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Hushed now the sweet consoling tongue
Of him whose lyre the Muses strung;
His last low swan-song has been sung!

His last! And ours, dear friend, is near;
As clouds that rake the mountains here,
We too shall pass and disappear.

Yet howsoever changed or tost,
Not even a wreath of mist is lost,
No atom can itself exhaust.

So shall the soul's superior force

Live on and run its endless course

In God's unlimited universe.

And we, whose brief reflections seem
To fade like clouds from lake and stream,
Shall brighten in a holier beam.

In "Snow-Bound," our poet touchingly records the family group that circled round the hearth of early days, and wonders where the dear members of that household now are:

O Time and Change!-with hair as gray
As was my sire's that winter day,
How strange it seems, with so much gone
Of life and love, to still live on!
Ah, brother! only I and thou
Are left of all that circle now,-
The dear home faces whereupon
That fitful firelight paled and shone.
Henceforward, listen as we will,
The voices of that hearth are still;
Look where we may, the wide earth o'er,
Those lighted faces smile no more.
We tread the paths their feet have worn,

We sit beneath their orchard trees,
We hear, like them, the hum of bees
And rustle of the bladed corn;

A GENIUS RUSTIC AND HOMELY

We turn the pages that they read,

Their written words we linger o'er,
But in the sun they cast no shade,
No voice is heard, no sign is made,

No step is on the conscious floor!
Yet Love will dream, and Faith will trust,
(Since He who knows our need is just,)
That somehow, somewhere, meet we must.
Alas for him who never sees

The stars shine through his cypress-trees!
Who, hopeless, lays his dead away,
Nor looks to see the breaking day
Across the mournful marbles play!
Who hath not learned, in hours of faith,
The truth to flesh and sense unknown,
That Life is ever lord of Death,

And Love can never lose its own!

151

If Whittier had written no other poem than this, he would have earned immortality as a poet. Not by his worst, but by his best, must the poet be judged. The defects of Whittier's poetry are easy to perceive and easy to criticize. His genius was rustic and homely; he never learned compression; he spun out his verse after the divine afflatus had ceased; he moralized when he should have left his story to tell its own lesson. But all this is only to say that he regarded poetry as a means, rather than as an end, and that he sought always to serve truth and righteousness thereby. There can be no more striking contrast in this respect than that between him and Goethe. Art for art's sake was to Whittier a prostitution of genius. "A long poem," he said, " unconsecrated to religion and humanity, would be a criminal waste of life." He aimed to fulfil Paul's injunction to do all to the glory of God, and the glory of God meant for him the good

152

A NATURAL BALLADIST

of man. So he has been called "the Quaker priest "; and much of his poetry is little more than rhythmical preaching. But it came from the heart, and it touched the heart. It was the utterance of an uncorrupted conscience, and it stirred the conscience. When Lowell was a callow youth, and Longfellow was absorbed in his books, and Emerson was wrapped in philosophic clouds, Whittier alone gave himself body and soul to the cause of freedom, and compelled all the rest to follow. More than all other poets combined he roused our people to see the evil of slavery and at unspeakable cost to abolish it.

He was a natural balladist. His poetry was simple and direct, like that of Burns; his prose had the lofty swell and exuberance of Milton. Indian legends attracted him, but he never mastered the improvidence of that dying race, as did Longfellow; the wit and humor of New England did not impress him as it impressed Lowell. But the courage of a humble soul was never more thrillingly described than in "Barbara Frietchie," nor the pathos of life more touchingly than in that ballad of "Maud Muller," in which the New England Judge and the village maid meet for one moment and part to see each other again only as memory makes recall:

Alas for maiden, alas for Judge,

For rich repiner and household drudge!

God pity them both! and pity us all,
Who vainly the dreams of youth recall.

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: "It might have been!"

REWARDS FOR SERVICE AND SACRIFICE 153

Ah, well! for us all some sweet hope lies
Deeply buried from human eyes;

And, in the hereafter, angels may
Roll the stone from its grave away!

We have had no poet more truly Christian, none who laid his gifts more completely at the feet of Christ, none who more completely identified himself with the suffering and oppressed. His life of sacrifice was not permitted to go unrewarded. After twenty years of privation, in which he was regarded as a mere rhymester and reformer, the world began to perceive that he was a true poet, and that his homely verse was most truly American. Not only the friendship of the learned and the good, but an unexpected prosperity and comfort, crowned his latter days. The promise of “manifold more in this present time" was fulfilled to him. On his eightieth birthday he was presented with a portfolio containing hundreds of autographs of Massachusetts officials, the signatures of "fifty-nine United States Senators, the entire bench of the Supreme Court of the United States headed by Chief Justice Waite, Speaker Carlisle of the House of Representatives, and three hundred and thirty members of the House coming from every State and Territory in the Union. To these were added the names of many private citizens of distinction, such as George Bancroft, Robert C. Winthrop, James G. Blaine, and Frederick Douglass." This portfolio only feebly expressed the affection in which he was held by the whole American people, and their gratitude for his influence and example. Like Abraham Lincoln, he was a man

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of the people, and a man for the hour. He was honored because he had served.

Whittier lived to be eighty-five years of age. Bachelor as he was, he was tenderly cared for by relatives and friends, and his last days were quiet and restful. His hymn entitled "The Eternal Goodness" is a confession of faith which has comforted many of the afflicted:

I long for household voices gone,
For vanished smiles I long,
But God hath led my dear ones on,
And He can do no wrong.

I know not what the future hath
Of marvel or surprise,

Assured alone that life and death
His mercy underlies.

And if my heart and flesh are weak
To bear an untried pain,
The bruised reed He will not break,
But strengthen and sustain.

No offering of my own I have,
Nor works my faith to prove;
I can but give the gifts He gave,
And plead His love for love.

And so beside the Silent Sea,
I wait the muffled oar;

No harm from Him can come to me
On ocean or on shore.

I know not where His islands lift
Their fronded palms in air;

I only know I cannot drift
Beyond His love and care.

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