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William Forster

John Greenleaf Whittier 1807 (Haverhill) – 1892 (Hampton Falls)



The years are many since his hand
Was laid upon my head,
Too weak and young to understand
The serious words he said.

Yet often now the good man's look
Before me seems to swim,
As if some inward feeling took
The outward guise of him.

As if, in passion's heated war,
Or near temptation's charm,
Through him the low-voiced monitor
Forewarned me of the harm.

Stranger and pilgrim! from that day
Of meeting, first and last,
Wherever Duty's pathway lay,
His reverent steps have passed.

The poor to feed, the lost to seek,
To proffer life to death,
Hope to the erring,--to the weak
The strength of his own faith.

To plead the captive's right; remove
The sting of hate from Law;
And soften in the fire of love
The hardened steel of War.

He walked the dark world, in the mild,
Still guidance of the Light;
In tearful tenderness a child,
A strong man in the right.

From what great perils, on his way,
He found, in prayer, release;
Through what abysmal shadows lay
His pathway unto peace,

God knoweth : we could only see
The tranquil strength he gained;
The bondage lost in liberty,
The fear in love unfeigned.

And I,--my youthful fancies grown
The habit of the man,
Whose field of life by angels sown
The wilding vines o'erran,--

Low bowed in silent gratitude,
My manhood's heart enjoys
That reverence for the pure and good
Which blessed the dreaming boy's.

Still shines the light of holy lives
Like star-beams over doubt;
Each sainted memory, Christlike, drives
Some dark possession out.

O friend! O brother I not in vain
Thy life so calm and true,
The silver dropping of the rain,
The fall of summer dew!

How many burdened hearts have prayed
Their lives like thine might be
But more shall pray henceforth for aid
To lay them down like thee.

With weary hand, yet steadfast will,
In old age as in youth,
Thy Master found thee sowing still
The good seed of His truth.

As on thy task-field closed the day
In golden-skied decline,
His angel met thee on the way,
And lent his arm to thine.

Thy latest care for man,--thy last
Of earthly thought a prayer,--
Oh, who thy mantle, backward cast,
Is worthy now to wear?

Methinks the mound which marks thy bed
Might bless our land and save,
As rose, of old, to life the dead
Who touched the prophet's grave

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:07 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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