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Poems by Elizabeth H. Whittier

Originally published in the volume entitled Hazel Blossoms, and accompanied by the following prefatory note:—

I have ventured, in compliance with the desire of dear friends of my beloved sister, Elizabeth H. Whittier, to add to this little volume the few poetical pieces which she left behind her. As she was very distrustful of her own powers, and altogether without ambition for literary distinction, she shunned everything like publicity, and found far greater happiness in generous appreciation of the gifts of her friends than in the cultivation of her own. Yet it has always seemed to me, that had her health, sense of duty and fitness, and her extreme self-distrust permitted, she might have taken a high place among lyrical singers. These poems, with perhaps two or three exceptions, afford but slight indications of the inward life of the writer, who had an almost morbid dread of spiritual and intellectual egotism, or of her tenderness of sympathy, chastened mirthfulness, and pleasant play of thought and fancy, when her shy, beautiful soul opened like a flower in the warmth of social communion. In the lines on Dr. Kane her friends will see something of her fine individuality,— the rare mingling of delicacy and intensity of feeling which made her dear to them. This little poem reached Cuba while the great explorer lay on his death-bed, and we are told that he listened with grateful tears while it was read to him by his mother.

I am tempted to say more, but I write as under the eye of her who, while with us, shrank with painful deprecation from the praise or mention of performances which seemed so far below her ideal of excellence. To those who best knew her, the beloved circle of her intimate friends, I dedicate this slight memorial.

J. G. W. Amesbury, 9th mo., 1874.


The dream of Argyle.

earthly arms no more uphold him
     On his prison's stony floor;
Waiting death in his last slumber,
     Lies the doomed MacCallum More.

And he dreams a dream of boyhood;
     Rise again his heathery hills,
Sound again the hound's long baying,
     Cry of moor-fowl, laugh of rills.

Now he stands amidst his clansmen
     In the low, long banquet-hall,
Over grim, ancestral armor
     Sees the ruddy firelight fall.

Once again, with pulses beating,
     Hears the wandering minstrel tell
How Montrose on Inverary
     Thief-like from his mountains fell.

Down the glen, beyond the castle,
     Where the linn's swift waters shine,
Round the youthful heir of Argyle
     Shy feet glide and white arms twine.

Fairest of the rustic dancers,
     Blue-eyed Effie smiles once more,
Bends to him her snooded tresses,
     Treads with him the grassy floor.

[320] Now he hears the pipes lamenting,
     Harpers for his mother mourn,
Slow, with sable plume and pennon,
     To her cairn of burial borne.

Then anon his dreams are darker,
     Sounds of battle fill his ears,
And the pibroch's mournful wailing
     For his father's fall he hears.

Wild Lochaber's mountain echoes
     Wail in concert for the dead,
And Loch Awe's deep waters murmur
     For the Campbell's glory fled!

Fierce and strong the godless tyrants
     Trample the apostate land,
While her poor and faithful remnant
     Wait for the Avenger's hand.

Once again at Inverary,
     Years of weary exile o'er,
Armed to lead his scattered clansmen,
     Stands the bold MacCallum More.

Once again to battle calling
     Sound the war-pipes through the glen;
And the court-yard of Dunstaffnage
     Rings with tread of armed men.

All is lost! The godless triumph,
     And the faithful ones and true
From the scaffold and the prison
     Covenant with God anew.

[321] On the darkness of his dreaming
     Great and sudden glory shone;
Over bonds and death victorious
     Stands he by the Father's throne!

From the radiant ranks of martyrs
     Notes of joy and praise he hears,
Songs of his poor land's deliverance
     Sounding from the future years.

Lo, he wakes! but airs celestial
     Bathe him in immortal rest,
And he sees with unsealed vision
     Scotland's cause with victory blest.

Shining hosts attend and guard him
     As he leaves his prison door;
And to death as to a triumph
     Walks the great MacCallum More!


Written on the departure of Joseph Sturge, after his visit to the abolitionists of the United States.

fair islands of the sunny sea! midst all rejoicing things,
No more the wailing of the slave a wild discordance brings;
On the lifted brows of freemen the tropic breezes blow,
The mildew of the bondman's toil the land no more shall know.

[322] How swells from those green islands, where bird and leaf and flower
Are praising in their own sweet way the dawn of freedom's hour,
The glorious resurrection song from hearts rejoicing poured,
Thanksgiving for the priceless gift,—man's regal crown restored!

How beautiful through all the green and tranquil summer land,
Uplifted, as by miracle, the solemn churches stand!
The grass is trodden from the paths where waiting freemen throng,
Athirst and fainting for the cup of life denied so long.

Oh, blessed were the feet of him whose generous errand here
Was to unloose the captive's chain and dry the mourner's tear;
To lift again the fallen ones a brother's robber hand
Had left in pain and wretchedness by the waysides of the land.

The islands of the sea rejoice; the harvest anthems rise;
The sower of the seed must own 't is marvellous in his eyes;
The old waste places are rebuilt,—the broken walls restored,—
And the wilderness is blooming like the garden of the Lord!

[323] Thanksgiving for the holy fruit! should not the laborer rest,
His earnest faith and works of love have been so richly blest?
The pride of all fair England shall her ocean islands be,
And their peasantry with joyful hearts keep ceaseless jubilee.

Rest, never! while his countrymen have trampled hearts to bleed,
The stifled murmur of their wrongs his listening ear shall heed,
Where England's far dependencies her might, not mercy, know,
To all the crushed and suffering there his pitying love shall flow.

The friend of freedom everywhere, how mourns he for our land,
The brand of whose hypocrisy burns on her guilty hand!
Her thrift a theft, the robber's greed and cunning in her eye,
Her glory shame, her flaunting flag oil all the winds a lie!

For us with steady strength of heart and zeal forever true,
The champion of the island slave the conflict doth renew,
His labor here hath been to point the Pharisaic eye
Away from empty creed and form to where the wounded lie.

[324] How beautiful to us should seem the coming feet of such!
Their garments of self-sacrifice have healing in their touch;
Their gospel mission none may doubt, for they heed the Master's call,
Who here walked with the multitude, and sat at meat with all!

John Quincy Adams.

he rests with the immortals; his journey has been long:
For him no wail of sorrow, but a paen full and strong
So well and bravely has he done the work he found to do,
To justice, freedom, duty, God, and man forever true.

Strong to the end, a man of men, from out the strife he passed;
The grandest hour of all his life was that of earth the last.
Now midst his snowy hills of home to the grave they bear him down,
The glory of his fourscore years resting on him like a crown.

The mourning of the many bells, the drooping flags, all seem
Like some dim, unreal pageant passing onward in a dream; [325]
And following with the living to his last and narrow bed,
Methinks I see a shadowy band, a train of noble dead.

Tis a strange and weird procession that is slowly moving on,
The phantom patriots gathered to the funeral of their son!
In shadowy guise they move along, brave Otis with hushed tread,
And Warren walking reverently by the father of the dead.

Gliding foremost in the misty band a gentle form is there,
In the white robes of the angels and their glory round her hair.
She hovers near and bends above her world-wide honored child,
And the joy that heaven alone can know beams on her features mild.

And so they bear him to his grave in the fullness of his years,
True sage and prophet, leaving us in a time of many fears.
Nevermore amid the darkness of our wild and evil day
Shall his voice be heard to cheer us, shall his finger point the way.


Dr. Kane in Cuba.

A noble life is in thy care,
     A sacred trust to thee is given;
Bright Island! let thy healing air
     Be to him as the breath of Heaven.

The marvel of his daring life—
     The self-forgetting leader bold—
Stirs, like the trumpet's call to strife,
     A million hearts of meaner mould.

Eyes that shall never meet his own
     Look dim with tears across the sea,
Where from the dark and icy zone,
     Sweet Isle of Flowers! he comes to thee.

Fold him in rest, O pitying clime!
     Give back his wasted strength again;
Soothe, with thy endless summer time,
     His winter-wearied heart and brain.

Sing soft and low, thou tropic bird,
     From out the fragrant, flowery tree,—
The ear that hears thee now has heard
     The ice-break of the winter sea.

Through his long watch of awful night,
     He saw the Bear in Northern skies;
Now, to the Southern Cross of light
     He lifts in hope his weary eyes.

[327] Prayers from the hearts that watched in fear,
     When the dark North no answer gave,
Rise, trembling, to the Father's ear,
     That still His love may help and save.

Lady Franklin.

fold thy hands, thy work is over;
     Cool thy watching eyes with tears;
Let thy poor heart, over-wearied,
     Rest alike from hopes and fears,—

Hopes, that saw with sleepless vision
     One sad picture fading slow;
Fears, that followed, vague and nameless,
     Lifting back the veils of snow.

For thy brave one, for thy lost one,
     Truest heart of woman, weep!
Owning still the love that granted
     Unto thy beloved sleep.

Not for him that hour of terror
     When, the long ice-battle o'er,
In the sunless day his comrades
     Deathward trod the Polar shore.

Spared the cruel cold and famine,
     Spared the fainting heart's despair,
What but that could mercy grant him?
     What but that has been thy prayer?

[328] Dear to thee that last memorial
     From the cairn beside the sea;
Evermore the month of roses
     Shall be sacred time to thee.

Sad it is the mournful yew-tree
     O'er his slumbers may not wave;
Sad it is the English daisy
     May not blossom on his grave.

But his tomb shall storm and winter
     Shape and fashion year by year,
Pile his mighty mausoleum,
     Block by block, and tier on tier.

Guardian of its gleaming portal
     Shall his stainless honor be,
While thy love, a sweet immortal,
     Hovers o'er the winter sea.

Night and death.

the storm-wind is howling
     Through old pines afar;
The drear night is falling
     Without moon or star.

The roused sea is lashing
     The bold shore behind,
And the moan of its ebbing
     Keeps time with the wind.

[329] On, on through the darkness,
     A spectre, I pass
Where, like moaning of broken hearts,
     Surges the grass!

I see her lone head-stone,—
     Tis white as a shroud;
Like a pall, hangs above it
     The low drooping cloud.

Who speaks through the dark night
     And lull of the wind?
Tis the sound of the pine-leaves
     And sea-waves behind.

The dead girl is silent,—
     I stand by her now;
And her pulse beats no quicker,
     Nor crimsons her brow.

The small hand that trembled,
     When last in my own,
Lies patient and folded,
     And colder than stone.

Like the white blossoms falling
     To-night in the gale,
So she in her beauty
     Sank mournful and pale.

Yet I loved her! I utter
     Such words by her grave,
As I would not have spoken
     Her last breath to save.

[330] Of her love the angels
     In heaven might tell,
While mine would be whispered
     With shudders in hell!

Twas well that the white ones
     Who bore her to bliss
Shut out from her new life
     The vision of this;

Else, sure as I stand here,
     And speak of my love,
She would leave for my darkness
     Her glory above.

The meeting waters.

close beside the meeting waters,
     Long I stood as in a dream,
Watching how the little river
     Fell into the broader stream.

Calm and still the mingled current
     Glided to the waiting sea;
On its breast serenely pictured
     Floating cloud and skirting tree.

And I thought, “O human spirit!
     Strong and deep and pure and blest,
Let the stream of my existence
     Blend with thine, and find its rest!”

[331] I could die as dies the river,
     In that current deep and wide;
I would live as live its waters,
     Flashing from a stronger tide

The Wedding veil.

dear Anna, when I brought her veil,
     Her white veil, on her wedding night,
Threw o'er my thin brown hair its folds,
     And, laughing, turned me to the light.

“See, Bessie, see! you wear at last
     The bridal veil, forsworn for years!”
She saw my face,—her laugh was hushed,
     Her happy eyes were filled with tears.

With kindly haste and trembling hand
     She drew away the gauzy mist;
“Forgive, dear heart!” her sweet voice said:
     Her loving lips my forehead kissed.

We passed from out the searching light;
     The summer night was calm and fair:
I did not see her pitying eyes,
     I felt her soft hand smooth my hair.

Her tender love unlocked my heart;
     Mid falling tears, at last I said,
“Forsworn indeed to me that veil
     Because I only love the dead!”

[332] She stood one moment statue-still,
     And, musing, spake, in undertone,
“The living love may colder grow;
     The dead is safe with God alone”


the pilgrim and stranger who through the day
Holds over the desert his trackless way,
Where the terrible sands no shade have known,
No sound of life save his camel's moan,
Hears, at last, through the mercy of Allah to all,
From his tent-door at evening the Bedouin's call:
Whoever thou art whose need is great,
In the name of God, the Compassionate
And Merciful One, for thee I wait!”

For gifts in His name of food and rest
The tents of Islam of God are blest,
Thou who hast faith in the Christ above,
Shall the Koran teach thee the Law of Love?—
O Christian!—open thy heart and door,
Cry east and west to the wandering poor:
Whoever thou art whose need is great,
In the name of Christ, the Compassionate
And Merciful One, for thee I wait!”

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Elizabeth H. Whittier (2)
Kane (2)
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