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
St. Martin’s Summer
 
          This name in some parts of Europe is given to the season we call Indian Summer, in honor of the good St. Martin. The title of the poem was suggested by the fact that the day it refers to was the exact date of that set apart to the Saint, the 11th of November.

THOUGH flowers have perished at the touch
  Of Frost, the early comer,
I hail the season loved so much,
  The good St. Martin’s summer.
 
O gracious morn, with rose-red dawn,        5
  And thin moon curving o’er it!
The old year’s darling, latest born,
  More loved than all before it!
 
How flamed the sunrise through the pines!
  How stretched the birchen shadows,        10
Braiding in long, wind-wavered lines
  The westward sloping meadows!
 
The sweet day, opening as a flower
  Unfolds its petals tender,
Renews for us at noontide’s hour        15
  The summer’s tempered splendor.
 
The birds are hushed; alone the wind,
  That through the woodland searches,
The red-oak’s lingering leaves can find,
  And yellow plumes of larches.        20
 
But still the balsam-breathing pine
  Invites no thought of sorrow,
No hint of loss from air like wine
  The earth’s content can borrow.
 
The summer and the winter here        25
  Midway a truce are holding,
A soft, consenting atmosphere
  Their tents of peace enfolding.
 
The silent woods, the lonely hills,
  Rise solemn in their gladness;        30
The quiet that the valley fills
  Is scarcely joy or sadness.
 
How strange! The autumn yesterday
  In winter’s grasp seemed dying;
On whirling winds from skies of gray        35
  The early snow was flying.
 
And now, while over Nature’s mood
  There steals a soft relenting,
I will not mar the present good,
  Forecasting or lamenting.        40
 
My autumn time and Nature’s hold
  A dreamy tryst together,
And, both grown old, about us fold
  The golden-tissued weather.
 
I lean my heart against the day        45
  To feel its bland caressing;
I will not let it pass away
  Before it leaves its blessing.
 
God’s angels come not as of old
  The Syrian shepherds knew them;        50
In reddening dawns, in sunset gold,
  And warm noon lights I view them.
 
Nor need there is, in times like this
  When heaven to earth draws nearer,
Of wing or song as witnesses        55
  To make their presence clearer.
 
O stream of life, whose swifter flow
  Is of the end forewarning,
Methinks thy sundown afterglow
  Seems less of night than morning!        60
 
Old cares grow light; aside I lay
  The doubts and fears that troubled;
The quiet of the happy day
  Within my soul is doubled.
 
That clouds must veil this fair sunshine        65
  Not less a joy I find it;
Nor less yon warm horizon line
  That winter lurks behind it.
 
The mystery of the untried days
  I close my eyes from reading;        70
His will be done whose darkest ways
  To light and life are leading!
 
Less drear the winter night shall be,
  If memory cheer and hearten
Its heavy hours with thoughts of thee,        75
  Sweet summer of St. Martin!

  1880.
 
 
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