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
Evening in Burmah
 
A NIGHT of wonder! piled afar
  With ebon feet and crests of snow,
Like Himalaya’s peaks, which bar
The sunset and the sunset’s star
  From half the shadowed vale below,        5
Volumed and vast the dense clouds lie,
And over them, and down the sky,
  Paled in the moon, the lightnings go.
 
And what a strength of light and shade
  Is chequering all the earth below!        10
And, through the jungle’s verdant braid,
Of tangled vine and wild reed made,
  What blossoms in the moonlight glow!
The Indian rose’s loveliness,
The ceiba with its crimson dress,        15
  The twining myrtle dropped with snow.
 
And flitting in the fragrant air,
  Or nestling in the shadowy trees,
A thousand bright-hued birds are there—
Strange plumage, quivering wild and rare,        20
  With every faintly breathing breeze;
And, wet with dew from roses shed,
The bulbul droops her weary head,
  Forgetful of her melodies.
 
Uprising from the orange-leaves,        25
  The tall pagoda’s turrets glow;
O’er graceful shaft and fretted eaves,
Its verdant web the myrtle weaves,
  And hangs in flowering wreaths below;
And where the clustered palms eclipse        30
The moonbeams, from its marble lips
  The fountain’s silver waters flow.
 
Strange beauty fills the earth and air,
  The fragrant grove and flowering tree,
And yet my thoughts are wandering where        35
My native rocks lie bleak and bare,
  A weary way beyond the sea.
The yearning spirit is not here;
It lingers on a spot more dear
  Than India’s brightest bowers to me.        40
 
Methinks I tread the well-known street—
  The tree my childhood loved is there,
Its bare-worn roots are at my feet,
And through its open boughs I meet
  White glimpses of the place of prayer;        45
And unforgotten eyes again
Are glancing through the cottage pane,
  Than Asia’s lustrous eyes more fair.
 
Oh, holy haunts! oh, childhood’s home!
  Where, now, my wandering heart, is thine?        50
Here, where the dusky heathen come
To bow before the deaf and dumb,
  Dead idols of their own design;
Where in their worshipped river’s tide
The infant sinks, and on its side        55
  The widow’s funeral altars shine!
 
Here, where, mid light and song and flowers,
  The priceless soul in ruin lies;
Lost, dead to all those better powers
Which link this fallen world of ours        60
  To God’s clear-shining Paradise;
And wrong and shame and hideous crime
Are like the foliage of their clime,
  The unshorn growth of centuries!
 
Turn, then, my heart; thy home is here;        65
  No other now remains for thee:
The smile of love, and friendship’s tear,
The tones that melted on thine ear,
  The mutual thrill of sympathy,
The welcome of the household band,        70
The pressure of the lip and hand,
  Thou mayst not hear, nor feel, nor see.
 
God of my spirit! Thou, alone,
  Who watchest o’er my pillowed head,
Whose ear is open to the moan        75
And sorrowing of thy child, hast known
  The grief which at my heart has fed;
The struggle of my soul to rise
Above its earth-born sympathies;
  The tears of many a sleepless bed!        80
 
Oh, be Thine arm, as it hath been,
  In every test of heart and faith,—
The tempter’s doubt, the wiles of men,
The heathen’s scoff, the bosom sin,—
  A helper and a stay beneath;        85
A strength in weakness, through the strife
And anguish of my wasting life—
  My solace and my hope, in death!

  1833.
 
 
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