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
June on the Merrimac
 
O DWELLERS in the stately towns,
  What come ye out to see?
This common earth, this common sky,
  This water flowing free?
 
As gayly as these kalmia flowers        5
  Your door-yard blossoms spring;
As sweetly as these wild-wood birds
  Your cagëd minstrels sing.
 
You find but common bloom and green,
  The rippling river’s rune,        10
The beauty which is everywhere
  Beneath the skies of June;
 
The Hawkswood oaks, the storm-torn plumes
  Of old pine-forest kings,
Beneath whose century-woven shade        15
  Deer Island’s mistress sings.
 
And here are pictured Artichoke,
  And Curson’s bowery mill;
And Pleasant Valley smiles between
  The river and the hill.        20
 
You know full well these banks of bloom,
  The upland’s wavy line,
And how the sunshine tips with fire
  The needles of the pine.
 
Yet, like some old remembered psalm,        25
  Or sweet, familiar face,
Not less because of commonness
  You love the day and place.
 
And not in vain in this soft air
  Shall hard-strung nerves relax,        30
Not all in vain the o’erworn brain
  Forego its daily tax.
 
The lust of power, the greed of gain
  Have all the year their own;
The haunting demons well may let        35
  Our one bright day alone.
 
Unheeded let the newsboy call,
  Aside the ledger lay:
The world will keep its treadmill step
  Though we fall out to-day.        40
 
The truants of life’s weary school,
  Without excuse from thrift
We change for once the gains of toil
  For God’s unpurchased gift.
 
From ceilëd rooms, from silent books,        45
  From crowded car and town,
Dear Mother Earth, upon thy lap,
  We lay our tired heads down.
 
Cool, summer wind, our heated brows;
  Blue river, through the green        50
Of clustering pines, refresh the eyes
  Which all too much have seen.
 
For us these pleasant woodland ways
  Are thronged with memories old,
Have felt the grasp of friendly hands        55
  And heard love’s story told.
 
A sacred presence overbroods
  The earth whereon we meet;
These winding forest-paths are trod
  By more than mortal feet.        60
 
Old friends called from us by the voice
  Which they alone could hear,
From mystery to mystery,
  From life to life, draw near.
 
More closely for the sake of them        65
  Each other’s hands we press;
Our voices take from them a tone
  Of deeper tenderness.
 
Our joy is theirs, their trust is ours,
  Alike below, above,        70
Or here or there, about us fold
  The arms of one great love!
 
We ask to-day no countersign,
  No party names we own;
Unlabelled, individual,        75
  We bring ourselves alone.
 
What cares the unconventioned wood
  For pass-words of the town?
The sound of fashion’s shibboleth
  The laughing waters drown.        80
 
Here cant forgets his dreary tone,
  And care his face forlorn;
The liberal air and sunshine laugh
  The bigot’s zeal to scorn.
 
From manhood’s weary shoulder falls        85
  His load of selfish cares;
And woman takes her rights as flowers
  And brooks and birds take theirs.
 
The license of the happy woods,
  The brook’s release are ours;        90
The freedom of the unshamed wind
  Among the glad-eyed flowers.
 
Yet here no evil thought finds place,
  Nor foot profane comes in;
Our grove, like that of Samothrace,        95
  Is set apart from sin.
 
We walk on holy ground; above
  A sky more holy smiles;
The chant of the beatitudes
  Swells down these leafy aisles.        100
 
Thanks to the gracious Providence
  That brings us here once more;
For memories of the good behind
  And hopes of good before!
 
And if, unknown to us, sweet days        105
  Of June like this must come,
Unseen of us these laurels clothe
  The river-banks with bloom;
 
And these green paths must soon be trod
  By other feet than ours,        110
Full long may annual pilgrims come
  To keep the Feast of Flowers;
 
The matron be a girl once more,
  The bearded man a boy,
And we, in heaven’s eternal June,        115
  Be glad for earthly joy!

  1876.
 
 
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