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.
 
Personal Poems
Wilson
 
          Read at the Massachusetts Club on the seventieth anniversary of the birthday of Vice-President Wilson, February 16, 1882.

THE LOWLIEST born of all the land,
He wrung from Fate’s reluctant hand
  The gifts which happier boyhood claims;
And, tasting on a thankless soil
The bitter bread of unpaid toil,        5
  He fed his soul with noble aims.
 
And Nature, kindly provident,
To him the future’s promise lent;
  The powers that shape man’s destinies,
Patience and faith and toil, he knew,        10
The close horizon round him grew,
  Broad with great possibilities.
 
By the low hearth-fire’s fitful blaze
He read of old heroic days,
  The sage’s thought, the patriot’s speech;        15
Unhelped, alone, himself he taught,
His school the craft at which he wrought,
  His lore the book within his reach.
 
He felt his country’s need; he knew
The work her children had to do;        20
  And when, at last, he heard the call
In her behalf to serve and dare,
Beside his senatorial chair
  He stood the unquestioned peer of all.
 
Beyond the accident of birth        25
He proved his simple manhood’s worth;
  Ancestral pride and classic grace
Confessed the large-brained artisan,
So clear of sight, so wise in plan
  And counsel, equal to his place.        30
 
With glance intuitive he saw
Through all disguise of form and law,
  And read men like an open book;
Fearless and firm, he never quailed
Nor turned aside for threats, nor failed        35
  To do the thing he undertook.
 
How wise, how brave, he was, how well
He bore himself, let history tell
  While waves our flag o’er land and sea,
No black thread in its warp or weft;        40
He found dissevered States, he left
  A grateful Nation, strong and free!
 
 
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