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.
 
Religious Poems
Child-Songs
 
STILL linger in our noon of time
  And on our Saxon tongue
The echoes of the home-born hymns
  The Aryan mothers sung.
 
And childhood had its litanies        5
  In every age and clime;
The earliest cradles of the race
  Were rocked to poet’s rhyme.
 
Nor sky, nor wave, nor tree, nor flower,
  Nor green earth’s virgin sod,        10
So moved the singer’s heart of old
  As these small ones of God.
 
The mystery of unfolding life
  Was more than dawning morn,
Than opening flower or crescent moon        15
  The human soul new-born!
 
And still to childhood’s sweet appeal
  The heart of genius turns,
And more than all the sages teach
  From lisping voices learns,—        20
 
The voices loved of him who sang,
  Where Tweed and Teviot glide,
That sound to-day on all the winds
  That blow from Rydal-side,—
 
Heard in the Teuton’s household songs,        25
  And folk-lore of the Finn,
Where’er to holy Christmas hearths
  The Christ-child enters in!
 
Before life’s sweetest mystery still
  The heart in reverence kneels;        30
The wonder of the primal birth
  The latest mother feels.
 
We need love’s tender lessons taught
  As only weakness can;
God hath His small interpreters;        35
  The child must teach the man.
 
We wander wide through evil years,
  Our eyes of faith grow dim;
But he is freshest from His hands
  And nearest unto Him!        40
 
And haply, pleading long with Him
  For sin-sick hearts and cold,
The angels of our childhood still
  The Father’s face behold.
 
Of such the kingdom!—Teach Thou us,        45
  O Master most divine,
To feel the deep significance
  Of these wise words of Thine!
 
The haughty eye shall seek in vain
  What innocence beholds;        50
No cunning finds the key of heaven,
  No strength its gate unfolds.
 
Alone to guilelessness and love
  That gate shall open fall;
The mind of pride is nothingness,        55
  The childlike heart is all!

  1875.
 
 
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