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.
 
Occasional Poems
A Lay of Old Time
 
          Written for the Essex County Agricultural Fair, and sung at the banquet at Newburyport, October 2, 1856.

ONE morning of the first sad Fall,
  Poor Adam and his bride
Sat in the shade of Eden’s wall—
  But on the outer side.
 
She, blushing in her fig-leaf suit        5
  For the chaste garb of old;
He, sighing o’er his bitter fruit
  For Eden’s drupes of gold.
 
Behind them, smiling in the morn,
  Their forfeit garden lay,        10
Before them, wild with rock and thorn,
  The desert stretched away.
 
They heard the air above them fanned,
  A light step on the sward,
And lo! they saw before them stand        15
  The angel of the Lord!
 
“Arise,” he said, “why look behind,
  When hope is all before,
And patient hand and willing mind,
  Your loss may yet restore?        20
 
“I leave with you a spell whose power
  Can make the desert glad,
And call around you fruit and flower
  As fair as Eden had.
 
“I clothe your hands with power to lift        25
  The curse from off your soil;
Your very doom shall seem a gift,
  Your loss a gain through Toil.
 
“Go, cheerful as yon humming-bees,
  To labor as to play.”        30
White glimmering over Eden’s trees
  The angel passed away.
 
The pilgrims of the world went forth
  Obedient to the word,
And found where’er they tilled the earth        35
  A garden of the Lord!
 
The thorn-tree cast its evil fruit
  And blushed with plum and pear,
And seeded grass and trodden root
  Grew sweet beneath their care.        40
 
We share our primal parents’ fate,
  And, in our turn and day,
Look back on Eden’s sworded gate
  As sad and lost as they.
 
But still for us his native skies        45
  The pitying Angel leaves,
And leads through Toil to Paradise
  New Adams and new Eves!
 
 
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