A Sabbath Scene
- by John Greenleaf Whittier 142SCARCE had the solemn Sabbath-bell
Ceased quivering in the steeple,
Scarce had the parson to his desk
Walked stately through his people,
When down the summer-shaded street
A wasted female figure,
With dusky brow and naked feet,
Came rushing wild and eager.
She saw the white spire through the trees,
She heard the sweet hymn swelling:
O pitying Christ! a refuge give
The poor one in Thy dwelling!
Like a scared fawn before the hounds,
Right up the aisle she glided,
While close behind her, whip in hand,
A lank-haired hunter strided.
She raised a keen and bitter cry,
To Heaven. and Earth appealing;
Were manhood's generous pulses dead?
Had woman's heart no feeling?
A score of stout hands rose between
The hunter and the flying:
Age clenched his staff, and maiden eyes
Flashed tearful, yet defying.
'Who dares profane this house and day?'
Cried out the angry pastor.
'Why, bless your soul, the wench's a slave,
And I'm her lord and master!
'I've law and gospel on my side,
And who shall dare refuse me?'
Down came the parson, bowing low,
'My good sir, pray excuse me!
'Of course I know your right divine
To own and work and whip her;
Quick, deacon, throw that Polyglott
Before the wench, and trip her!'
Plump dropped the holy tome, and o'er
Its sacred pages stumbling,
Bound hand and foot, a slave once more,
The hapless wretch lay trembling.
I saw the parson tie the knots,
The while his flock addressing,
The Scriptural claims of slavery
With text on text impressing.
'Although,' said he, 'on Sabbath day
All secular occupations
Are deadly sins, we must fulfil
Our moral obligations:
'And this commends itself as one
To every conscience tender;
As Paul sent back Onesimus,
My Christian friends, we send her!'
Shriek rose on shriek, — the Sabbath air
Her wild cries tore asunder;
I listened, with hushed breath, to hear
God answering with his thunder!
All still! the very altar's cloth
Had smothered down her shrieking,
And, dumb, she turned from face to face,
For human pity seeking!
I saw her dragged along the aisle,
Her shackles harshly clanking;
I heard the parson, over all,
The Lord devoutly thanking!
My brain took fire: 'Is this,' I cried,
'The end of prayer and preaching?
Then down with pulpit, down with priest,
And give us Nature's teaching!
'Foul shame and scorn be on ye all
Who turn the good to evil,
And steal the Bible from the Lord,
To give it to the Devil!
'Than garbled text or parchment law
I own a statute higher;
And God is true, though every book
And every man's a liar!'
Just then I felt the deacon's hand
In wrath my coat-tail seize on;
I heard the priest cry, 'Infidel!'
The lawyer mutter, 'Treason!'
I started up, — where now were church,
Slave, master, priest, and people?
I only heard the supper-bell,
Instead of clanging steeple.
But, on the open window's sill,
O'er which the white blooms drifted,
The pages of a good old Book
The wind of summer lifted,
And flower and vine, like angel wings
Around the Holy Mother,
Waved softly there, as if God's truth
And Mercy kissed each other.
And freely from the cherry-bough
Above the casement swinging,
With golden bosom to the sun,
The oriole was singing.
As bird and flower made plain of old
The lesson of the Teacher,
So now I heard the written Word
Interpreted by Nature!
For to my ear methought the breeze
Bore Freedom's blessed word on;
Thus saith the Lord: Break every yoke,
Undo the heavy burden!
A Welcome To Lowell
- by John Greenleaf Whittier 105Take our hands, James Russell Lowell,
Our hearts are all thy own;
To-day we bid thee welcome
Not for ourselves alone.
In the long years of thy absence
Some of us have grown old,
And some have passed the portals
Of the Mystery untold;
For the hands that cannot clasp thee,
For the voices that are dumb,
For each and all I bid thee
A grateful welcome home!
For Cedarcroft's sweet singer
To the nine-fold Muses dear;
For the Seer the winding Concord
Paused by his door to hear;
For him, our guide and Nestor,
Who the march of song began,
The white locks of his ninety years
Bared to thy winds, Cape Ann!
For him who, to the music
Her pines and hemlocks played,
Set the old and tender story
Of the lorn Acadian maid;
For him, whose voice for freedom
Swayed friend and foe at will,
Hushed is the tongue of silver,
The golden lips are still!
For her whose life of duty
At scoff and menace smiled,
Brave as the wife of Roland,
Yet gentle as a Child.
And for him the three-hilled city
Shall hold in memory long,
Those name is the hint and token
Of the pleasant Fields of Song!
For the old friends unforgotten,
For the young thou hast not known,
I speak their heart-warm greeting;
Come back and take thy own!
From England's royal farewells,
And honors fitly paid,
Come back, dear Russell Lowell,
To Elmwood's waiting shade!
Come home with all the garlands
That crown of right thy head.
I speak for comrades living,
I speak for comrades dead!
Poems by John Greenleaf Whittier, John Greenleaf Whittier's poems collection. John Greenleaf Whittier is a classical and famous poet (17 December 1807 - 7 September 1892 / Haverhill, Massachusetts). Share all poems of John Greenleaf Whittier.
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