rises from the earth
Is loaded with a song of Heaven;
Each wave that leaps along the main
Sends solemn music on the air,
And winds which sweep o’er ocean’s plain
Bear off their voice of grateful prayer.

When Night’s dark wings are slowly furled
And clouds roll off the orient sky,
And sunlight bursts upon the world,
Like angels’ pinions flashing by,
A matin hymn unheard will rise
From every flower and hill and tree,
And songs of joy float up the skies,
Like holy anthems from the sea.

When sunlight dies, and shadows fall,
And twilight plumes her rosy wing,
Devotion’s breath lifts Music’s pall,
And silvery voices seem to sing.
And when the earth falls soft to rest,
And young wind’s pinions seem to tire,
Then the pure streams upon its breast
Join their glad sounds with Nature’s lyre.

And when the sky that bends above
Is lighted up with spirit fires,
A gladdening song of praise and love
Is pealing from the sky-tuned lyres;
And every star that throws its light
From off Creation’s bending brow,
Is offering on the shrine of Night
The same unchanging subject-vow.

Thus Earth ’s a temple vast and fair,
Filled with the glorious works of love
When earth and sky and sea and air
Join in the praise of God above;
And still through countless coming years
Unwearied songs of praise shall roll
On plumes of love to Him who hears
The softest strain in Music’s soul.

There was a remarkable display of the aurora borealis in January, 1837, and this poem commemorates the phenomenon:


A light is troubling heaven! A strange dull glow
Hangs like a half-quenched veil of fire between
The blue sky and the earth; and the shorn stars
Gleam faint and sickly through it. Day hath left
No token of its parting, and the blush
With which it welcomed the embrace of Night
Has faded from the blue cheek of the West;
Yet from the solemn darkness of the North,
Stretched o’er the “empty place” by God’s own hand,
Trembles and waves that curtain of pale fire,
Tingeing with baleful and unnatural hues
The winter snows beneath. It is as if
Nature’s last curse the fearful plague of fire
Were working in the elements, and the skies
Even as a scroll consuming.

Lo, a change!
The fiery wonder sinks, and all along
A dark deep crimson rests a sea of blood,
Untroubled by a wave. And over all
Bendeth a luminous arch of pale, pure white,
Clearly contrasted with the blue above,
And the dark red beneath it. Glorious!
How like a pathway for the Shining Ones,
The pure and beautiful intelligences
Who minister in Heaven, and offer up
Their praise as incense, or like that which rose
Before the Pilgrim prophet, when the tread
Of the most holy angels brightened it,
And in his dream the haunted sleeper saw
The ascending and descending of the blest!

And yet another change! O’er half the sky
A long bright flame is trembling, like the sword
Of the great angel of the guarded gate
Of Paradise, when all the holy streams
And beautiful bowers of Eden-land blushed red
Beneath its awful wavering, and the eyes
Of the outcasts quailed before its glare,
As from the immediate questioning of God.

And men are gazing at these “signs in heaven,”
With most unwonted earnestness, and fair
And beautiful brows are reddening in the light
Of this strange vision of the upper air:
Even as the dwellers of Jerusalem
Beleaguered by the Romans when the skies
Of Palestine were thronged with fiery shapes,
And from Antonia’s tower the mailed Jew
Saw his own image pictured in the air,
Contending with the heathen; and the priest
Beside the temple’s altar veiled his face
From that fire-written language of the sky.

Oh God of mystery! these fires are thine!
Thy breath hath kindled them, and there they burn
Amid the permanent glory of Thy heavens,
That earliest revelation written out
In starry language, visible to all,
Lifting unto Thyself the heavy eyes
Of the down-looking spirits of the earth!
The Indian, leaning on his hunting-bow,
Where the ice-mountains hem the frozen pole,
And the hoar architect of winter piles
With tireless hand his snowy pyramids,
Looks upward in deep awe, while all around
The eternal ices kindle with the hues
Which tremble on their gleaming pinnacles
And sharp cold ridges of enduring frost,
And points his child to the Great Spirit’s fire.

Alas for us who boast of deeper lore,
If in the maze of our vague theories,
Our speculations, and our restless aim
To search the secret, and familiarize
The awful things of nature, we forget
To own Thy presence in Thy mysteries!

This imitation of “The Old Oaken Bucket” was written in 1826, when Whittier was in his nineteenth year, and except a single stanza, no part of it was ever before in print. The willow the young poet had in mind was on the bank of Country Brook, near Country Bridge, and also near the site of Thomas Whittier’s log house. Mr. Whittier once pointed out this spot to me as one in which he delighted in his youth. On a grassy bank, almost encircled by a bend in the stream, stood, and perhaps still stands, just such a “storm-battered, water-washed willow” as is here described:


Oh, dear to my heart are the scenes which delighted
My fancy in moments I ne’er can recall,
When each happy hour new pleasures invited,
And hope pictured visions more lovely than all.
When I gazed with a light heart transported and glowing
On the forest-crowned hill, and the rivulet’s tide,
O’ershaded with tall grass, and rapidly flowing
Around the lone willow that stood by its side
The storm-battered willow, the ivy-bound willow, the water-washed
willow, that grew by its side.

Dear scenes of past years, when the objects around me
Seemed forms to awaken the transports of joy;
Ere yet the dull cares of experience had found me,
The dearly-loved visions of youth to destroy,
Ye seem to awaken, whene’er I discover
The grass-shadowed rivulet rapidly glide,
The green verdant meads of the vale wandering over
And laving the willows that stand by its side
The storm-battered willow, the ivy-bound willow, the water-washed
willow, that stands by its side;

How oft ’neath the shade of that wide-spreading willow
I have laid myself down from anxiety free,
Reclining my head on the green grassy pillow,
That waved round the roots of that dearly-loved tree;
Where swift from the far distant uplands descending,
In the bright sunbeam sparkling, the rivulet’s tide
With murmuring echoes came gracefully wending
Its course round the willow that stood by its side
The storm-battered willow, the ivy-bound willow, the water-washed
willow that stood by its side.

Haunts of my childhood, that used to awaken
Emotions of joy in my infantile breast,
Ere yet the fond pleasures of youth had forsaken
My bosom, and all the bright dreams you impressed
On my memory had faded, ye give not the feeling
Of joy that ye did, when I gazed on the tide,
As gracefully winding, its currents came stealing
Around the lone willow that stood by its side
The storm-battered willow, the ivy-bound willow, the water-washed
willow, that stood by its side.

This is a fragment of a poem written in the album of a cousin in Philadelphia, in 1838. It was never before in print:


It may be that tears at whiles
Should take the place of folly’s smiles,
When ’neath some Heaven-directed blow,
Like those of Horeb’s rock, they flow;
For sorrows are in mercy given
To fit the chastened soul for Heaven;
Prompting with woe and weariness
Our yearning for that better sky,
Which, as the shadows close on this,
Grows brighter to the longing eye.
For each unwelcome blow may break,
Perchance, some chain which binds us here;
And clouds around the heart may make
The vision of our faith more clear;
As through the shadowy veil of even
The eye looks farthest into Heaven,
On gleams of star, and depths of blue,
The fervid sunshine never knew!

In the summer of 1856, Charles A. Dana, then one of the editors of the New York “Tribune,” wrote to Whittier, calling upon him for campaign songs for Fremont. He said: “A powerful means of exciting and maintaining the spirit of freedom in the coming decisive contest must be songs. If we are to conquer, as I trust in God we are, a great deal must be done by that genial and inspiring stimulant.” Whittier responded with several songs sung during the campaign for free Kansas, but the following lines for some reason he desired should appear without his name, either in the “National Era,” in which they first appeared, August 14, 1856, or with the music to which they were set. A recently discovered letter, written by him to a friend in Philadelphia who was intrusted to set the song to music, avows its authorship, and also credits to his sister Elizabeth another song, “Fremont’s Ride,” published in the same number of the “Era.” As the brother probably had some hand in the composition of this last-mentioned piece, it is given here. This is Whittier’s song:


The robber o’er the prairie stalks
And calls the land his own,
And he who talks as Slavery talks
Is free to talk alone.
But tell the knaves we are not slaves,
And tell them slaves we ne’er will be;
Come weal or woe, the world shall know.
We ’re free, we ’re free, we ’re free.

Oh, watcher on the outer wall,
How wears the night away?
I hear the birds of morning call,
I see the break of day!
Rise, tell the knaves, etc.

The hands that hold the sword and purse
Ere long shall lose their prey;
And they who blindly wrought the curse,
The curse shall sweep away!
Then tell the knaves, etc.

The land again in peace shall rest,
With blood no longer stained;
The virgin beauty of the West
Shall be no more profaned.
We ’ll teach the knaves, etc.

The snake about her cradle twined,
Shall infant Kansas tear;
And freely on the Western wind
Shall float her golden hair!
So tell the knaves, etc.

Then let the idlers stand apart,
And cowards shun the fight;
We’ll band together, heart to heart,
Forget, forgive, unite!
And tell the knaves we are not slaves,
And tell them slaves we ne’er will be;
Come weal or woe, the world shall know
We ’re free, we ’re free, we ’re free!

It was Whittier’s habit to freely suggest lines and even whole stanzas for poems submitted to him for criticism, and it may be readily believed that his hand is shown in this campaign song of his sister’s:


As his mountain men followed, undoubting and bold,
O’er hill and o’er desert, through tempest and cold,
So the people now burst from each fetter and thrall,
And answer with shouting the wild bugle call.
Who ’ll follow? Who ’ll follow?
The bands gather fast;
They who ride with Fremont
Ride in triumph at last!

Oh, speed the bold riders! fling loose every rein,
The race run for freedom is not run in vain;
From mountain and prairie, from lake and from sea,
Ride gallant and hopeful, ride fearless and free!

Who ’ll follow, etc.

The shades of the Fathers for Freedom who died,
As they rode in the war storm, now ride at our side;
Their great souls shall strengthen our own for the fray,
And the glance of our leader make certain the way.

Then follow, etc.

We ride not for honors, ambition or place,
But the wrong to redress, and redeem the disgrace;
Not for the North, nor for South, but the best good of all,
We follow Fremont, and his wild bugle call!
Who ’ll follow? Who ’ll follow?
The bands gather fast;
They who ride with Fremont
Ride in triumph at last!

The following poem was written at the close of his last term at the Academy, and was published in the “Haverhill Gazette” of October 4, 1828, signed “Adrian.” Probably no other poem written by him in those days was so universally copied by the press of the whole country. Its rather pessimistic tone no doubt caused the poet to omit it from collections made after the great change in his outlook upon life to which reference has been made on another page.


The times, the times, I say, the times are growing worse than ever;
The good old ways our fathers trod shall grace their children never.
The homely hearth of ancient mirth, all traces of the plough,
The places of their worship, are all forgotten now!

Farewell the farmers’ honest looks and independent mien,
The tassel of his waving corn, the blossom of the bean,
The turnip top, the pumpkin vine, the produce of his toil,
Have given place to flower pots, and plants of foreign soil.

Farewell the pleasant husking match, its merry after scenes,
When Indian pudding smoked beside the giant pot of beans;
When ladies joined the social band, nor once affected fear,
But gave a pretty cheek to kiss for every crimson ear.

Affected modesty was not the test of virtue then,
And few took pains to swoon away at sight of ugly men;
For well they knew the purity which woman’s heart should own
Depends not on appearances, but on the heart alone.

Farewell unto the buoyancy and openness of youth
The confidence of kindly hearts the consciousness of truth,
The honest tone of sympathy the language of the heart
Now cursed by fashion’s tyranny, or turned aside by art.

Farewell the social quilting match, the song, the merry play,
The whirling of a pewter plate, the merry fines to pay,
The mimic marriage brought about by leaping o’er a broom,
The good old blind man’s buff, the laugh that shook the room.

Farewell the days of industry the time has glided by
When pretty hands were prettiest in making pumpkin pie.
When waiting maids were needed not, and morning brought along
The music of the spinning wheel, the milkmaid’s careless song.

Ah, days of artless innocence! Your dwellings are no more,
And ye are turning from the path our fathers trod before;
The homely hearth of honest mirth, all traces of the plough,
The places of their worshiping, are all forgotten now!

I find among Mr. Whittier’s papers the first draft of a poem that he does not seem to have prepared for publication. As it was written on the back of a note he received in March, 1890, that was probably the date of its composition:


For the land that gave me birth;
For my native home and hearth;
For the change and overturning
Of the times of my sojourning;
For the world-step forward taken;
For an evil way forsaken;
For cruel law abolished;
For idol shrines demolished;
For the tools of peaceful labor
Wrought from broken gun and sabre;
For the slave-chain rent asunder
And by free feet trodden under;
For the truth defeating error;
For the love that casts out terror;
For the truer, clearer vision
Of Humanity’s great mission;
For all that man upraises,
I sing this song of praises.

The following poem is a variant of the “Hymn for the Opening of Thomas Starr King’s House of Worship,” and was contributed in 1883 to a fair in aid of an Episcopal chapel at Holderness, N. H.


Forgive, O Lord, our severing ways,
The separate altars that we raise,
The varying tongues that speak Thy praise!

Suffice it now. In time to be
Shall one great temple rise to Thee,
Thy church our broad humanity.

White flowers of love its walls shall climb,
Sweet bells of peace shall ring its chime,
Its days shall all be holy time.

The hymn, long sought, shall then be heard,
The music of the world’s accord,
Confessing Christ, the inward word!

That song shall swell from shore to shore,
One faith, one love, one hope restore
The seamless garb that Jesus wore!