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.
 
The Tent on the Beach
Prelude
 
          It can scarcely be necessary to name as the two companions whom I reckoned with myself in this poetical picnic, Fields the lettered magnate, and Taylor the free cosmopolite. The long line of sandy beach which defines almost the whole of the New Hampshire sea-coast is especially marked near its southern extremity, by the salt-meadows of Hampton. The Hampton River winds through these meadows, and the reader may, if he choose, imagine my tent pitched near its mouth, where also was the scene of the Wreck of Rivermouth. The green bluff to the northward is Great Boar’s Head; southward is the Merrimac, with Newburyport lifting its steepless above brown roofs and green trees on its banks.

I WOULD not sin, in this half-playful strain,—
  Too light perhaps for serious years, though born
Of the enforced leisure of slow pain,—
  Against the pure ideal which has drawn
My feet to follow its far-shining gleam.        5
A simple plot is mine: legends and runes
Of credulous days, old fancies that have lain
Silent from boyhood taking voice again,
Warmed into life once more, even as the tunes
That, frozen in the fabled hunting-horn,        10
Thawed into sound:—a winter fireside dream
Of dawns and sunsets by the summer sea,
Whose sands are traversed by a silent throng
Of voyagers from that vaster mystery
Of which it is an emblem;—and the dear        15
Memory of one who might have tuned my song
To sweeter music by her delicate ear.

  1st mo., 1867.
 
 
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