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Mary Garvin



FROM the heart of Waumbek Methna, from the
lake that never fails,
Falls the Saco in the green lap of Conway's
intervales;
There, in wild and virgin freshness, its waters
foam and flow,
As when Darby Field first saw them, two hundred
years ago.

But, vexed in all its seaward course with bridges,
dams, and mills,
How changed is Saco's stream, how lost its freedom
of the hills,
Since travelled Jocelyn, factor Vines, and stately
Champernoon
Heard on its banks the gray wolf's howl, the trumpet
of the loon!

With smoking axle hot with speed, with steeds of
fire and steam,
Wide-waked To-day leaves Yesterday behind him
like a dream.
Still, from the hurrying train of Life, fly backward
far and fast
The milestones of the fathers, the landmarks of
the past.

But human hearts remain unchanged: the sorrow
and the sin,
The loves and hopes and fears of old, are to our
own akin;

And if, in tales our fathers told, the songs our
mothers sung,
Tradition wears a snowy beard, Romance is always
young.

O sharp-lined man of traffic, on Saco's banks today!
O mill-girl watching late and long the shuttle's
restless play!
Let, for the once, a listening ear the working hand
beguile,
And lend my old Provincial tale, as suits, a tear or
smile!

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

The evening gun had sounded from gray Fort
Mary's walls;
Through the forest, like a wild beast, roared and
plunged the Saco's' falls.

And westward on the sea-wind, that damp and
gusty grew,
Over cedars darkening inland the smokes of Spurwink
blew.

On the hearth of Farmer Garvin, blazed the crackling
walnut log;
Right and left sat dame and goodman, and between
them lay the dog,

Head on paws, and tail slow wagging, and beside
him on her mat,
Sitting drowsy in the firelight, winked and purred
the mottled cat.

'Twenty years!' said Goodman Garvin, speaking
sadly, under breath,
And his gray head slowly shaking, as one who
speaks of death.

The goodwife dropped her needles: 'It is twenty
years to-day,
Since the Indians fell on Saco, and stole our child
away.'

Then they sank into the silence, for each knew
the other's thought,
Of a great and common sorrow, and words were,
needed not.

'Who knocks?' cried Goodman Garvin. The
door was open thrown;
On two strangers, man and maiden, cloaked and
furred, the fire-light shone.

One with courteous gesture lifted the bear-skin
from his head;
'Lives here Elkanah Garvin?' 'I am he,' the
goodman said.

'Sit ye down, and dry and warm ye, for the night
is chill with rain.'
And the goodwife drew the settle, and stirred the
fire amain.

The maid unclasped her cloak-hood, the firelight
glistened fair
In her large, moist eyes, and over soft folds of
dark brown hair.

Dame Garvin looked upon her: 'It is Mary's self
I see!'
'Dear heart!' she cried, 'now tell me, has my
child come back to me?'

'My name indeed is Mary,' said the stranger sobbing
wild;
'Will you be to me a mother? I am Mary Garvin's child!'

'She sleeps by wooded Simcoe, but on her dying
day
She bade my father take me to her kinsfolk far
away.

'And when the priest besought her to do me no
such wrong,
She said, 'May God forgive me! I have closed
my heart too long.'

''When I hid me from my father, and shut out
my mother's call,
I sinned against those dear ones, and the Father
of us all.

''Christ's love rebukes no home-love, breaks no
tie of kin apart;
Better heresy in doctrine, than heresy of heart.

''Tell me not the Church must censure: she who
wept the Cross beside
Never made her own flesh strangers, nor the claims
of blood denied;

''And if she who wronged her parents, with her
child atones to them,
Earthly daughter, Heavenly Mother! thou at least
wilt not condemn!'

'So, upon her death-bed lying, my blessed mother
spake;
As we come to do her bidding, So receive us for her
sake.'

'God be praised!' said Goodwife Garvin, 'He taketh,
and He gives;
He woundeth, but He healeth; in her child our
daughter lives!'

'Amen!' the old man answered, as he brushed a
tear away,
And, kneeling by his hearthstone, said, with reverence,
'Let us pray.'

All its Oriental symbols, and its Hebrew pararphrase,
Warm with earnest life and feeling, rose his prayer
of love and praise.

But he started at beholding, as h
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:46 min read
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John Greenleaf Whittier

John Greenleaf Whittier was an influential American Quaker poet and ardent advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States. more…

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