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.
 
Appendix I. Early and Uncollected Verses
The Past and Coming Year
 
  WAVE of an awful torrent, thronging down,
With all the wealth of centuries, and the cold
Embraces of eternity, o’erstrown
With the great wrecks of empire, and the old
Magnificence of nations, who are gone;        5
Thy last, faint murmur—thy departing sigh,
Along the shore of being, like a tone
Thrilling on broken harp-strings, or the swell
Of the chained winds’ last whisper, hath gone by,
And thou hast floated from the world of breath        10
To the still guidance of o’ermastering Death,
Thy pilot to eternity. Farewell!
 
  Go, swell the throngful past. Go, blend with all
The garnered things of Death; and bear with thee
The treasures of thy pilgrimage, the tall        15
And beautiful dreams of Hope, the ministry
Of Love and high Ambition. Man remains
To dream again as idly; and the stains
Of passion will be visible once more.
The winged spirit will not be confined        20
By the experience of thy journey. Mind
Will struggle in its prison-house, and still,
With Earth’s strong fetters binding it to ill,
Unfurl the pinions fitted but to soar
In that pure atmosphere, where spirits range—        25
The home of high existences—where change
And blighting may not enter. Love again
Will bloom, a fickle flower, upon the grave
Of old affections; and Ambition wave
His eagle-plume most proudly, for the rein        30
Of Conscience will be loosened from the soul
To give his purpose freedom. The control
Of reason will be changeful, and the ties
Which gather hearts together, and make up
The romance of existence, will be rent:        35
Yea, poison will be poured in Friendship’s cup;
And for Earth’s low familiar element,
Even Love itself forsake its kindred skies.
 
But not alone dark visions! happier things
Will float above existence, like the wings        40
Of the starred bird of paradise; and Love
Will not be all a dream, or rather prove
A dream—a sweet forgetfulness—that hath
No wakeful changes, ending but in Death.
Yea, pure hearts shall be pledged beneath the eyes        45
Of the beholding heaven, and in the light
Of the love-hallowed moon. The quiet Night
Shall hear that language underneath the skies
Which whispereth above them, as the prayer
And the deep vow are spoken. Passing fair        50
And gifted creatures, with the light of truth
And undebarred affection, as a crown,
Resting upon the beautiful brow of youth,
Shall smile on stately manhood, kneeling down
Before them, as to Idols. Friendship’s hand        55
Shall clasp its brothers; and Affection’s tear
Be sanctified with sympathy. The bier
Of stricken love shall lose the fears, which Death
Giveth his awful work, and earnest Faith
Shall look beyond the shadow of the clay,        60
The pulseless sepulchre, the cold decay;
And to the quiet of the spirit-land
Follow the mourned and lovely. Gifted ones
Lighting the Heaven of Intellect, like suns,
Shall wrestle well with circumstance, and bear        65
The agony of scorn, the preying care,
Wedded to burning bosoms; and go down
In sorrow to the noteless sepulchre,
With one lone hope embracing like a crown
The cold and death-like forehead of Despair,        70
That after times shall treasure up their fame
Even as a proud inheritance and high;
And beautiful beings love to breathe their name
With the recorded things that never die.
 
  And thou, gray voyager to the breezeless sea        75
Of infinite Oblivion—speed thou on:
Another gift of time succeedeth thee
Fresh from the hand of God; for thou hast done
The errand of thy destiny; and none
May dream of thy returning. Go, and bear        80
Mortality’s frail records to thy cold,
Eternal prison-house; the midnight prayer
Of suffering bosoms, and the fevered care
Of worldly hearts; the miser’s dream of gold;
Ambition’s grasp at greatness; the quenched light        85
Of broken spirits; the forgiven wrong
And the abiding curse—ay, bear along
These wrecks of thy own making. Lo, thy knell
Gathers upon the windy breath of night,
Its last and faintest echo. Fare thee well!

  1829.
        90
 
 
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