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[197]

I. The river valley.

Across the level tableland,
     A grassy, rarely trodden way,
With thinnest skirt of birchen spray

And stunted growth of cedar, leads
     To where you see the dull plain fall
Sheer off, steep-slanted, ploughed by all

The seasons' rainfalls. On its brink
     The over-leaning harebells swing,
With roots half bare the pine-trees cling;

And, through the shadow looking west,
     You see the wavering river flow
Along a vale, that far below

Holds to the sun, the sheltering hills
     And glimmering water-line between,
Broad fields of corn and meadows green,

And fruit-bent orchards grouped around
     The low brown roofs and painted eaves,
And chimney-tops half hid in leaves.

No warmer valley hides behind
     Yon wind-scourged sand-dunes, cold and bleak;
No fairer river comes to seek

The wave-sung welcome of the sea,
     Or mark the northmost border line
Of sun-loved growths of nut and vine.

[198] Here, ground-fast in their native fields,
     Untempted by the city's gain,
The quiet farmer folk remain

Who bear the pleasant name of Friends,
     And keep their fathers' gentle ways
And simple speech of Bible days;

In whose neat homesteads woman holds
     With modest ease her equal place,
And wears upon her tranquil face

The look of one who, merging not
     Her self-hood in another's will,
Is love's and duty's handmaid still.

Pass with me down the path that winds
     Through birches to the open land,
Where, close upon the river strand

You mark a cellar, vine o'errun,
     Above whose wall of loosened stones
The sumach lifts its reddening cones,

And the black nightshade's berries shine,
     And broad, unsightly burdocks fold
The household ruin, century-old.

Here, in the dim colonial time
     Of sterner lives and gloomier faith,
A woman lived, tradition saith,

[199] Who wrought her neighbors foul annoy,
     And witched and plagued the country-side,
Till at the hangman's hand she died.

Sit with me while the westering day
     Falls slantwise down the quiet vale,
And, haply ere yon loitering sail,

That rounds the upper headland, falls
     Below Deer Island's pines, or sees
Behind it Hawkswood's belt of trees

Rise black against the sinking sun,
     My idyl of its days of old,
The valley's legend, shall be told.

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