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A HARVEST IDYL.
I CALL the old time back: I bring my lay
in tender memory of the summer day
When, where our native river lapsed away,
We dreamed it over, while the thrushes made
Songs of their own, and the great pine-trees laid
On warm noonlights the masses of their shade.
And she was with us, living o'er again
Her life in ours, despite of years and pain,--
The Autumn's brightness after latter rain.
Beautiful in her holy peace as one
Who stands, at evening, when the work is done,
Glorified in the setting of the sun!
Her memory makes our common landscape seem
Fairer than any of which painters dream;
Lights the brown hills and sings in every stream;
For she whose speech was always truth's pure gold
Heard, not unpleased, its simple legends told,
And loved with us the beautiful and old.
I. THE RIVER VALLEY.
Across the level tableland,
A grassy, rarely trodden way,
With thinnest skirt of birchen spray
And stunted growth of cedar, leads
To where you see the dull plain fall
Sheer off, steep-slanted, ploughed by all
The seasons' rainfalls. On its brink
The over-leaning harebells swing,
With roots half bare the pine-trees cling;
And, through the shadow looking west,
You see the wavering river flow
Along a vale, that far below
Holds to the sun, the sheltering hills
And glimmering water-line between,
Broad fields of corn and meadows green,
And fruit-bent orchards grouped around
The low brown roofs and painted eaves,
And chimney-tops half hid in leaves.
No warmer valley hides behind
Yon wind-scourged sand-dunes, cold and bleak;
No fairer river comes to seek
The wave-sung welcome of the sea,
Or mark the northmost border line
Of sun-loved growths of nut and vine.
Here, ground-fast in their native fields,
Untempted by the city's gain,
The quiet farmer folk remain
Who bear the pleasant name of Friends,
And keep their fathers' gentle ways
And simple speech of Bible days;
In whose neat homesteads woman holds
With modest ease her equal place,
And wears upon her tranquil face
The look of one who, merging not
Her self-hood in another's will,
Is love's and duty's handmaid still.
Pass with me down the path that winds
Through birches to the open land,
Where, close upon the river strand
You mark a cellar, vine o'errun,
Above whose wall of loosened stones
The sumach lifts its reddening cones,
And the black nightshade's berries shine,
And broad, unsightly burdocks fold
The household ruin, century-old.
Here, in the dim colonial time
Of sterner lives and gloomier faith,
A woman lived, tradition saith,
Who wrought her neighbors foul annoy,
And witched and plagued the country-side,
Till at the hangman's hand she died.
Sit with me while the westering day
Falls slantwise down the quiet vale,
And, haply ere yon loitering sail,
That rounds the upper headland, falls
Below Deer Island's pines, or sees
Behind it Hawkswood's belt of trees
Rise black against the sinking sun,
My idyl of its days of old,
The valley's legend, shall be told.
II. THE HUSKING.
It was the pleasant harvest-time,
When cellar-bins are closely stowed,
And garrets bend beneath their load,
And the old swallow-haunted barns,--
Brown-gabled, long, and full of seams
Through which the rooted sunlight streams,
And winds blow freshly in, to shake
The red plumes of the roosted cocks,
And the loose hay-mow's scented locks,
Are filled with summer's ripened stores,
Its odorous grass and barley sheaves,
From their low scaffolds to their eaves.
On Esek Harden's oaken floor,
With many an autumn threshing worn,
Lay the heaped ears of unhusked corn.
And thither came young men and maids,
Beneath a moon that, large and low,
Lit that sweet eve of long ago.
They took their places; some by chance,
And others by a merry voice
Or sweet smile guided to their choice.
How pleasantly the rising moon,
Between the shadow of the mows,
Looked on them through the great elm-boughs!
On sturdy boyhood, sun-embrowned,
On girlhood with its solid curves
Of healthful strength and painless nerves!
And jests went round, and laughs that made
The house-dog answer with his howl,
And kept astir the barn-yard fowl;
And quaint old songs their fathers sung
In Derby dales and Yorkshire moors,
Ere Norman William trod their shore
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