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.
 
Narrative and Legendary Poems
Banished from Massachusetts
 
        
1660
  
  On a painting by E. A. Abbey. The General Court of Massachusetts enacted Oct. 19, 1658, that “any person or persons of the cursed sect of Quakers” should, on conviction of the same, be banished, on pain of death, from the jurisdiction of the commonwealth.

OVER the threshold of his pleasant home
  Set in green clearings passed the exiled Friend,
  In simple trust, misdoubting not the end.
“Dear heart of mine!” he said, “the time has come
To trust the Lord for shelter.” One long gaze        5
  The goodwife turned on each familiar thing,—
  The lowing kine, the orchard blossoming,
The open door that showed the hearth-fire’s blaze,—
And calmly answered, “Yes, He will provide.”
Silent and slow they crossed the homestead’s bound,        10
Lingering the longest by their child’s grave-mound.
“Move on, or stay and hang!” the sheriff cried.
They left behind them more than home or land,
And set sad faces to an alien strand.
 
Safer with winds and waves than human wrath,        15
  With ravening wolves than those whose zeal for God
  Was cruelty to man, the exiles trod
Drear leagues of forest without guide or path,
Or launching frail boats on the uncharted sea,
  Round storm-vexed capes, whose teeth of granite ground        20
  The waves to foam, their perilous way they wound,
Enduring all things so their souls were free.
Oh, true confessors, shaming them who did
  Anew the wrong their Pilgrim Fathers bore!
  For you the Mayflower spread her sail once more,        25
Freighted with souls, to all that duty bid
Faithful as they who sought an unknown land,
O’er wintry seas, from Holland’s Hook of Sand!
 
So from his lost home to the darkening main,
  Bodeful of storm, stout Macy held his way,        30
  And, when the green shore blended with the gray,
His poor wife moaned: “Let us turn back again.”
“Nay, woman, weak of faith, kneel down,” said he,
  “And say thy prayers: the Lord himself will steer;
  And led by Him, nor man nor devils I fear!” 1        35
So the gray Southwicks, from a rainy sea,
Saw, far and faint, the loom of land, and gave
  With feeble voices thanks for friendly ground
  Whereon to rest their weary feet, and found
A peaceful death-bed and a quiet grave        40
Where, ocean-walled, and wiser than his age,
The lord of Shelter scorned the bigot’s rage.
 
Aquidneck’s isle, Nantucket’s lonely shores,
  And Indian-haunted Narragansett saw
  The way-worn travellers round their camp-fire draw,        45
Or heard the plashing of their weary oars.
And every place whereon they rested grew
  Happier for pure and gracious womanhood,
  And men whose names for stainless honor stood,
Founders of States and rulers wise and true.        50
The Muse of history yet shall make amends
  To those who freedom, peace, and justice taught,
  Beyond their dark age led the van of thought,
And left unforfeited the name of Friends.
O mother State, how foiled was thy design!        55
The gain was theirs, the loss alone was thine.
 
Note 1. “He [Macy] shook the dust from off his feet, and departed with all his worldly goods and his family. He encountered a severe storm, and his wife, influenced by some omens of disaster, besought him to put back. He told her not to fear, for his faith was perfect. But she entreated him again. Then the spirit that impelled him broke forth: ‘Woman, go below and seek thy God. I fear not the witches on earth, or the devils in hell!’”—Life of Robert Pike, page 55. [back]
 
 
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