Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
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John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
 
Poems of Nature
The Vanishers
 
SWEETEST of all childlike dreams
  In the simple Indian lore
Still to me the legend seems
  Of the shapes who flit before.
 
Flitting, passing, seen and gone,        5
  Never reached nor found at rest,
Baffling search, but beckoning on
  To the Sunset of the Blest.
 
From the clefts of mountain rocks,
  Through the dark of lowland firs,        10
Flash the eyes and flow the locks
  Of the mystic Vanishers!
 
And the fisher in his skiff,
  And the hunter on the moss,
Hear their call from cape and cliff,        15
  See their hands the birch-leaves toss.
 
Wistful, longing, through the green
  Twilight of the clustered pines,
In their faces rarely seen
  Beauty more than mortal shines.        20
 
Fringed with gold their mantles flow
  On the slopes of westering knolls;
In the wind they whisper low
  Of the Sunset Land of Souls.
 
Doubt who may, O friend of mine!        25
  Thou and I have seen them too;
On before with beck and sign
  Still they glide, and we pursue.
 
More than clouds of purple trail
  In the gold of setting day;        30
More than gleams of wing or sail
  Beckon from the sea-mist gray.
 
Glimpses of immortal youth,
  Gleams and glories seen and flown,
Far-heard voices sweet with truth,        35
  Airs from viewless Eden blown;
 
Beauty that eludes our grasp,
  Sweetness that transcends our taste,
Loving hands we may not clasp,
  Shining feet that mock our haste;        40
 
Gentle eyes we closed below,
  Tender voices heard once more,
Smile and call us, as they go
  On and onward, still before.
 
Guided thus, O friend of mine!        45
  Let us walk our little way,
Knowing by each beckoning sign
  That we are not quite astray.
 
Chase we still, with baffled feet,
  Smiling eye and waving hand,        50
Sought and seeker soon shall meet,
  Lost and found, in Sunset Land!

  1864.
 
 
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