By John Greenleaf Whittier
ACCOMPANYING MANUSCRIPTS PRESENTED TO A FRIEND.
‘T is said that in the Holy Land
The angels of the place have blessed
The pilgrim’s bed of desert sand,
Like Jacob’s stone of rest.
That down the hush of Syrian skies
Some sweet-voiced saint at twilight sings
The song whose holy symphonies
Are beat by unseen wings;
Till starting from his sandy bed,
The wayworn wanderer looks to see
The halo of an angel’s head
Shine through the tamarisk-tree.
So through the shadows of my way
Thy smile hath fallen soft and clear,
So at the weary close of day
Hath seemed thy voice of cheer.
That pilgrim pressing to his goal
May pause not for the vision’s sake,
Yet all fair things within his soul
The thought of it shall wake:
The graceful palm-tree by the well,
Seen on the far horizon’s rim;
The dark eyes of the fleet gazelle,
Bent timidly on him;
Each pictured saint, whose golden hair
Streams sunlike through the convent’s gloom;
Pale shrines of martyrs young and fair,
And loving Mary’s tomb;
And thus each tint or shade which falls,
From sunset cloud or waving tree,
Along my pilgrim path, recalls
The pleasant thought of thee.
Of one in sun and shade the same,
In weal and woe my steady friend,
Whatever by that holy name
The angels comprehend.
Not blind to faults and follies, thou
Hast never failed the good to see,
Nor judged by one unseemly bough
The upward-struggling tree.
These light leaves at thy feet I lay,–
Poor common thoughts on common things,
Which time is shaking, day by day,
Like feathers from his wings;
Chance shootings from a frail life-tree,
To nurturing care but little known,
Their good was partly learned of thee,
Their folly is my own.
That tree still clasps the kindly mould,
Its leaves still drink the twilight dew,
And weaving its pale green with gold,
Still shines the sunlight through.
There still the morning zephyrs play,
And there at times the spring bird sings,
And mossy trunk and fading spray
Are flowered with glossy wings.
Yet, even in genial sun and rain,
Root, branch, and leaflet fail and fade;
The wanderer on its lonely plain
Erelong shall miss its shade.
O friend beloved, whose curious skill
Keeps bright the last year’s leaves and flowers,
With warm, glad, summer thoughts to fill
The cold, dark, winter hours
Pressed on thy heart, the leaves I bring
May well defy the wintry cold,
Until, in Heaven’s eternal spring,
Life’s fairer ones unfold.