Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
Better Moments
By Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806–1867)
 
MY mother’s voice! how often creeps
  Its cadence on my lonely hours!
Like healing sent on wings of sleep,
  Or dew to the unconscious flowers.
I can forget her melting prayer        5
  While leaping pulses madly fly,
But in the still unbroken air
Her gentle tone comes stealing by,
  And years, and sin, and manhood flee,
And leave me at my mother’s knee.        10
The book of nature, and the print
  Of beauty on the whispering sea,
Give aye to me some lineament
  Of what I have been taught to be.
My heart is harder, and perhaps        15
  My manliness hath drunk up tears,
And there ’s a mildew in the lapse
  Of a few miserable years—
But nature’s book is even yet
With all my mother’s lessons writ.        20
I have been out at eventide
  Beneath a moonlight sky of spring,
When earth was garnish’d like a bride,
  And night had on her silver wing—
When bursting leaves and diamond grass,        25
  And waters leaping to the light,
And all that makes the pulses pass
  With wilder fleetness, throng’d the night—
When all was beauty—then have I
  With friends on whom my love is flung        30
Like myrrh on winds of Araby,
  Gazed up where evening’s lamp is hung.
And when the beautiful spirit there,
  Flung over me its golden chain,
My mother’s voice came on the air        35
  Like the light dropping of the rain—
And resting on some silver star
  The spirit of a bended knee,
I’ ve pour’d her low and fervent prayer
  That our eternity might be        40
To rise in heaven like stars at night!
And tread a living path of light
I have been on the dewy hills,
  When night was stealing from the dawn,
And mist was on the waking rills,        45
  And tints were delicately drawn
In the gray East—when birds were waking
  With a low murmur in the trees,
And melody by fits was breaking
  Upon the whisper of the breeze,        50
And this when I was forth, perchance
As a worn reveller from the dance—
  And when the sun sprang gloriously
And freely up, and hill and river
  Were catching upon wave and tree        55
The arrows from his subtle quiver—
  I say a voice has thrill’d me then,
Heard on the still and rushing light,
  Or, creeping from the silent glen
Like words from the departing night—        60
  Hath stricken me, and I have press’d
On the wet grass my fever’d brow,
  And pouring forth the earliest
First prayer, with which I learn’d to bow,
  Have felt my mother’s spirit rush        65
Upon me as in by-past years,
  And yielding to the blessed gush
Of my ungovernable tears,
  Have risen up—the gay, the wild—
  As humble as a very child.        70
 
 
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