George Marion McClellan, "Poems" (1895)
PRINTED FOR THE AUTHOR. NASHVILLE, TENN.:
Publishing House A. M. E. Church Sunday School Union.
Race Literature 7
The June 11
An Octaroon's Farewell 15
The March's Promise 16
Dogwood Blossoms, 17
A Serenade 18
Sustaining Hope 20
A Summer Afternoon 21
A September Night ; 23
As Sifted Wheat 24
A Belated Oriole 25
A Psyche of the Spring 26
Heart Yearnings 27
My Madonna 28
A Meadow-Land 29
A Butterfly in Church 31
The Harvest Moon 32
In the Heart of a Rose 33
An Autumn Day 34 (3)
The Feet of Judas 36
A Faithless Love 37
A Song of Nashville 38
To Kitty Wysong 41
The April of Alabama 42
Lines to Mount Glen 43
That Better Day 47
May Along the Cumberland 48
A Decoration Day 51
By the Cumberland 52
In Summer 53
Youthful Delusions 55
Love is a Flame 56
To Lochiel 57
A January Dandelion 60
Sunday Morning 61
A Little News Vender 63
The Color Bane 65
Lines to a Whippoorwill 66
The Bridal Wreath's Lament 68
March Winds 70
Lines to Night 72
Lines to a Mocking Bird 77
Lines to the Memory of Dr. Powell of the A. M. A. 79
In Memory of Katie Reynolds—Dying 81
Thanksgiving Day in New England 82
After Commencement at Fisk University 85
The Woods of October 86
The Message of a Dead Rose 88
The Sun Went Down in Beauty 89
Over the Bay 92
The Secret 93
The New Jerusalem 94
The Goddess of the Penitentials 97
A Christmas Carol 110
A Christmas Night 140
A Farewell 142
The author of these poems, if such they may be called, is fully conscious that there is no special merit in them. They do not represent any very continued effort and study, a thing necessary for meritorious composition, even where there is genius, and much more so, where there is only a passing ability. I have never had a chance to do what I might be able to do by hard work, if leisure and freedom from the constant struggle for daily bread were given. The poems in this collection have been written at odd times. Some of them at the noon- hour in the swamps of Mississippi, when a student teacher in vacation, during college days; gome of them later in wayside depots in Connecticut and Massachusetts, while I waited for trains, during my travels as financial agent for Fisk University; others wThile about Nashville, and my native hills of the Highland Rim of Middle Tennessee. This accounts for the local color so widespread, where such local color appears. I have been too full of things and obliga¬ tions in other lines than that of poetry- writing to do much in that direction. The only apology, then, I have to offer for seeking to call attention to what I have written, is the criticism that the Negro has contributed essentially nothing to literature. The criticism itself is true enough and must remain so for a long time to come, but the spirit of it has often been unkind. Indeed in some cases where it has been urged as a proof of the Negro's incapability of ultimate high development, the criticism has become a demand as glaringly absurd as it is lacking in a generous and compre¬ hensive judgment. Thirty years ago from this day of writing, 1894, the Negroes of the United States- were slaves in the grossest ignorance and degradation. Is thirty years enough time for children to be born of such parents, to get an education and produce a race literature? It only takes a moment's reflection to see the absurdity of such an arraignment of the race on this score, as that which appeared in the April number of the North by a Southern gentleman of some merit in letters. It is time that there should begin to ap¬ pear some literary attempts of passing merit from representatives of the Negro race. But superior excellence in literary instinct and capacity is a plant of slow growth, the cultivated gift of many generations. There are no environments that can keep true genius in the background, let it be under a black or white skin. But Negro writers of that great common class who, with ordinary ability, must achieve success by hard labor^ will be at a great disadvantage necessarily in having to compete with the great writers of the white.race who are already centuries ahead. They must suffer in such a comparison. Our situation as a race is without parallel in history. A race's literature is the expression of its national and social life. Its subjects are drawn from its heroes and their historic achievements. As a race we have never had a national life. We have no heroes to form worthy subjects of epics and dramas. We have no great and inspiring history. The Israelitish race offers the nearest parallel to that of ours. But that race has no inspiring history at the time of the Exodus, except that event itself and the covenant with Abraham. All that is especially noteworthy in the history of that race followed the crossing of the Jordan in the outcome of its national life. Aside from the story of our emancipation and the hardships of our enslavement, of what subjects have we to sing to make a literature peculiarly native to us? To pro¬ duce a Negro literature, we must have time to produce song-material, as well as singers. In this little attempt of mine I have not tried to sing Negro songs purely, but songs of beautiful landscapes, wherever I have seen them, and felt song-inspired by them, or of touches of human loves and feelings, as I have felt them. For what these songs are worth I can but hope they will be kindly received. In a few more years I hope to give expression of better and worthier things.
George Marion McClellan, Nashville, Tenn.
The June has come with all its brilliant dyes,
Its honeyed breath, its balmy gusts and sighs,
In fields and stretching up-lands, glade and glen,
And by the high and lowly haunts of men,
With all-surpassing glory bloom the flowers,
And come are sun-lit skies and dreamy hours.
The morning earth is all begemmed with dew,
The toiling bee the blissful hours through
Hums softly on his self-beguiling tune,
While gathers he the sweetest sweets of June.
Low murmuring the crystal brooklet leads
Its way through fields and lane and emerald meads.
The clover fields are red and sweetly scent
The pasture lands, where browse the kine content.
The corn is swayed with breezes passing by,
And everywhere the bloom is on the rye.
Already on the bearded wheat is seen
The gold which tempts the farmer's sickle keen,
And I can almost see the gleaming blade
By which the golden grain is lowly laid ;
And hear the singing scythe and tramp of feet,
And see the cone-shaped shocks of wheat.
All shimmering the landscapes far and wide
Bespeak fair promise for the harvest tide.
The June has come with summer skies and glow,
Reflecting bliss and Junes of long ago—
Bare feet, and careless roving bands of boys
That haunted lake and stream in halcyon joys,
The bow and arrow, hunting ground and snares,
The sudden flight of quails and skulking hares,
The wild and joyous shouts along the glen
Come back in all the month of June again.
Then other days and solitary dreams
Are come again with flash of flaming gleams,
Where red birds shot across the opening glades,
In quest of deeper thickets, deeper shades.
Again far inland, on and on I tread,
Where cooling shades and carpets green are spread
And modestly the violet blooms and sups
The dew; and glow the golden butter-cups ;
And sweet the odor of the woods I scent
Where perfume of a thousand kinds is spent.
And stretched full length upon the ground
I lie and watch the leaves and hear their sound
And wonder what their whisperings include
To tell of life spent in such solitude.
Here dreaming on forgetting time and men
The June a million visions brings again,
In imagery so rare of that and this,
A self-forgetting turmoil, nameless bliss.
Unseen but felt, the spirit of the wood
Without a dogma teaches of the good
In God sublime. An all-pervading sense
Is everywhere of his resource immense,
His love ineffable—infinite power,
In storm resisting oaks, and purple flower
Scarce lifting up its head an inch above the ground
Is seen alike, and with the joyous sound
Which Robin-Redbreast from a tree top trills
Full orthodox confession comes and fills
The heart. The lip is mute but deep a sigh
The spirit sendeth upward to the sky
Baptized in faith, its adoration, love,
A credo of the soul, to God above.
The June has come with all its brilliant dyes,
Its honeyed breath, its balmy gusts and sighs.
The soft sunshine comes down aslant the hills,
With perfume sweet the honeysuckle fills
The summer atmosphere for miles around,
And all the groves and fields are sweet with sound,
While hills, and woods and vale and grassy slope
Are teeming everywhere with life and hope.
Come out, ye sons of men from street and ward,
Come forth again upon the welcome sward,
At least for one brief day leave toilsome care
In offices and stifling banks and wear
The boyish spirit over field and glen,
Drink deep once more of all his joys again.
The way is not so long—the brook in size
Has lost to longer legs and manhood eyes,
But its low murmuring the morning through
Is still a lullaby ; and love is true
In brook and field, and sky, and dale and glen
For all the changing, faithless sons of men.
In these no hot contentions, endless strife,
Nor aching hearts, consuming greed of life,
No soul-corrupting lusts, debasing sin,
Nor blighted lives where innocence has been
Are ever brought by June. But to assuage
The sorrows of mankind from age to age
A subtle charm, a bliss, a merry tune
Abideth in the country lap of June.
Come out where kindly nature deftly weaves
Her cooling bowers with the tender leaves
Ye tired wives and husbands vexed with care.
And find life's true elixir in the air.
Let tinkling bells of flocks and browsing herd,
The song of brooks and twitter of the bird
Unite with children voices in their shout
Of mirth and joy on all the sward about,
And let the maidens come with rosy cheeks
And merry boys with gallantry that speaks
Of dawning love, and sentiment the best
That ever came to swell the human breast;
Let all come forth in holiday array
From care, and feel the bliss of one June day.
AN OCTAROON'S FABEWELL.
O love, farewell, a long farewell,
Ten thousand times good-night,
God's benediction with thee dwell,
And guide thy steps aright.
We part to-night; it must be so, '
Tis best for thee and me,
But my true heart can never know
Love lessening for thee.
Love's promises were but a myth,
A mockery and sham ; I've lived to learn
I'm tainted with
The cursed blood of Ham.
Dear love, how could I know when I
Gave to thee all my heart,
That far as earth is from the sky,
Our lives must lie apart?
Yet I can never rue the day,
Though all the world I miss,
For death itself can not outweigh,
My momentary bliss-
THE MARCH'S PROMISE.
When gray clouds break on Southern skies
And winds of March begin to blow,
Our fancies run to summer sighs,
That whisper and delight us so.
For in this stormy month of winds,
The first new pulse of life is felt,
When spring with all her sweets begins,
Where winter's ice and snow have dwelt.
The bluebird carols out his note,
A prelude to the country round,
Of chimes a few more days remote,
To which the forest will resound—
The plowman's song, the forest chime,
The ujiturned sod, the country scene,
Bespeak a resurrection time
In air and sky and sprouting green.
O, blessed hope of life anew
That comes from death when spring begins ;
Life after death a promise true
Is brought in March's stormy winds.
To dreamy languors and the violet mist
Of early spring, the deep sequestered vale
Gives first her paling-blue Miamimist, "
Where blithely pours the cuckoo's annual tale
Of summer promises and tender green,
Of a new life and beauty yet unseen.
The forest trees have yet a sighing mouth,
Where dying winds of March their branches swing,
While upward from the dreamy sunny South,
A hand invisible leads on the spring.
His rounds from bloom to bloom the bee begins
With flying song, and cowslip wine he sups,
Where to the warm and passing southern winds,
Azaleas gently swing their yellow cups.
Soon everywhere with glory through and through,
The fields will spread with every brilliant hue.
But high o'er all the early floral train,
Where softness all the arching sky resumes,
The dogwood dancing to the wind's refrain,
In stainless glory spreads its snowy blooms.
Dear heart, I would that thou couldst know
How like the burning glow of Mars,
My love here keeps a watch below
Thy window and the midnight stars.
How sweet the breath of night is now,
Of sweets the rose and jessamine keep ;
Go, winds, with these and kiss her brow,
And bear my love to her in sleep.
Oh ! such a love, that loves her so,
With such a little space apart,
Should through yon open casement go,
And gently stir her dreaming heart.
Dear heart, sleep on without a fear,
If all unconsciously to thee,
My love must watch, to watch so near,
Makes even that a bliss to me.
Rock me to sleep, ye waves, and drift my boat
With undulations soft far out to sea;
Perchance where sky and wave wear one blue coat,
My heart shall find some hidden rest remote.
My spirit swoons, and all my senses cry -
Tor Ocean's breast and covering of the sky.
Rock me to sleep, ye waves, and outward bound,
Just let me drift far out from toil and care,
Where lapping of the waves shall be the sound,
Which mingled with the winds that gently bear
Me on between a peaceful sea and sky,
To make my soothing slumberous lullaby.
Thus drifting on and on upon thy breast,
My heart shall go to sleep and rest and rest.
Farewell, Dearest and Best,
What matters it whether the name be Dove,
Dear-heart, and all sweet words at love's behest,
Since none can voice my love ?
To stay is past my power ;
Oh, love, my own Dear-heart, farewell, good-bve!
For thee I'll breathe through every passing hour,
A fond and secret sigh.
But, Dear, though it be long,
This hope 'mid distant scenes and fellow-men
Will lead me on, in solitude, or throng,
That we shall meet again.
A SUMMER AFTERNOON.
Sing on, sweet bird, and soothe my soul,
With thy melodious tune,
Chant me tliy rhapsodies this whole Delightful afternoon.
And hiding in thy secret bower,
In modesty's retreat,
Thy music, melting by the hour,
Is ravisliingly sweet.
Comes perfume from the climbing rose
That interlacing meets
Above my head, where comes and goes
The bee in search of sweets.
The cooling Zephyrs stealing by,
Faint-scented odors bear,
Which make with every gusty sigh,
Exquisite all the air.
Wide as the naked eye can reach,
Are landscapes stretching far,
Too beautiful for human speech
To paint them as they are.
And here beneath this climbing rose
A dreamy blissful state
Comes on, as when one for repose,
Has drunk some opiate.
If thou couldst charm my lover here
To lean upon my breast,
Thy music, bird, would be more dear,
And I would be more blest.
And singing on in thy retreat,
Thy melting, sensuous tune,
My dreamy bliss would be complete,
This lovely afternoon.
A SEPTEMBER NIGHT.
The full September moon sheds floods of light,
And all the bayou's face is gemmed with stars
Save where are dropped fantastic shadows down
From sycamores and moss-hung cypress trees.
With slumberous sound the waters half asleep
Creep on and on their way, twixt rankish reeds,
Through marsh and lowlands stretching to the gulf.
Begirt with cotton fields Anguilla sits
Half bird-Jike dreaming on her summer nest
Amid her spreading figs, and roses still
In bloom with all their spring and summer hues.
Pomegranates hang with dapple cheeks full ripe,
And over all the town a dreamy haze
Drops down. The great plantations stretching far
Away are plains of cotton downy white.
O, glorious is this night of joyous sounds
Too full for sleep. Aromas wild and sweet,
From muscadine, late blooming jessamine,
And roses, all the heavy air suffuse.
Faint bellows from the alligators come
From swamps afar, where sluggish lagoons give
To them a peaceful home. The katydids
Make ceaseless cries. Ten thousand insects' wings
Stir in the moonlight haze and joyous shouts
Of Negro song and mirth awake hard by
The cabin dance. O, glorious is this night.
The summer sweetness fills my heart with songs
I cannot sing, with loves I cannot speak.
Anguilla, Miss., September, 1892.
AS SIFTED WHEAT.
O sift me, Lord, and make me
Clean as sifted wheat:
My soul, an empty vessel, bring
To my Redeemer's feet.
However sinful I have been or be,
Thou knowest, Lord, that I love thee.
I am so closely hedged about, Oh Christ, as thou hast been,
My soul hemmed in with flesh
Is so in love with sin.
Sin-stained am I, but sift me,
And make me clean as sifted wheat.
A Belated Oriole
Gay little songster of the spring,
This is an evil hour
For one so light of heart and wing
To face the storms that lower.
December winds blow on the lea
A chill that threatens harm,
With not a leaf on bush or tree
To shield thee from the storm.
Why hast thou lingered here so late
To face the storms that rise,
When all thy kind, and yellow mate
Have sought for southern skies ?
Hast thou like me some fortune ill
To bind thee to this spot,
Made to endure against thy will,
A melancholy lot ?
Chill is the air with windy sighs,
A prophecy that blows,
Of cold and inhospitable skies,
Of bitter frost and snows.
But there is One whose power it is
To'temper blast and storm,
And love to love a bird is his,
And keep it safe from harm.
To Him thy helplessness will plead,
To Him I lift a prayer,
For we alike have common need
Of His great love and care.
A PSYCHE OF SPRING.
Thou gaily painted butterfly, exquisite thing, A child of light and blending rainbow hues, In loveliness a psyche of the spring, Companion for the rose and diamond dews. 'Tis thine in sportive joy from hour to hour, To ride the breeze from flower to flower. But thou wast once a worm, as now am I, And seeing thee, gay thing, afloat in bliss, I take new hope in thoughts of by and by, When I, as thou, have shed my chrysalis. Then through a gay eternal spring of light, Shall my immortal soul pursue its flight.
Oh ! for the welcome breath of country air, With summer skies and flowers, To shout and feel once more the halcyon Of gayer boyhood hours. I think the sight of fields and shady lanes Would ease my heart of pains. To cool once more my thirst where bubbled up The waters of a spring, Where I have seen the golden daffodils And lilies flourishing, My fevered heart would more than half forget Its sighs, and vain regret. Far, far away from early scenes am I; And, too, my youth has fled ; For me a stranger's land, a stranger's sky, That arches over-head. For scenes and joys that now have passed me by, I can but give a sigh. But Oh ! for hearts that yearn and hearts that sigh, For wayward feet that roam, Hope whispers for the by and by, A never-changing home. And there no more in a strange land will break The home-sick heart, and ache.
It is a sacrilege in form I fear, To make this photograph of him and thee, From my own sunny south sent north to rue, In all my heart my own Madonna, dear; Yet Raphael could paint no face or brow To make me worship it with glory lit, Although the Holy Virgin sat for it, As I do this, our baby's face and thou. Though priests my worship may condemn to scorn, I think the virgin with her mother love, The Babe of Bethlehem, of woman born, And later all my sins and sorrows bore, If my great love for thee they watch above, For it they both are pleased and love me more. Hartford, Conn., December, 1893.
Delight of keen delights in summer hours, Is this long meadowy scene, All rioting in festival of flowers, And pageantry of green, With smiling skies above and summer blue, With ancient fields below, yet ever new. Thou mindest me of other scenes and days, In sunnier climes than thine, Of mocking-birds and ever piping lays, Of figs and muscadine, Of dreamy afternoons and dreamy love In silent bliss with southern skies above. Dear meadow-lands, it makes me sigh to know That this fair scene must die, And sleep long months beneath the frost and snow, And inhospitable sky; And yet why should I sigh and yield to pain, Since all thy loveliness will bloom again? For long before the red men trod thy soil3 Or white men came to till Thy blo.oming waste, and crown with patient toil, Surrounding vale and hill, All rioting with gleeful vagrant flowers Wert thou in bloom, through long and sunny hours.
'Tis mine to lie beneath a changeless snow, Sad, sad, to me the truth, But thine to sleep awhile and wake to know A gay immortal youth; Weep thou for me, for when to dust I'm gone, Thy festive face will still be smiling on.
Long Meadow, Mass., August, 1893.
TO A BUTTERFLY IN CHUKCH.
What dost thou here, thou shining sinless thing, With many colored hues and shapely wing? Why quit the open field and summer air To flutter here? Thou hast no need of prayer. ' Tis mete that we who this stone structure built Should come to be redeemed and washed from guilt, For we this guilded edifice within Are come with every kind of human sin. But thou art free from guilt, as God on high; Go seek the blooming waste and open sky, And leave us here our secret woes to bear, Confessionals, and agonies of prayer:
THE HARVEST MOON.
The dark magnolia leaves and spreading fig, With green luxuriant beauty all their own, Stirless, hang heavy-coated with the dew, Which swift and iridescent gleams shoot through As if a thousand brilliant diamonds shone. Afloat the lagoon, water-lilies white In sweets with muscadines perfume the night. A song bird restless chants a fleeting lay; Asleep on all the swamp and bayou lies A peaceful, blissful, moonlight, mystic haze, A dreaminess o'er all the landscape plays, While lake and lagoon mirror all the skies. There is a glory doomed to pass too soon, That lies subdued beneath the harvest moon. Columbus, Miss., September, 1892.
IN THE HEART OF A ROSE.
I will hide my soul and itsjmighty love In the bosom of this rose, And its dispensing breath will take My love where'er it goes. And perhaps she'll pluck this very rose, And quick as blushes start, Will breathe my hidden secret in Her unsuspecting heart. And there I will live in her embrace And the realm of sweetness there, Enamored with an ecstasy Of bliss beyond compare.
AN AUTUMN DAY.
The golden-rod was flaming bright, The autumn day was fine, The air was soft and scented with The purple muscadine. We travelled far a wooded path, The sky was bright above And all things seemed to smile and breathe A blessing on our love. 0 ! sweet and dreamy was that face, Such tenderness expressed In every line, and born to be, Love burdened and caressed. So happy in my happiness 1 could not think it then, That after parting on that day "We should not meet again. For hope is ever found with love, And there were visions fair For us of boundless happiness In that sweet autumn air. But many years of shifting scenes, Have come and gone since then, And those dear, tender, dreamy eyes I have not seen again. And once I thought with bitterness— My God, forgive the sin— My barren life and hapless love Would better not have been.
But looking back through all my years Of weariness and pain, I know that tender, dreamy face I did not love in vain. The lengthening days and months and years Have brightened on my way By living on in memory One long past autumn day. And late a faith has come to me, I think it God has willed, That all those autumn promises Are yet to be fulfilled. ZFor I believe with all my heart, The time I know not when, With hearts still true, my loye and I •Shall somewhere meet again.
THE FEET OF JUDAS.
Christ washed the feet of Judas! The dark and evil passions of his soul, His secret plot, and sordidness complete, His hate, liis purposing, Christ knew the whole, And still in love he stooped and washed his feet. Christ washed the feet of Judas! Yet all his lurking sin was bare to him, His bargain with the priest and more than this, In Olivet beneath the moonlight dim, Aforehand knew and felt his treacherous kiss. Christ washed the feet of Judas! And so ineffable his love 'twas meet, That pity fill his great forgiving heart, And tenderly to wash the traitor's feet, Who in his Lord had basely sold his part. Christ washed the feet of Judas ! And thus a girded servant, self-abased, Taught that no wrong this side the gate of heaven Was e'er too great to wholly be effaced, And though unasked, in spirit be forgiven. And so if we have ever felt the wrong Of trampled rights, of caste, it matters not, Whate'er the soul has felt or suffered long, Oh heart! this one thing should not be forgot, Christ washed the feet of Judas !
A FAITHLESS LOVE.
The lovely May has come at last, With songs and gleaming dews, And apple blossoms bursting out With evanescent hues. A newer life, a newer charm Is bursting every hour, With pledge and faithful promises, From leaf and bud and flower. And hope is growing on the hill, And blooming in the vale, And comes new vigor and new life On every passing gale. But O my heart! my heart of hearts, What hope is there for me, For what was hope and what was joy, For me have ceased to be. The woodlark's tender warbling lay, Which flows with melting art, Is but a trembling song of love, That serves to break my heart. ■Gay flowers burst on every side, The fairest of the fair, But what are these to any heart That's breaking with despair? O May ! my heart had found a rose As lovely as the morn, Which charmed awhile, then faithless went, But left with me its thorn.
A SONG OF NASHVILLE.
Oh ! Nashville, Athens of the South, Thy valleys beauty fills ; How can I tell with human mouth How well I love thy hills ? Thy hills with beauty far renowned Where rugged glory rules, Are from a dozen places crowned With colleges and schools. A modern Attica in truth, The South may call thee well, Thy benefits unto her youth Will coming ages tell. For to thy founts of learning here Fair Attica's chosen seat, Ambition turneth year by year Full many a thousand feet. To minds with aspirations led, And ardor of the heart, Are ever endless fields outspread In sciences and art. And year by year dispensing truth, Thy guiding hand is great, In that thou givest through thy youth The destinies of state. Oh Nashville, could I sing of thee, Praise worthy of thy name, Approximate what is to be The future of thy fame.
Thy institutions, hillsides bright, Beneath a Southern sky, Make scenes of beauty and delight To every traveler's eye. O'er all thy byways round about, Once on thy grassy slopes, I was a wanderer in and out, With all a student's hopes. To-day I walked those same old rounds, I walked in days gone by, And heard from fields the same sweet sounds, Beneath the same blue sky. The mocking bird in bush and tree, "With melody and voice, In ecstacy did welcome me, And bade my heart rejoice. The hills and dales were in the smile Of spring as they had been ; And seemed to welcome without guile, Their lover back again. The lazy herds were feeding still, On slope and grassy plain, And strangely in my heart would fill A pleasure kin to pain. Old friends were gone and former ties, Were broken and estranged; But my old haunts and smiling skies, Were constant and unchanged.
But not more constant, nor more true, My fields, my skies above, Than came your wanderer back to you, Unchanged in heart and love.
TO KITTY WYSONG.
And hast thou indeed such disdaining, To hold thy head so high ? In pride from one swift glance abstaining, You pass me by. I recall the days—it were choices To us sweeter than rhymes, To freely mingle our lips and voices, In happier times. You have gone up higher, but I lower, And it is much, Kitty, Queen-like to give scorn, but more, To give pity. And wearers, (for such is human strife) Of poverty or crowns, Pride is not best, so full is this life, Of ups and downs. And thy lot, proud heart, may be fair, Which chance has left thee in ; But pass not disdainingly where Thy love has been.
THE APRIL OF ALABAMA.
Fair Alabama, " Here we rest," thy name— And in this stretch of oak and spotted ash, Well said that long past swarthy tribe who came Here, " Alabama," in these glamour wilds. To-day thy April woods have had for me A thousand charms, elusive loveliness, That melt in shimmering views which flash From leaves and buds in half grown daintiness. From every tree and living thing there smiles A touch of summer's glory yet to be. Already overhead the sky resumes Its summer softness, and a hand of light All through the woods has beckoned with its blooms Of honeysuckle wild and dogwood white As bridal robes— With bashful azure eyes All full of dew-born laughing falling tears The violets more blue than summer skies Are rioting in vagrancy around Beneath old oaks, old pines and sending out Like prodigals their sweets to spicy airs. And as to-day this loveliness for years Unknown has come and gone. To-day it wears Its pageantry of youth with sylvan sound Of many forest tribes which fairly shout Their ecstacies. But soon with summer smiles Will such a gorgeousness of flaming hues Bedeck those Alabama glamour wilds As ever burst to life by rain and dews.
LINES TO MOUNT GLEN.
In this soft air perfumed with blooming May, Stretched at thy feet on the green grass, Old Glen, It is a joy unspeakable to me To see again thy face and friendly crags. My childhood friend, then height of heights to me, I am come home to worship thee once more, And feel that bliss in indolent repose Of those long past delightful afternoons, When first you smiled on me and gave to my Imaginings such imagery, when I Would lie down at thy base as I Do now. My feet have wandered far since then, And over heights with prouder heads than thine, Such as would name thy majesty with hills. But I, Old Glen, my early mountain friend, Am come with loyalty and heart still true As thy bald crags are to their kindred skies. My own Olympus yet and pride thou art, With thy Thessalian gates of clouds Which hide the great Olympian Hall, Where Hebe still sweet nectar pours Out to the gods. And murmurs sweet and low Of melting cadences Apollo from His magic lyre sends gently wandering In soft succeeding measures yet in air Familiarly to me. And yet, Old Glen, A stranger at thy base I lie to-day To all but thee, save this soft yielding grass, And blooming waste, thy pageantry of flowers. All these with yond bald eagle circling in
The upper air with keen descrying for Some timorous skulking hare, are but old friends Who laughed and played with me in childhood hours Full many a summer day and told me tales Of fairy lore. With such immortal friends To welcome me again, what care I then For yon rude plowman's stare and taking me For some trespassing rake. This broad domain Of circling hills and intervening vales Is thine by ancient rights to shelter me, And take me in thy lap when I have come With love to worship thee. Before Koine was, Or Greece had sprung with poetry and art, Thy majesty with impartiality Was here. The first soft tread of moccasin On Indian feet, in ages none can tell, That bent this yielding grass was thine to hear. And all the sons of men who since have brought Their pulsing hearts to thee with loves, with aches, With tragedies, with childhood innocence, Have had thy welcoming. To thee no race May come with arrogance and claim first right To thy magnificence, and mighty heart, And thy ennobling grace that touches every Soul who may conimune with thee. And so It was Old Glen we came at first to love In this soft scented air now long ago, When first I brought my youthful heart to thee, All pure with pulsing blood still hot In its descent of years in tropic suns And sands of Africa, to be caressed By thee. And to your lofty heights you bore
Me up to see the boundless world beyond, Which nothing then to my young innocence Had aught of evil or deceptive paths. With maddening haste I quit thy friendly side To mix with men. And then as some young bison Of the plain, which breathes the morning air And restless snorts with mad excess of life, And rushes heedless on in hot pursuit Of what it does not know : So I, Old Glen, As heedlessly went out from thee to meet With buffeting, with hates and selfishness And scorn. At first I stood abashed, disarmed Of faith. Too soon I learned the ways of men, Forgetting much I wish I had retained Of once a better life. And in the fret And fever of the endless strife for gain I often sigh for thee, my native peaks, And for that early life for me now past Forever more. But for one day, my early friend, I am come back to thee again, to feel Thy gentle grace so indefinable, So subtile is thy touch, yet to the heart A never-failing gift to all who come To thee. And so it is, Old Glen, that I am come, But not with all-believing innocence As in those unsuspecting days of yore. And O Mount Glen ! sin-stained my burning heart With shame lifts up its face to thine, but with A love as changeless as thy ancient crags Does it still beat for thee. And I rejoice To feel thy mighty heart here solace mine. For when the day leads in the early dawn
With blushing rosy light and caroling Of larks; and sleepy flowers half unclosed, All wet with dew, unfold their buds and leaves, There is enchantment in this lovely spot Beyond, by far, all mortal utterances. To come here then and lie down on thy side, As I do now, and see the butterflies Bobbing from flower to flower, and hear The restless songs of birds as they in joy Flit carelessly from bush and tree, is all The bliss my heart could ask. Here I could lie In such repose and let a lifetime pass. And here, Old Glen, could I forget the fret Of life and selfishness of men, and see The face of him who is all beautiful. And here in this perfume of May, and bloom Luxuriant, and friendly rioting Of green in all this blooming waste, is seen A glimpse of that, which He, the Lord of all, Intended there should be with things and men In all this earth, a thing which yet will be, A universal brotherhood.
THAT BETTER DAY.
Still courage, brother, courage still, Repress the rising sigh, Oppression now the race must bear, But freedom by and by. And art thou sore at heart from Southern wrongs? Well, then I pray Be comforted ; all wrongs shall pass away. God's freedom he will give to all, Now mercy is disguised, But he will smile and crown at last, Our race so long despised. And art thou stumbled over Southern bate? Well, then I pray Be comforted; all that shall pass away. The time will come when man to man Will clasp each other's hand, And color-bane shall cease to be, In all our goodly land. Dost thou despair the death of prejudice? Well, then I pray Be comforted ; that too shall pass away. It takes a faith, a mighty faith, To look for such a day— But look, for sure as God is God, All wrongs shall pass away.
MAY ALONG THE CUMBERLAND.
Embodiment of all the beautiful That crowns the year, O May! is come with thee. For miles and miles along the rugged hills, Where in and out the Cumberland must wind, And spring her first response of green doth find, A rapt'rous beauty all the valley fills. The yellow sun with summer at his heels, Betokeneth the time about to be, Siestas, days and nights alive with wings, The stirring of a million living things. The month is full of roses, perfumed air, And crooning bees upon the clover's breast, The morning woodlands ring with music sweet, The Zephyrs whisper to the corn, And echo back the hills the dinner horn, But all in tune and harmony complete. In blissful self-abandonment awhile, Here on thy lap, sweet May, O ! let me rest, And dream and dream, till lulled by sight and sound In unison to all the earth around. May, 1891, Nashville, Tenn.
Lord, let me live to serve and make a loan Of life and soul in love to my heart's own. And what if they should never know How weary are the ways, How pitiless the snow, How desolate the days Sometimes in reserve. And what if some esteem above Me others far less true, And barter off my wealth of love For passing comrades new ? I still would serve. To be permitted once in life To kiss a little child And call it mine is worth the strife In a million battles wild. To have a woman's holy love, One friend to half divine The heart, is heaven from above Come to this soul of mine. And O, dear Lord, I thank Thee for the cup Of hydromel thou givest me to sup ; Though rue soon pass my lips and fill My heart with deadly pain, My soul will rise to thank Thee still For guerdon and its gain. And though insentient clay the sward My form will hold ; for life,
For love, sunshine and rain, My heart above all earthly strife Soars up through joy andlpain In thanks to Thee, dear Lord.
A DECORATION DAY.
The reign of death was there, "Where swept the winter winds with pipes and moans, And stretched in silence bare, A colonade of gray sepulchral stones. But then it was in May, And all the fields were bright and gay with tune That Decoration Day, And blossoms wore their hues and breath'of June. A motley crowd that came— But who more fit than they that once were slaves, Despised, unknown to fame, With love should decorate the soldiers' graves. Black feet trod cheerily From out the town in crowds or straggling bands, And flowers waved and flaunted merrily, From little Negro hands. And far, far away From home and love, deep in a silent bed, Beneath the sky of May, Was sleeping there in solitude, the dead. But for the hearts that day, Who in the distant North wept sore andjsighed, Black hands with sweets of May, Made green the graves of those who for them died.
BY THE CUMBERLAND.
See through this lovely valley, dear, This river ever goes, And so on through a thousand years, Just as to-day it flows. I sigh to see it stretching on Through time and to the sea, When by its banks the moments are So brief for you and me. Of the long line of human hearts, 'Tis marvelous to think, Which have so throbbed with hope and love Along this sandy brink ; While one by one they slipped away In all the ages gone, With ceaseless glide and slipping flood The river traveled on. I know our time is brief and we So soon must go, as they, But, dear, my thoughts have been far more Upon our bliss to-day. For one short hour to hold your hand And kiss away your tears, In happiness is more than all This river's thousand years.
The summer shimmering to-day- Puts on the earth a rune, Which blends in magic waves of light, Beneath the sky of June. Along the pavements of the street, And in the crowded mart, There is a joy of summer-time, A comforting of heart. To-day one hardly can believe, Along these pavements old, That March held such an icy sway Of bitterness and cold. The little gamin of the street, Full keeping with the boy, Forgetting all his winter woes, Is hallooing for joy. And I go back to youth again, And get myself away, To where the country fields are in The green and blue of May. And on I sweetly glide with them, With changing song and tune. With bursting buds and brilliant dyes, That line the lap of June. The morning trembles with its throbs Of ever-gushing notes, Which pour with shuddering sweetness from A thousand feathered throats.
'Tis true the shadows of four walls Are ever on me cast, But they have a transparency, To me of a sweet past.
And where now restless, wilt thou roam Thou young uneaseful heart? ' Tis better far to stay at home So young a stripling as thou art. And thinkest thou to go Abroad to taste the sweets of life And miss its lurking woe ? Yea, doubtless thou wouldst find a bliss Of honey sweet awhile, And many a love-born, smothered kiss, Unknown to thee erstwhile. And of a thousand hues Would blossoms give thee morning sweets With honey-dabbled dews. And all-believing heart and young, Thou wouldst unfold thy^best, To faith, and laugh till thou wert stung With poison in thy breast. Then who would be thee nigh So far from home, to heal thy pain And soothe thy bitter cry ? 7 Tis best, by far, to stay at home, Dear over-trusting heart, None but a prodigal may roam So far from love apart. Doubt not—abide thy day, And what is best for thee to have In time will come thy way.
LOVE IS A FLAME.
Love is a flame that burns with sacred fire,. And fills the being up with sweet desire ; Yet, once the altar feels love's fiery breathy The heart must be a crucible till death. Say love is life; and say it not amiss, That love is but a synonym for bliss. Say what you will of love—in what refrain, But knows the heart, ' tis but a word for pain-
Dear little babe, of all born things alive Most helpless thou—of life a slender thread. Can such as thee so rough a sea survive, And come at last the way all feet must tread? Yea, by the God whom I adore above, If I could fix thy destiny by choice Thou wouldst be safe, my little love. ' Tis love ineffable I wrap thee in. To pitiless pain, and ache, and storm and blast I'd bare my soul to save thy feet from sin, And bring thee safely home, Lochiel, at last. But in thy chancing boon of birth, thy whole And everlasting destiny of life Lies in thy self-directing soul.
Wherever man on earth is found Let him his tribute pay, For he is in all nature bound To bend to God and pray. And every man on earth who dwells In darkness or in light Has in his breast a voice that tells Him that to pray is right. Though but all shadowy and dim Of God the savage reads, No savagery can take from him The knowledge of his needs. So let him pray if but to stone And senseless stock of wood, For in his mercy God will own All motives that are good. But he who knows the heavenly power And feels the heavenly care, Is doubly bound in every hour To breathe some form of prayer. The darkest doubts the soul may fill; Still pray, though doubts be there, For he is safest from all ill Whose lips are moved with prayer. ' Tis best for every one who can To pray with faith devout, But God is gracious in his plan For him beset with doubt.
Still pray, for long as any heart, Can feel its deep despair, Not from it can there once depart Efficiency of prayer. And all who strive, and strive and fall In sore besetting sins, Still pray—God's love is over all ' Tis prayer on prayer that wins.
A JANUARY DANDELION.
All Nashville is a chill. And everywhere Like desert sand, when the winds blow, There is each moment sifted through the air, A powdered blast of January snow. O ! thoughtless Dandelion, to be misled By a few warm days to leave thy natural bed, Was folly growth and blooming over soon. And yet, thou blasted yellow-coated gem, Full many a heart has but a common boon With thee, now freezing on thy slender stem. When the heart has bloomed by the touch of love's warm breath Then left and chilling snow is sifted in, It still may beat but there is blast and death To all that blooming life that might have been.
Softly the cool breath of the early morn, Swamp-scented air, fragrant with deep lagoons And water-lilies, stole on through the fields Of cotton, whispering a sighing song. 'Twas Sunday morning then, and everywhere The May dew rolled away in diadems. Another day was born with floods of light; The grass with newer green all wet with dew Gave welcoming. And rose hues spent with yesterday Found blushes still and sent out night-born sweets To mingle with a thousand other spicy Airs and perfumes of the jessamine, And wild aromas of the summer air. And murmured low the sycamores o'erhead With whisperings of passing summer winds. The dapple sunshine kissed and kissed their leaves, And golden gleams were on the fields. Rich were The blackbird's notes and joyous sounds from all The feathered tribes. In lazy lengths the bayou went With stretches on, and murmuring low songs Like those of love. There floated far and wide The queenly water-lilies white, perfuming All the Sunday air. And like a dove Of peace, fair Nitta Yuma sat amid Her spreading figs and rich magnolia blooms In rest; for there was come the hallowed day, The Sabbath of the Lord.
Nitta Yum:i, Miss., May, 1SS4.
An autumn sky, a pleasant weather, The asters blossom by the way ; We two between them walk together, And watch the ships pass on the bay. His summer song yet to the clover, The hovered bee still murmurs there, But there's that tells that summer's over In this sweet dreamy autumn air. "When it was May and lovely weather, And ships went sailing to the west, We walked this path, we two together, With happy throbs of heart and breast. The spring was young and hope was growing, And love went idling on the sand, And there was blissful overflowing Of heart in touch of lip and hand. And yet the bee hums to the clover Soft, all the dreamy hours long, But there's that tells that summer's over In all his drowsy, flying song. An autumn sky, a pleasant weather, But all the summer glow is changed, Here where in love we walked together, Before we two were so estranged.
A LITTLE NEWS VENDER.
Scarce ' bove a whisper—half a sound Heard, causing me to hark, To turn and see a baby face Peering at me in the dark. I bent my head with ready grace With open ear and eye, To learn what such a baby had To say to passers by. Above the clatter of the street I caught the faint accent, A little maiden vender's cry— " The Post! The Times ! a cent "— And swift to strike a trade with me As promptness could command, Out from her tangled skirts came up, A paper in her hand. The wind was blowing merc'lessly, And pitiless the snow, In downy flakes was falling on This little mite of woe. " The Post! The Times ! ' tis but a cent," She looked with eager eye For sympathy and ready sale, How could I fail to buy? O! God, I thought must such be seen, As this on such a night, In this so rich a commonwealth, So pitiful a sight?
Is bread so dear and life so cheap, So circumstanced the strife For food, that babes must barter off, All that is worth in life ? For who can hope these peddling maids Could once escape the price, Backed up and forced by all street laws Legitimate to vice. No Communist to blame the rich, Am I, though sad the sight, But O ! I know somewhere is wrong And somewhere is the right. God pity all the pitiful, And send from door to door, Him whom thou wouldst to minister To the deserving poor. Hartlord, Conn., February, 1893.
THE COLOR BANE.
There was profusion in the gift
Of beanty in her face,
And in her very form and air
An inexpressible grace.
Her rustling silk, moire-antique,
The daintless taste would please ;
Her life in all appearances
Was opulence and ease.
It could be seen from head to foot,
And in her piercing eye,
That she had had advantage of
All that hard cash could buy.
But Oh! it was so sad to see,
That in her heart was pain,
That caste should force this Negro queen
To cold and proud disdain.
That one so beautiful as she,
Could any sphere adorn,
Should so be made to hate a heart
And give back scorn for scorn.
For all her wealth and gifts of grace,
Could not appease the sham
Of justice that discriminates
Against the blood of Ham.
LINES TO A WHIPPOORWILL.
Poor Whippoorwill, what ancient secret woe, Has been the burden of thy feathered tribe? Is it misfortune of some long ago Thy quaint and ever wailing notes describe? Or is it for some faithless truant mate Thy love bemoans in solitude remote, And pining in thy solitary state, Comes forth this woeful ditty from thy throat? Poor Whippoorwill: I truly pity thee, Whatever sorrow fills thy aching breast, Taught sympathy by Plim who pities me, I glad would grant thy mourning tribe a rest. And O! sad bird, there lingers with me still A memory which makes me half rejoice, As I recall the echo from the hill, When first I heard thy strange mysterious voice. With it the thought of many a summer night Comes back, when planets and stars were out, And on the green where floods the moon writh light, I hear again a wild and joyous shout. Again romps there full many a village lad In play upon the early evening tide, And thinking thus my heart grows strangely sad, For my companions scattered far and wide. And I recall emotions, O ! sad bird, When Venus early sheds her distant light, Which vaguely in my childish bosom stirred, When rang thy awesome cry upon the night.
Too young to know the common lot of pain To which the flesh of man and bird is heir, My heart was only moved by thy refrain To sympathy and vagueness of despair. But time has taught me, bird, too well since then The minor which thy wailing failed to do : To-night, with thousands of my fellow men, I am with thee, sad one, a mourner too. And listening to thy voice down in the glen To-night pour forth its ancient sorrowing strain, I well could fancy childhood back again But for my own benumbing ache of pain. ■ But, bird, I bid thfee come and learn with me, That which is worth far more than gems most rare, However great thy sorrow here may be It need not lead to darkness and despair. Though dim the light, if we but trust His will In time the Master maketli all to find, That underneath the deepest pain are still His purposes most wonderfully kind. Cease, bird, thy long complaint and cry of woe, And teach thy young a far more tuneful strain ; Learn that which men are strangely slow to know : Life's guerdon comes to all through ache and pain.
THE BRIDAL WREATH'S LAMENT.
O woe! ah bitter woe for us, AVho did the foolish thing, To trust our folded leaves and buds, To the first warm sun of spring. Up from the lagoons of the South, From lake and flowers about, Came soft deceitful sighing winds And gently called us out. They whispered strange Floridian tales,. Of bayous and the brake, Of spring's aroma and the rose, And bade us to awake. The sun so old for many springs, Looked down on us and smiled, And all our foolish swelling buds, To leaf and flower beguiled. We rivalled the Japonicas Which budded half in doubt, But reassured by southern winds, Fast sought to beat us out. But O ! we spread our leaves and buds Up to the open sky, And looked with condescension on Our lagging neighbors by. Bedecked in all our finery And blind with silly pride, We laughed unconscious of our doom,. And of our woe betide.
But swift and stealthily as comes A lurking foe at night, Without a warning note swept down A storm with bitter blight. Now all the highway and the plain Lie covered up with snow, The sun is hid and leaden clouds, Look down on all below. Deceitful Zephyrs of th<j South, Where are your kisses now? The snowtlakes make our winding sheet, And death is on our brow. But soon the true warm spring will come, And violets in their beds Will bloom : and flauntingly will Lift the tulips up their heads. The gladsome summer time will come, The summer winds will sigh, A thousand brilliant flowers will bloom Beneath a summer sky. But we, O ! vain and foolish buds, Who did the foolish thing, To trust our folded leaves and flowers To the first warm sun of spring, So premature must pass away To nothingness for time and aye.
Welcome, here, cold March winds blowing, Welcome are the songs you sing, Each discordant, shrill vibration, Is a messenger of spring. Blow, now, March winds, blow at pleasure Rush o'er moorland, field and plain, Far and wide bear ye the tidings, That the spring returns again. Spring, when all new life is given, Thou art ever welcome here, For thy voice is sweet with singing, And thy face is ever dear. In thy time sweet hope returning Steals into despairing hearts, And with subtile feeling touching, Vigor and new life imparts. 'Tis a time when birds are mating, And is heard the burnished dove, Pouring out his heart in cooing, Of his constancy and love. ' Tis a time when sounds are pleasing, And when whispers fill the air, Sounds whose sources have no telling, For they come from everywhere. ' Tis a time when meadows glisten, With the dew drops of the morn, When the lilacs and the lilies, And the modest rose are born.
Then it is sweet smelling flora Maketli fragrant all the air, Then it is that life feels lighter, And a lessening of care. Then it is that youth is happy, And the fancies are as light, As uncertain and as lofty, As the careless school boy's kite. Welcome, then, cold March winds blowing, Soon thy howl away shall die, Die in summer breezes sighing, Soft as any lover's sigh. Welcome, here, cold March winds blowing, Welcome are the songs you sing, Each discordant, shrill vibration Is a messenger of spring.
LINES TO NIGHT.
In twilight lingers yet a hue Of light that fades along the distant west, The blushing rose sips up the evening dew, And homeward flies the birdling to its nest. The shepherd leads his flock unto the fold, And sounding bells are heard along the hills, And fainter grows the cloudlet tinged with gold, A deeper twilight all the valley fills. With clanking chains and drivers urging on, The teams at longer intervals go by, And soon the sounds that mark the day are gone, In myriads the stars shine in the sky. The heavens yield their faintest tints of blue, And softer grows the murmur of the sea, The west is robbed of every golden hue, And silent, peaceful night begins to be. The tired workmen to their huts return, Where childish greetings wait them at the door, And sweet a simple bliss which they well earn Makes rich the humble cabin of the poor. The cloth is spread, and o'er the frugal fare, The grace is said and, yea, the feast is blest, For at that festival unseen is there To grace the board, a silent heavenly guest. Around the family altar blest with love They come with reverence and God adore ; There faith in phrases set, to God above, Takes up the meek petitions of the poor.
O'er all who haunt the sea or land about, In love alike for those who weep or sing The silent darkness kindly stretches out And folds the earth beneath her brooding wing. Of all the gifts to man in heavenly grace, O! soothing night, of blessing thou art blest, The sinless child, and wretch in thy embrace, Are cradled in forgetfulness and rest. For humble slave and swain with labor spent, For hearts bowed down with pain and aching woes, In love and kindest mercy thou art sent To give them all in sleep a sweet repose.
The sweetest time of the year to me Comes in the month of May, The sky has then its brightest blue, And earth its mildest day. Not then is felt cold winter's chill, Nor felt its summer's heat, But all the earth is blithe and gay And all the month is sweet. When May is come, sweet, placid May, The hills and vales are seen With lofty peaks and mountain sides To smile in living green. The meadow streams, the rippling streams, Through all the glad day long Glide by their mossy banks and join The earth in one sweet song. ' Tis then I love to wander forth, Into some quiet vale, And dream through all the livelong day, And watch the cloudlets sail. ' Tis then those dreamy days gone by When I was but a child, Return and bring to me again Old visions sweet and wild. Those days when I would lie and watch Beneath some shady tree, The clouds float lazily along la human forms to me.
Sometimes those forms a Bible name Which I had heard or seen, My childish fancy gave to each One suited to his mien. For sure I thought those holy men— Those patriarchs of old Were sailing round the skies in clouds, For such to me was told. But in those visions of them all The sweetest one is this, I hear again a voice, a call, A call to hear is bliss. A mother calls her careless boy, One loth to leave his fun To answer for some wickedness Or on some errand run. 0 ! smiling May, how dear thou art, Thou bringest back to me A dreamy time, a time which now In dreams can only be. 'Tis true ten thousand common joys My restless soul make glad, But all my joys unless in dreams Are mingled with the sad. So, May, when thou art come to me 1 can but steal away And live again in childhood dreams At least for one brief day.
And O ! that thou couldst stay with me, Throughout the lagging year, And let me work and love and dream Out my existence here.
LINES TO A MOCKING BIRD.
Sing, sweet bird, Thy melody is sweet, Chant now thy summer song, For summer days are fleet. But while the earth holds gladsome summer yet, From early morn to peaceful twilight dim, Till God doth bid the burning snn to set, Heard thou art chanting praises unto him. Sing, sweet bird, Sing all the summer long, There is a gladsome joy, A soothing in thy song. O! for a life like thine—one free from care, In dewy fields or clover wet with rain Or in some blissful spot as there I'd dwell unknown to human ache and pain. Sing, sweet bird, Mid clover, grasses green ; Soon pansies and the rose Can nowhere here be seen. And then away unto the far off south Thou wilt wing thy self in flight And leave me but to hear from human mouth A ceaseless groan and fret from morn till night. Sing, sweet bird, With mirth and gladness vie, While flowers blush and bloom And summer breezes sigh.
O ! could I sing for man in bowers green Sweet songs as thou, and soothe his aching breast, I'd gladly sing and pass away unseen To some Elysian fields of peace and rest.
LINES TO THE MEMORY OF DR. POWELL OF THE A. M. A.
One night, entranced, I sat spellbound, And listened in my place, And made a solemn vow to be A hero for my race. He plead as but a few can plead With eloquence and might, He plead for a humanity, The Freedmen and the right. His soul and true nobility Went out in every word, And strongly moved for better things Was every one that heard. Too soon has death made good liis claim On him who moved us so, Too great and white the harvest yet, To spare him here below. Oh ! why this waste?—forgive me, Lord, I would not Judas be, Yet who will plead as he has pled, For Freedmen and for me ? And yet in death, I think he will— This sleeping prince of thine, In many a multitude be heard Still plead for right and mine.
You ask for summer instead of cold weather, But that can never be, The passion that once so bound us together, Forever is dead in me. O yes ! I loved and sought to discover To you my heart's distress, But the love you cheaply gave to another, Turned mine to bitterness. It is now too late; and past forever The time to gather in The ties of love and bind together, The life that might have been.
IN MEMORY OF KATIE REYNOLDS—DYING.
O ! death, If thou has aught of tenderness Re kindly in thy touch Of her whose fragile slenderness Was overburdened much With life. And let her seem to go to sleep, As often does a tired child, when it has grown Too tired to longer weep. A rose but half in bloom— She is too young and beautiful to die, But yet if she must go, Let her go out as goes a sigh From tired life and woe. And let her keep in death's brief space This side the grave, the dusky beauty still Belonging to her face. She must have been Of those upon the trembling lyre Of whom the poets sung ; " Whom the gods love " and desire Fade and " die young." Her life so loved on earth was brief, But yet withal so beautiful there is no cause, But in our loss, for grief.
Nashville, Tenn., December, 1893.
A THANKSGIVING DAY IN NEW ENGLAND.
O, bliss ! where hearts are all aflame With love far deeper than a name, Where speech from hearts so sweetly slips, In loving words and touch of lips, Where rise and find a transient rest, The noblest passion of the breast, I fain would dwell if not for aye, At least on each Thanksgiving day. O, love! wherever love is found In all this toilsome world around In ache and woe and endless strife Thou art the balm in human life, That maketh possible to bear Our mingled load of joy and care. No lot can wholly cheerless be, Dear love, when it is blessed by thee. To-day I've watched glad hurrying feet, Trip gaily homeward love to meet. The father's hand, the mother's kiss, Thanksgiving day, New England's bliss Calls to the old paternal chair The single youth, the married pair, And blithe they go with winsome grace To see again the old home-place. The snow comes down in feathered flakes, On noisy street and silent lakes, Through window panes the fire lights glow Upon the fallen spotless snow, And snug within from cold and storm Love's own are gathered safe and warm, And from the scene is banished care, And all is joy beyond compare.
The youngsters romp with boisterous stride, The mothers with ill-concealed pride Half scold in their indulgent way, For more decorum in their play ; For this the youngsters feel no need And scarcely pay their parents heed. They make the old home ring without, With gayety and childish shout. And when they to the loaded board Come with their patriarchal lord, The grace is said and all the guests, A second time and more are pressed. To more of all the good things nice With sauce and aromatic spice. And gathered thus on this glad day The time speeds happily away. The old forget their years of pain, Feel in their children young again, Perchance some tears a smile displace For some beloved absent face, But all are met with one accord To happy be and thank the Lord. And joy from other things apart Is uppermost in every heart. But Oh ! all homes are not so blest With love and gathered family guest; And, ye whom God doth favor give, Think kindly of the poor who live In tenements and never see The comforts God hath given thee. Ah ! lonely hours pass away For many on Thanksgiving day. My homesick heart gives useless sighs
For love beneath my southern skies, And feels that longing which must come, To aliens far away from home. But still I know while fades the light, And daylight deepens into night, Love travels fast and cometh nigh, In answer to my own heart's sigh, And so ' tis sweet though far apart— When love doth answer heart to heart.
AFTER COMMENCEMENT AT FISK UNIVERSITY.
The halls are all deserted now, And silence reigns complete, Where one could hear but yesterday A thousand tramping feet. The flowers, wreaths and evergreens, Lie withered up and dead, And with the hands that handled them, Their beauty now has fled. No sound of boisterous laugh and life, Nor student jesting word Breaks silence of the hall, save where A nibbling mouse is heard. The life that here but yesterday With hope and college pride, Rang out in song and careless mirth Is scattered far and wide. The long vacation time has come, A timely season blest, When tired brains may revel in Forgetfulness and rest. Thus Jubilee and Livingstone In solitude complete Are left with none to tread their halls, But ghosts of absent feet.
THE WOODS OF OCTOBER.
The last sweet blush of summer in her glory Still lingers in October woods and skies, But changed in forests, hills and mountains hoary,. From green unto a thousand brilliant dyes. The cloudless skies a restful peace betoken, The Indian summer broodeth over all, In earth and everywhere is plainly spoken A placidness which only comes with fall. In fields where to the breeze was lately swaying,. The wheat in all its golden beauty seen, Are flocks and herds of lazy cattle straying, And feeding on a second growth of green. A bee is seen still out in hope of finding, A blossom in the second growth of clover, But nature's law too on the bee is binding, His harvesting will also soon be over. 'A few more days of autumn's hazy gleaming, And all October woods to-day so fair, The very imagery of death in seeming Will stand dismantled, naked, bare. O, who would think that all this beauty painted,. Upon these leaves in colors clear, In every brilliant hue with death is tainted, But for the dying lesson year by year. That lesson let me learn to-day in earnest, Wrhich thou dost teach in every hue and dye, Who knows but when thy glory here returnest,. Within the silent grave my head shall lie.
Farewell, October woods—soon bleak December "Will all the forest wrap in spotless snow, But I, forgetting not, shall still remember, Thy glory which to-day delights me so.
THE MESSAGE OF A DEAD EOSE.
The rose you gave me, dear, is dead, The hope which it begot Is gone. An aching heart and head, Is my unhappy lot. Perhaps you could not fully know, The danger of your smiles, How often hearts are poisoned so, By thoughtless maiden wiles. I would not think so hard of heart You thoughtfully could be ; To gratify a flirting art, Such passion stirred in me. Yet many a trusting heart has been From honor made to rove, In darksome ways and paths of sin, By lightly feeding love. This rose cut from its mother stem, With thy unfeeling knife, Has lost, though such a lovely gem, All that could feed its life. And faded its untimely death Tells silently to me, As is its fate and scentless breath, So my heart's love must be.
THE SUN WENT DOWN IN BEAUTY.
The sun went down in beautv, Beyond Mississippi's tide, As I stood on the banks of the river, And watched its waters glide ; Its swelling currents resembling The longing restless soul, Surging, swelling, and pursuing Its ever-receding goal. The sun went down in beauty, But the restless tide flowed on, And the phantoms of absent loved ones Danced o'er the waves and were gone ; Nautical phantoms of loved ones, Their faces jubilant with glee In the spray, seemed to rise and beckon, And then rush on to the sea. The sun went down in beauty, While I stood musing alone, Stood watching the rushing river, And heard its restless moan ; And longings, vague, intenable, So far from speech apart, Like the endless rush of the river, Went surging through my heart. The sun went down in beauty, Peacefully sank to rest, Leaving its golden reflection On the great Mississippi's breast;
Gleaming on the turbulent river, In the coming gray twilight, Soothing its restless surging, And kissing its waters good-night. The sun went down in beauty, The stars came one by one, Speaking from the vault of heaven, Of the mighty Father and Son ; Speaking to earthly mortals, Whose souls like the river's tide, Forever and ever are flowing, But never are satisfied. The sun went down in beauty, But still in the calm starlight, My feet were wont to linger To the coming of gray midnight; My heart was filled with musings, Of past and coming years, And the thoughts of friends departed, Filled my eyes with tears. The sun went down in beauty, But still in visions fair, My soul to the gate of heaven, Was wafted through the air; The gate of life eternal, Where cease tumult and strife, Where men borne down with sorrow, Lay down the burden of life. The sun went down in beauty, Tinging the west with gold,
Gleaming as a symbol in heaven, Of light in the Father's fold ; And. soul, why fret with emotions, Of sorrow, joy or renown ? Soon life with all that is earthly, Forever will be laid down. The sun will go down in beauty, 'Mid summer and mid winter snow, When we in the grave are sleeping, Beyond its radiant glow ; Speak to our souls, my Father, Their void with comfort fill, And ease our anxious longings, And bid them, " Peace, be still."
Tiptonville, Tenn., on the banks of the Mississippi, August, 1892.
OVER THE BAY.
The daylight dies and sinking in the west, The sun is red and tinges all the bay, And soft a sigh escapes a woman's breast, And dreamingly her eyes are far away. Then love alert and swifter than a sigh Rocks tenderly a babe. "With cooings low He sleeps again to her sweet lullaby. And night creeps on in livery of gray, But still she lingers, gazing on the west, While all the world is putting toil away, And coming slowly on to home and rest. But love with nimble feet eternally All tirelessly skims on and on O'er night, and league, and wave, to Jack at
Go whisper to her gentle winds, While you are passing by, The mighty secret of my heart, The burden of my sigh. Take to her from this blushing rose, Such sweets of scented air, As are befitting for a queen, And one divinely fair. And from this lily of the vale, Take her who is to me. The emblem of all that is good, And sweetest purity. The violets of azure eyes, Which ever sweets impart, Take her their gentle modesty, So like her guileless heart. Take all the sweets which you can find Along your airy way, To her whose face and daily life Are like the month of May. Blow softly on her lovely brow, And give her lips a kiss, The thing were I to do, O winds, Would count a wondrous bliss. She does not know my secret flame, But what is that to you ? Oh winds, but take her from my heart, Its mighty love and true.
THE NEW JERUSALEM.
O New Jerusalem ! abode unseen, Yet now as in all ages past, Thou art the bourne to which in deep despair Or hope, men turn their face at last. It matters not what race, or clime or creed In life has swayed the powers given, ' Tis always true that men about to die Will turn a longing heart to heaven. In youth ambition leads the mind along The way of hope and sweet delights, Fulfilling just enough its promises To point out more desired heights. And so for more of gold, or fame or power, Or for the bare necessities of life, Succeeding generations go the rounds Of failure or successive strife. But O, when age creeps on and life begins The gliding downward to its west, There comes a deep solicitude alike To fill the rich or beggar's breast. Far out beyond the stretch of space and time, Beyond experience or ken, The soul immortal thoughtfully must face The common destiny of men. The always poor and long despised of earth, To whom so many woes of life are given By faith or blind instinct are comforted, And hope for better things in heaven,
The New Jerusalem, 95 And lives all hopelessly ensnared with sin Too much to ever here undo, "When every other hope is gone will hope To live in heaven their lives anew. O, many are the weary souls and tired feet From every rank and walk of life, At last come gladly to that borderland, Where men lay down all pain and strife. Oft timorously with sore and fainting hearts They wait the dipping boatman's oar, But oh! the pilot there is kind who guides The boat to that Celestial shore. And there a king and kingdom without end Shall be to all as thine and mine, And never once a discord in His rule, But always harmony divine. The palace gates shall not be shut by night, There hearts shall never beat with fears, Nor ever ache, for O, the King is kind, And wipes away all bitter tears. O New Jerusalem ! abode unseen, Yet now as in all ages past, Thou art the bourne to which we ail must turn, For all there is to life at last. There deep and lasting is^ the law of love, As all eternity is wide, And all inhabitants for time and aye With God himself abide.
THE GODDESS OF PENITENTIALS.
I saw and heard her often in my dreams— in my dreams at night, but oftener in my dreams by day. I saw her in my earliest childhood. She spoke to me then and told me things which my childish understand¬ ing could not comprehend. Sometimes her dark sayings stirred within me a feeling of uneasiness and vague apprehension of com¬ ing pain. When I looked at her wistfully for explanation, she would say, " Never mind. You will remember my sayings and understand them by and by." In the summers of my childhood I re¬ member times when I stood by a great bed of hollyhocks in bloom, charmed with their brilliant colors of many hues. I wondered why they should die, why such glory as theirs might not last forever. But I was too young for emotions of any kind to be very lasting, and my sadness on such occasions was but momentary. For at such 7 (97)
times, seeing a humming bird flashing like a ray of light among the flowers, sucking the honey-dew from the heart of the blossoms, I forgot all and chased it with breath¬ less eagerness, hoping that I might clasp the shining, irridescent thing in my hands. Oh! faithful prophecy of other pursuits as vain in after years. Disappointed in this I stole upon a bee, and closed the bell-shaped mouth of the flower and imprisoned the little honey gatherer within. I took savage delight in its rage and terrified humming, unless it stung me in spite of my precaution. At other times I would lie for hours watching a summer cloud float lazily along or remain at rest. Sometimes I watched a great procession of clouds pass by and saw in them human forms, human restlessness, human passions, and human sorrows. And now I know that some features of her face were in all my visions. All about me were straggling hills, quiet vales between and sheltered nooks, through which went the singing brooks on their .way to fill the many mouths of the mighty and ever thirsty sea. There were mornings when I saw the earth sparkle with May dew and the glittering grass full of all the promise of summer. With my heart full of unutterable happiness I have gone forth then breathing the breath of the morning, sweeter than the burnt, incense of many altars. And yet at times the very raptures of such hours wrought in me a kind of mo¬ mentary pain. They were almost happy pains, but pains nevertheless full of sugges¬ tions of rue to come. It was the uncon¬ scious influence of her face, reflections of which I saw everywhere and in every thing. When the first morning hours in my life were past, my thoughts began to go beyond the horizon of my native vale. The coun¬ tries, the people, the heroes of whom I read stirred my heart with unutterable longings, and my indomitable imagination led into realms where there were only the great, the glorious, and all desirable things. The hap¬ piness of those visionary hours is indescrib¬ able. It is only a thing which the highly imaginative soul can feel, and this felicity is all the more blissful because it is beyond •description; because it is not hemmed in by time and space, and is not trammeled by necessary results that should follow a concourse of incidents, but is an unhindered •creation of the mind itself.
Work of all kind involving excessive bodily exhaustion was to me irksome in the extreme, and unbearable. I was called lazy, and so I was; but certainly not of the lazy belonging to that vicious kind whose body and mind are alike averse to all activ¬ ity. The taunt of my fellows among whom my lot was cast in no sense disturbed my peace of mind. If to them I was a worthless idler, to me they were so many singing and dancing animals, the consummation of whose enjoyments was in sleep and feasting. In the dappled dawn of a summer morning they saw nothing but the coming of a hot day. In the profusion of roses and the luxuriant bloom of hollyhocks, they saw nothing but some flowers for the hands of girls and women to make bouquets for the mantlepiece on Sundays. In the strag¬ gling hills and mountain crags, they saw nothing but landscapes unfit for the culti¬ vation of corn. While in all "these things I saw not a world but a universe of beauty beyond compare, subjects for dreams with¬ out end and without limitation. In the conceit of my youthful soul I thought myself better than my clod-headed fellows, and dedicated to a higher life than
they. I resolved to go out from among them and seek for companions of kindred spirits and an abode suited to my ambitions. Medi¬ tating upon this plan, one morning I walked out full of a sense of coming happi¬ ness and the transporting delights of Ely- sian fields through which my fancied pathway lay. I sought a sheltered nook and seated myself on the mossy bank of a babbling stream. It was the month of June and there was glory everywhere be¬ yond all naming. I gave myself up wholly to the pleasant sensations coming from the cool shade, the lulling whispers of the pass¬ ing breeze, the inimitable sweetness of the bird songs, the gurgling of the brook at my feet, the perfumed air, and the deep quiet of the woods beyond. How long I sat in this seducing state of happy indolence I do not know. But rousing from my revery I looked up and she stood before me, she, the Goddess of Penitentials. I knew her at once. I had never seen her gathered to¬ gether before; but all the beauty of her face, all the exquisite mouldings and grace of her body, all the majesty of her mien, all the gentle sweetness of her mouth, all the melancholy of her eyes, and all the sorrowful shadows of her soul, I had seen before. These gathered up from the summer clouds,, from the blushes of the morning, from the mountain sides, from the quiet vales, from the hollyhocks, from the roses, from the diamond dews, and come together in the person of the Goddess, had lost nothing of their individualities and their familiarity to me. Neither was I surprised at her coming, but felt at that moment as if I had been waiting for her all my life. Of this I was the more convinced when she said, " Thou hast kept the appointment. All the days of thy life have I waited for this hour of meeting with thee." Then for a moment she was silent. There was an indescribable cadence of sadness in her voice. I fancied that she looked upon me with compassionate pity—with a feeling akin to that which a relentless heads¬ man might bestoAV upon some doomed vic¬ tim whom he pities but cannot spare. Her look inspired me with no fear, but all the passions of my soul were stirred to- their deepest depths. I knew by some pre¬ science that with her coming had come also the turning point of my life. I knew that all my past was passed forever. I knew
that there was before me a new life and one not of my dreams. Therefore I waited with breathless anxiety for her message, for a message I knew she had come to bring. She began once more : " Thou hast kept the appointment. I am the Goddess of Penitentials and from the hour of thy birth I have watched over thee. At the moment thou earnest into the world and breathed the breath of life, I was there and laid my hand upon thee and dedicated thee to my service—the service of human sorrows. That thou mightest the better serve in the kingdom for which thou art chosen, I endowed thee with fine and ex¬ quisite sensibilities. Thou wast given a keen perception of all beautiful things and in thy heart was formed a mighty capacity for love. Thou shalt have learning and the cultivation of £esthetic tastes. Thou shalt- see and mix with the great and the wealthy, but in none of these things shall it be unto thee according to thy dreams. The ache of all human sorrows that ever throbbed in the heart of man must go through thy soul till by them it is pierced through and through and thus purified. Thou shalt have the tastes and cultivated capacity of
the refined and the wealthy • but in thy re¬ sources thou shalt be all thy life long the brother of the Pariah. Thou shalt have attainments that will recommend thee in many places that thy soul will desire. But on thy face to the day of thy death will be a sign which readeth thus: ' He is one from the tents of Ham'—an unjust version of which is : 'A child of hereditary disgrace.' Because of that sign thy excel¬ lencies, whatever they may be or wherever thou wouldest show them forth, even if secretly or openly acknowledged, must be denied their full rights, except, perhaps, by the compassionate few, whose very tender compassion will give thee a certain pain as well as pleasure. Of all the dis¬ grace and degradation of thy race thou must be a part. Thou shalt see thy breth¬ ren often unjustly treated, denied the full rights and protection of the law. " In some instances with no power to save, thou shalt be made to stand and see them racked with barbarous cruelty, even unto death, by the powerful wicked, whom God will judge and whose wickedness He will punish in hell. It shall be thy lot to feel thy brotherhood with the oppressed,
the despised and outcast vagrants of every clime. In quieter ways, but with no less oppres¬ sion to the soul, thou shalt see and feel all the sorrows common to the lot of man. Thou shalt look into the faces of men and women of high as well as low degree, and see the relentless touches of woe. There may be only professions of mirth and hap¬ piness, but by the secret signs which thou shalt see, the counterpart of which is en¬ graved upon thine own heart, thou shalt know them to be thy brothers and sisters. "Butin all this, thy sorrowful lot, there is 'this compensation for thee. By thy knowledge, by thy keen sensibilities and quickened sympathies thou mayest become a great comforter and great healer. But even in this compensation thou wilt find pain. Thou shalt give love with a lavish hand and w7ith such thou shalt heal many wounds, but such healing will beget in thee a great hunger which shall never be satisfied. Passing sentiments and impulses of grate¬ ful feeling will be given thee, but of the mighty love for which thou shalt long, thou shalt never taste. Thy ten lepers thou shalt heal, but only one will come back to
thank thee. But in the forgetfulness of the nine thou shalt be blest, inasmuch as thou shalt then be shown the selfishness lurking in all thy acts where thou though test were only goodness and self-sacrifice. Then thou wilt see that thou gavest love for the hope of love in return, and in the futility of such giving thou mayest learn to give as He did, who gave, knowing beforehand that the nine would forget him. So shalt thou through all the days of thy life go desolate of soul and learn wisdom through lessons of bitterness and the feeling of sorrow in all phases of life that touch thee. But by thy knowledge and capacities enlarged through suffering, thou shalt understand the woes of thy fellow-men and become to them a serv¬ ant of servants in all things, who, at last, shall have exceeding great reward. These are the penitentials written in my book over against thy name. Go now into the world and perform them faithfully, and in the end thou shalt have a purified soul, a life everlasting." As the sighing of the wind dieth away, so died her voice. I looked up, and she, the Goddess of Penitentials, was gone. I arose and walked forth into the shining
sun, which was still the sunshine of sum¬ mer, but its warmth I felt not, for there had fallen on my senses and on my heart the chill of death. Condemnation was written on my face and I dared not meet my fellows whose taunts I had borne be¬ fore with disdain and silent contempt. N ow I was fallen in my own estimation below them, and to leave my native vale without a moment's delay I was fully resolved. At the foot of the hill which led up from the valley, was old Silas, the swine herder. He greeted me as I passed him with his kind old voice. To me he had always been kind, but in my blind conceit I had never thought him worth notice. My heart was kindly-disposed towards all, and old Silas was indebted to me for many a good deed. The favors I had done him were such as I would have done for any bod}7; but in the simplicity of his heart they were special favors to him, and had greatly warmed his old heart towards me. And now as I bade him farewell, knowing that it was forever, though he did not notice that I bade him farewell, a great wave of regret swept over my heart and my eyes filled with tears. From this ignorant old man so low in the scale
of life, I learned my first great lesson—that the proudest heart may come to need the sympathy of the humblest creature on earth. At that moment my heart was almost breaking for love and sympathy, and knowing how abundantly old Silas would have given all, had I told him my intentions, I could scarcely keep back the truth. But he would have made my departure known and I dared not tell him, for in truth, I was running away from home. Reaching the top of the hill, I turned and looked back on the vale below. There were the home, and all the scenes of my childhood, the low lying fields, the orchard, the meadow, and the quiet nooks of my happy dreams. Between me and all this I knew that to my spirit was a great gulf which could never be passed. A force which I could not resist led me on. Behold now the foolishness and insecurity of the human heart. Scarcely more than an hour before I was full of eagerness and impa¬ tience to leave my native vale, and now my heart was rent in twain because the hour of departure had come. I turned my face to¬ wards the blue-rimmed hills beyond where
lay the world into which I was to go. Remembering the prophecy of pain await¬ ing me there my heart fainted and I fell upon the earth to pray—not with the lips, but with the bitter cry of the soul whose agony too great for lips to utter God can understand. Somewhere it was spoken audibly to me, as if out of the air: " Faint¬ hearted one arise, go forth into the world and do thy duties, and in the end thou shalt have a purified soul and a life ever¬ lasting." I arose, and from the height of my vain imaginations went down into my valley of humiliation.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL.
The city was wrapt in snow. Every¬ where it wore white robes—robes resplen¬ dent with whiteness, like those which they say are worn by those who stand about the throne of God. So was the city white and spotless. It was the eve of the Holy Christmas. More than ten thousand feet hourly trod the streets, staining the im¬ maculate sheet let down from the four cor¬ ners of the heaven. But a billion flakes a second silently fluttered down to cover up the stains and to keep the city white for the coming of the Holy Babe of Bethlehem, for it is said, that he is born again on every Christmas eve. And there are some who burn candles at Catholic altars so that the little Christ-child may not be in the dark and the Holy Virgin will be pleased. I would that the saying of his yearly coming was true. Perhaps in the widespread usage at the (110)
Christmas-tide in the presentation of gifts, the gladdening of little hearts, the partial re¬ membrance of the poor by the rich, and in the general good feeling that prevails, it is true that the little Prince of Peace is born again in the hearts of men. Surely in the happy homes on the Christmas morning, from the merry patter of little feet, the laughing voices, and the overflowing happi¬ ness from the hearts of little children, in them at least, it can not be doubted that the Babe of Bethlehem is born again. On this Christmas-tide there was the usual selling and buying, the usual throngs in the streets, till late at night. The show windows were'marvelous to see. The rich and the poor, the happy and the sorrowr- ful, the good and the bad, passed by and admired the beautiful sights. Perhaps, be¬ hind all this Christmas show was mainly the greedy love of gold and sordidness of heart. And yet in this display and cele¬ bration the hearts of the multitude passing by were more or less softened, and in un¬ conscious ways re-echoed the angelic song of the midnight, heard by the Bethlehem shepherds so long ago—"Peace on earth, good will towards men."
In the passing crowds there were Simon Johns and his daughter Bess. Christmas had come and gone forty-five times for him and thirteen for her. They were among the poor and outcast who looked at the beautiful windows. He looked with in¬ difference, and she with childish delight, until at times she almost forgot the unap- peased hunger which gnawed at the very vitals of her life. That Christmas night they were homeless and out in the snow. At the windows of a baker's shop, Bess stopped to gaze at the brown loaves of bread with a hunger no words can ever ex¬ press. But in the father there was a thirst for drink greater than Bess' hunger. His craving was a madness for which there is no name which can bear an adequate meaning to the mind of man who never felt the raging of the whiskey demon. At times he would have given his very soul for a drink of whiskey, if such a bargain he could have made. And such was his thirst on that Christmas night. But there was one thing which he would not have given—the one thing which still kept him a human being from whom the image of God was not wholly effaced. In the mo-
ments of his greatest craving, when his ■own soul would have been as a feather in the scale over against a drink of whiskey, he would not have given Bess for a drink. All through his downward course, even into the bottom of the gutter, she had been -at his side. Nothing could destroy his love for her. Cold and hungry, on and on they wrent through the snow-muffled streets, until they came to the Chattanooga depot. There in the "Colored Waiting Room" they hid in the crowrds waiting for the trains and for awhile they were sheltered and warm. But by and by the trains had carried away the very last passenger to his home, and the night watchman came round to lock the waiting-room doors. His wrath arose when he saw Simon Johns and Bess, for he had driven them out before and for¬ bidden them the use of the passenger's room. When he began to drive them out again, and raised his foot to kick the half dazed and drink-wrecked man, Bess stepped between them to shield her father. There was something in her look, some¬ thing in her pinched and pleading little black face that caused the watchman's foot 8
to drop. Oat into the cold again they went. "Let us go to the Louisville depot, father; may be we can slip in there." Down to Cedar street they went and past the corner of "Hell's Half Acre," and along Vine and Gay streets, by the great white Capitol. Like some old Greek temple with its Corinthian pillars, Tennessee's pride and glory, towered upward in the night. A huge pile it was with its dim outlines in the snow which fell over it, and around it, whiter than its own marble pillars and porticoes. Down through Capitol avenue and to College street these two homeless vagrants tramped on. At College and Line there was a by-way of Hell in full blaze as they were about to pass. The clinking of glasses and the fumes issuing through the half- screened doors aroused in Simon Johns a legion of devils beyond all control. In he went with Bess clinging to him. "A drink," he cried. But the bar-tender knew him too well and refused him. "This is Christmas eve, man; give him a drink,"cried a voice, as a piece of silver was thrown on the counter. Oh the magic in a drink of whiskey! Simon Johns was no longer dazed and
stupid, but trembling with excitement and the working of every devil of the legion, as the wolf with one taste of blood, he clamored and plead for one more, drink. One thing only silenced that clamor for the moment. Some one in that wild com¬ pany made a brutal address to Bess, but he was quickly hustled back by a few who knew Simon Johns too well, not to know that the forward reveler who abused the child was inviting death to come in their midst. "Give us a song," shouted one who knew Bess, and who had seen her in a saloon many times before, but always there an in¬ nocent child trying to save her father. "Yes, give us a song, a Christmas song," they shouted and a table was produced for her to stand upon. A rough but not un¬ kind hand lifted her upon it. It was not the first time she had been in a saloon and she had sung there many times for pennies, for she had the voice of a meadow lark. But that night the wild excitement half fright¬ ened her and she stood upon the table un¬ certain for a moment. "Sing, Bess, sing a Christmas song," said her father. Bess had been a faithful
member of a mission Sunday school in old Howard Chapel once. But that was before she grew to be so big and so ragged. But the songs she learned there were still fresh in her memory. There were other things fresh, too. More things than those often discouraged teachers over the little rag¬ amuffins that used to assemble wTith Bess ever suspected. But that is God's way often. May be only one out of a large crowd of street Arabs will be saved where much effort has been put forth to save so many. But the one is always worth the effort put forth. That one may become God's mes¬ senger in some time of great need to carry His gospel wThere those who taught could never go. And so was Bess his messenger on that night. On that wooden table amid the wildest confusion, her voice untrained, but with a native sweetness so common to many Negroes, she lifted up and sang as one inspired of God. And who can safely say that she was not inspired at that mo¬ ment? Over the fumes of whiskey and tobacco, and oaths more vile than either, rose her voice like a lark's:
"Jesus my Saviour to Bethlehem came, Born in a manger to sorrow and shame, Oh, it was wonderful, how could it be, Seeking for me, for me. Jesus my Saviour on Calvary's tree Paid the great debt and set my soul free, Oh, it was wonderful, how could it be, Dying for me, for me." On and on she went through all the verses of that beautiful song, swelling in the chorus, "Oh it was wonderful, how could it be, Dying for me;" letting her voice die away on those last words with a sweetness and pathos which a stage artist could not have surpassed. Every oath was dead on the lips of those profaning men while Bess sang to them. The little innocent Babe of Bethlehem had suddenly come into their presence and then later they saw him dy- on the Cross for them. When the first song was ended, without change of pitch the little black singer broke into another song more joyous. "In the sweet by and by," she went on trilling to them. Gathering greater and greater inspi¬ ration from her theme as she went on, in the sweetness of the voice of a nightingale, she sang to them of that land which is fairer than day. Out of the hard ex-
periences of her pitiful life and the im¬ pulses of her mystical nature she had con¬ structed her own eschatology of the heaven. And in this moment of ecstacy she poured out a melody full of imaginary heaven, a heaven of green fields full of all the sweetness of summer, where the biting snows never come and wrhere there are no hunger and the pinchings of poverty. Indeed there were no evils of any kind in that sweet by and by of which she sang. In those sin-stained men, feelings and im¬ pulses long since dead were awakened to life by this unexpected Christmas carol, and in some of them at least a sense of their lost condition suddenly forced itself before their minds with all its dark suggestions. What sweet by and by was there for them ? They were all hardened men, full of oaths, full of drink, full of strife and unbridled passions, and some of them had hands stained with blood. And }7et while that little black singer stood in their midst pouring out the raptures of her song, there were lips vile with drink and oaths, that trembled, and there were tears that trickled doAvn faces long seared with vice. In that den of iniquity there were sons of
Ireland, Italy, American-born whites, and Negroes, come to all stages of manhood in sin and vice. But all of them had once been little innocent boys. In the soft sun¬ shine of far away Itaty some of them had played in green fields and with childish delight listened to the nightingale sing her sweet and sad measures. And there in the old church-yard were little green mounds under which were peacefully sleeping little brothers and sisters who never grew up, who never crossed the wide sea, and who were never stained with drink, oaths, and sinful vices. There were others who in the "Old Country," St. Patrick's blessed Isle, who had been faithful little boys at the Cathedral, and with innocent young hearts and voices had joined in the priest's chant¬ ing at the solemn mass before sin had led them so far from home and so far from God. There were American white boys who had been happy and good 011 the farms, but yielding to their restlessness had come up to the city for better fortunes, but had found only a downward road to all shame. There were those who had been happy and sunny little Negro boys amid the plantations, who had wandered far
away from their old mothers who were still praying and agonizing for their salvation in some little church cabin where Negro fervor and faith meet to wrestle with God and to tell Him the tales of their sorrowful life. For a moment years of vice and sin rolled away from the memory of those sin¬ ful men, and all of them felt, for the mo¬ ment at least, a touch of the sweetness of childhood's innocence again, and with it a yearning for that better life which they had thrown away. It was God's call to them—perhaps his very last call to some of them to become better men, and the judg¬ ment day may show that little black singer- wearing a crown shining with stars, given to her for having led some of those lost and benighted men out of darkness into light by singing her Christmas carol that night. And Simon Johns—all the legion of devils in him were cast out and he stood clothed in his right mind. Without a word he went to Bess and folded her in his arms and went out into the night. The keen north wind struck them with a savage howl and Bess shivered and clung to her father. But the heart of Simon Johns was warm.
As he went down College street half blinded with the snow he felt that he was carrying Bess up the aisle of the Church to the altar again to be baptized. The snow- flakes made him think of Amanda's new white dress which she wore to the baby's baptizing, and Bess again was a little bun¬ dle of a cooing baby which he held half ashamed, but with a heart full of fatherly pride and love. He was young and full of hope then, and work was plenty. That was in the little home on Grannywhite street, before he knew drink and hard times. On he went in that momentary happy dream till he reached the Louisville depot and found the door of the " colored-wait¬ ing-room1' closed and locked. This brought him back to their real situation. Bitter]y he recalled his first great sorrow over Amanda's death, the loss of his job of work soon after, and the hard times which followed. Then the discouragement which he sought to soften in drink and all his downward course flashed over his mind. He recalled his efforts to reform and how he had fallen again and again until he had lost all hope. Then, down and down he had gone, till the moment of that bitter
hour out in the snow. Keen remorse pierced his heart when he thought what he had brought Bess to—wThat he had done to the little baby God had given him. " Oh ! God pity me for Bess' sake. Try me once more," he moaned at heart. " It is no use," whispered one of the cast out demons, " you will end this night's repentance in a drunken spree to-morrow. To-morrow is the holy Christmas and there will be plenty of free whisky all over the city and you will be drunk again." " It shall never be, I swear it, by God." " Why, father, what do you say that for ? " " Nothing, Bess." A wild thought suddenly entered his mind and formed itself into a resolution as quickly. With Bess still in his arms he crossed the railway track. There was the little tower of the keeper of the crossing. He was snug and warm within and sat dozing over his stove. Simon Johns turned suddenly and walked down the track past the red light over the door of Linck's hotel towards the river. " One step off of the bridge will do it," he said to himself. His heart shuddered at the thought of the
terrified cry that would come from Bess in the fall. But then he would hold her tight in his arms, and the midnight waters of the cold Cumberland would soon hush her cry and shut out of his ears the whispers of the legions of devils. Then there would be that land fairer than day. But sudden¬ ly he began to wonder if he could go along with Bess into that fair country, if the keepers of it would let a sin-stained man like him pass. What if the icy waves of the Cumberland should separate him from Bess forever? The thought was too terrible for him, and like some frightened and hard-pressed animal the poor drink-wrecked man turned up Market street towards Mar¬ ket square. He was exhausted with the excitement and carrying Bess. He crossed over to the courthouse yard, watching nar¬ rowly for the policemen. But there was no need of that for that blue-coated gentry hired to watch the city by night were too safely housed away from the cold to molest Simon Johns, had he been meditating a much greater crime than hiding from the storm in the old courthouse. All the doors to the hallways of that grim old building were locked. Her justice and her protec-
tion were shut within. It Avas not a build¬ ing in which Negroes generally found comfort at any time, and to-night for these two vagrants of that race there was no wel¬ come. Indeed the old building might have been as fittingly called a temple of sorrows as a court of justice. In the days of slavery many broken-hearted Negroes had stood on her stone-steps and had been auctioned off to the far plantations of the South as so many cattle. Over her stone threshold many a poor sinful criminal had crossed to hear his doom and afterwards to be marched out to the penitentiary for life or to the gal¬ lows, leaving behind all hopes of life and a' name to be blotted out of the book of re¬ membrance. But that night that grim old building, the stage of so many life tragedies was as silent and peaceful as a tomb. As Simon Johns and Bess crouched away in the angle of the wall and the stone steps, there were none to molest them but the wind and the driving snow which searched out every nook and corner, and penetrated every crack and crevice. " 0 father, I am so cold,"' moaned Bess. But by and by she fell into a fitful sleep. Once when she gave a convulsive shiver
Simon Johns took off his old coat and wrapped it around her. A blast of wind as if enraged at his daring, with a shriek swept down on him, chilling his very bones. But his heart grew warmer as he thought Bess was sleeping and was warm. By and by the warmth of his heart began to steal all over his body and a sense of the sweet¬ est sleep began to creep upon him. Some¬ how his heart began to be very glad and he wanted to shout and laugh, but he was too sleepy to do so. Such a peaceful rest kept stealing over him, till at last he was lost in that most lasting and the sweetest of all sleeps that ever comes to rest the weary. And the same sweet sleep was upon Bess and brought to her a beautiful dream. The Madonna so full of all sweetness and that ineffable tenderness of maternity came and brought the little Bethlehem babe, who smiled and stretched out his hands for Bess to take him. Then the mother of the little Christ said, "You sang a beautiful carol to him to¬ night and now I am come to take you with me to sing sweet carols to him for ever and ever." She and her father were so glad, and when they stood up they were clad in
beautiful garments—garments more beauti¬ ful than all the Christmas show windows. For the first time since Bess could remem¬ ber all hunger was gone. Her father looked so young and happy. They crossed the square and went over the suspension bridge and on through East Nashville to¬ wards the rising sun. They had never seen the city look so beautiful before. Soon they came to the border of a new country and into a land of summer. They saw strange and beautiful trees, full of golden fruit. Birds of wonderful and brilliant plumage shot through the air and sang the sweetest songs. Bess began to warble after them to the delight of the little Christ child, and an inexpressible delight took possession of her soul. On and on they went with the beauty of the country ever increasing. At last they came to a park beautiful beyond all description. Here be¬ neath a great tree full of white blossoms that filled the air with delightful perfume they sat down to rest. The Madonna gave them luscious fruit to eat. " This," she said, " is that land fairer than day, and you are to live here for al¬ ways and always."
And in this first hour of transporting de¬ light, to the musical ripples of fountains and the sweet songs of birds, Bess and her father fell into a sweet sleep. It was the morning of the Holy Christmas and the sun rose over all Nashville wrapt in snow. Early the saloons were thronged for a Christmas drink. And those who had money were generous in treats to those who lacked the amount necessary to buy a drink. A low class of Negroes and white people fought in the streets. Heeling here and there were men and women drunk with whisky. The patrol wagons were busy running in the Christmas revelers. Guns of all descriptions roared in the air and pandemonium wras abroad. It was a common celebration. It is the way in which the South keeps the commemoration of the Holy Christmas. While a police¬ man was crossing the courthouse yard to stop a fight on the opposite side, he noticed a strange looking mound of pnow in the angle of the courthouse wall and the stone steps. He went to it and gave it a kick. Simon Johns, who sat leaning against the wall with Bess in his arms, fell over on his side.
" Annison is conjured." That was the story which went from cabin to cabin, all through the valley. For three days he had lain in a strange stupor, speechless and knowing no one. Annison was a hand¬ some mulatto, and so was Annette, his be¬ trothed. On the third day at sunset a bird flew into the room where Annison lay, and fluttered about in terror until it found its way out. A few moments later old Bull, Annison's dog, came in front of the door and howled three times. Then Annette knew Annison was doomed. These were two sure signs of death. Out in the darkness and down the lone¬ some path of Lunny's Hollow, Annette with unspeakable anguish sped on and on to old Martha's cabin. Martha knew she would come that night. She was the arch princess of conjurers among the Negroes of the Hollow. Martha was ignorant, but a (128)
keen reader of human nature and a shrewd old woman. That mysterious power, given a few, by which they can sway the faith, spirit and souls of others, was old Martha's in a marked degree. Through all the ages from her ancestral Africa, and indeed further back from the families of Asia, this gift, false in all its claims, but nevertheless powerful and believed in by the ignorant of all nations, had come down to old Mar¬ tha all the way to Lunny's Hollow. She went with Annette so see Annison on the second day of his sickness, and she saw what Annette's eyes blinded with love and hope did not see. Old Martha lived by her art, and never risked her reputation incautious¬ ly. Her only pledge was that she would cod suit her " kards and colfee-grounds " the next day to see who had tricked Annison, and to find out the nature of the spell he was under. The next night when Annette with a face of woe burst in upon her, old Martha was ready for her. " 0 Aunt Martha! a bird flew in the house at sunset, and old Bull howled three times before the door. Save Annison, Aunt Martha." 9
" I knowed all dat befo' you corned, An¬ nette." Old Martha's adopted daughter, Matilda Ann, was in the room, but she paid no at¬ tention to Annette. She had not spoken to her for months. She said Annette was " stuck up, kase she wuz yaller; " and once Annette had said that "Eph Divens is as ugly as ho-made sin." Eph was Matilda Ann's adored. " Annette," said old Martha, " how much does you love Annison, and what would you do to save him ?" There was some¬ thing so playful in her tone, Annette's heart gave a mighty bound of hope. " How much does I love him ? How much would the world weigh if it was all gold ? How much is the love which all the women of these valleys and mountains has for their husbands and lovers ? That is how much I loves Annison. What would I do to save him ? I would crawl to the end of the world on my knees-, and die after I got there, if that much more was needed to save him." " Would you, Annette ? " in a tone bor¬ dering on derision. There was a gleam of contempt in her
eves, and of a sort of malicious pleasure which she would take in seeing Annette quail before the ordeal which she had in store for her. Old Martha had had the homage of fear and veneration for her power, but love never. Such avowals as that of Annette's aroused in her a feeling akin to resentment. She was not mean at heart, but she was human and had missed that something in life which softens all hearts. For the lack of it there had come into her heart a bitterness which she hardly knew existed, and the exact nature of which she could not have explained beyond that feeling of contempt and resentment which Annette had aroused. " Well, I will tell you what will take An- nison from under his spell and save him. Here is four bags. If you takes 'em to Sun¬ set Rock on Shagg's Point and throws em, one at de east, one to de no'th, one to de west, and one to de south, 'zackly at mid¬ night, and saj^s what I tells you—'zackly at midnight, mind you—you and Annison will live together." Annette gave a stifled scream of horror. Shagg's Point to the Negroes of Lunny's Hollow was the abode of all the evil spirits
in the hobgoblin world. For his life's sake no Negro would venture there alone at night. Martha knew this all too well, and then it was five miles from her cabin to Sunset Rock—and it was then half past nine. She would have been glad to have given Annette an easier task, but her repu¬ tation was at stake, and the task must be an impossible one. A bold and strong moun¬ taineer would have found nothing impossi¬ ble in this task with two and a half hours of time, but old Martha knew that Annette weak and terrified could not make the trip in time if she dared—that is, Martha thought she knew that, and ran no risk by imposing the task. But there was something in Annette's heart that old Martha had never known : a something that had made man}- a maiden weaker than Annette perform greater feats than this one old Martha imposed. She underrated the powers of Annette's love. At first she did falter, and said, "0, Aunt Martha! ain't there some other way?" " No, dere ain't, and dat's a heap easier en crawl¬ ing to the end of the world on your knees." Matilda Ann had looked on in silence, but there is one sorrow that will move the
hearts of all women into sympathy with one another. Matilda Ann had been bit¬ ter towards Annette, but then there was a secret sadness in her own heart that plead for Annette. Annette had a little educa¬ tion and a gift of speech which poor Matil¬ da Ann did not have. She was greatly moved by Annette's avowal of her love for Annison, and at that moment somewhere away down the Mississippi was her own Eph, who might be sick unto death, and she as Annette some day. She could not have expressed her love with Annette's elo¬ quence, but she knew that in her heart that love was all there—that love which her slow tongue and thick lips could never truly ut¬ ter. How much she was moved was summed up in her brief statement: "I will go along with Annette, mammy." Only those who can understand her deep superstitions and full belief in all the re¬ puted terrors of Shagg's Point could appre¬ ciate Matilda Ann's offer. " No, Annette must go by herself, or An¬ nison dies dis night." " Give me the bags, then, Aunt Martha," said Annette with sudden force born of love and despair.
At the door she turned with the anguish of a lost soul and said, " Aunt Martha, if I don't get back, tell Annison I went there to save him." For a moment old Martha's heart sof¬ tened and she was tempted to call Annette back and tell her the truth. Then she mut¬ tered, " I se got to live ; it won't do. Den dere ain't nothin' up dar to hurt her. Let her go long." So Annette went out into the night and on and on in the dark. It was June. A shower of rain had fallen early in the even¬ ing and still there were shifting clouds in the sky. There was a sweet smell from the damp earth and the green wToods. The wild flowers were hidden in the darkness, but they sent out a sweet and silent greet¬ ing to Annette. One b}r one the clouds at last were withdrawn and the sheets of mist about Shagg's Point glided away. The moon was peeping up over the head of the mountain, and Sunset Rock clearly defined against the molten sky jutted out as a per¬ sonification of majestic solitude. Suddenly Annette felt a cold chill of death pass over her. As she looked at Shagg's Point, for a moment she saw stand
out against the background of yellow sky, something—a mere speck it was, yet in shape like that of a man which passed from Sunset Rock to a shadow beyond. She thought it was a spirit and she knew she was going to her doom ; but she murmured the one name, " Annison," and went on. Still on and on she sped, climbing, stum¬ bling, and falling, butalwayson, murmuring the name that was love and life. At last a few minutes before midnight, sore and worn, she reached the crown of Shagg's Point. There before her Sunset Rock, with the moonbeams sweetly asleep upon it, lay stretched out, a mighty cliff over a fright¬ ful abyss. The scene was so peaceful An¬ nette approached half in hope that the spir¬ its were all absent. How far away sometimes are the evils for which we look, and how near are those which we do not suspect. Out from the copse near Sunset Rock, two keen, glitter¬ ing, cruel and merciless eyes were watching Annette as she approached. At first in them there was amazement, a moment of fear; but soon there was a gleam of gloat¬ ing triumph. Bill Hoard, the notorious murderer and outlaw of the mountains,
knew Annette of the valley. He knew old Martha and Annison. He knew the super¬ stitions of the Negroes, and all their terrors of Shagg's Point. He did not know of An- nison's sickness; but he knew that some terrible and desperate measure forced An¬ nette to Shagg's Point at midnight. " Ah, ha! my fine lady. When I asked you to come and live with me, you called me a low-down thief, and the scrapings of poor-white-trash. When I told you any sort of a white man was good enough for a nigger, 3<ou spit in my face, for which I knocked you down. And now you have come all the way to Shagg's Point at mid¬ night to hunt Billy up. The giant's cave is not as good as the cabin I invited you to, but you won't mind that, my fine lady." Poor Annette! Was there no pity in heaven—no hand to save? But who can truly say that unseen in the soft moonlight, the most compassionate pity was not walk¬ ing by Annette's side ? What is pity and what is salvation ? Eternity alone can give full answer. Out on Sunset Rock she walked. Her fear was almost gone. On the east, the north, the west, there was a ledge of rock over which one might step to
an abyss of three thousand feet below. To the south only was there a retreat from Sun¬ set Rock. Annette turned first to the east where the sky was golden with gleams, and murmured her gharm and then threw her first bag. With the throw to the north went a mighty wave of love, for there far down in the dark shadows of the valley was Annison whom she was saving. Then to the west she repeated her charm. Now half- gleeful she turned to the south to complete her work of magic. The incantation died on her lips. Horror palsied her uplifted hand. There in the dreamy moonlight, with a tiger's tread, sure of his victim, steal¬ ing upon her, was a man, who to her dilated vision was the father of giants. There was one swift moment of silent agony, and then with a scream that went up to the stars Annette was over Sunset Rock. How lovely was the June morning with its soft blue sky and meadows of green grass in the valleys. On Shagg's Point the hemlock boughs gracefully nodded to the cool breezes which swept down the sides of the mountain to the valleys below, car¬ rying such a sweet breath of new life. Ra¬ cing up and down an old chestnut, two gray
squirrels were chattering and playing like a newly married pair. The trees were full of birds which filled the air with chirping and singing, where the leaves were trem¬ bling and shaking out silvery glitters and dancing shadows to the ground. Under Sunset Rock more than a thou¬ sand feet below on a shelf of the mountain side, there was a little patch of broken stones and earth, which, doubtless, had fall¬ en in some little avalanche from the brow of the mountain long ago. Growing out from among the stones and earth were some mountain laurels. And there was a little stream of water that trickled from a cleft in the rock wall. Here in a niche was the home of a family of wrens which had dwelt there undisturbed for ages in all the bliss of bird life. By the edge of that short stream, down to the very edge where it leaped to the depths below, the wild lobe¬ lia flamed in crimson glory. Everywhere there was earth enough for their tiny roots, the violets were rioting in gay profusion.. And what was that lying half hidden among their green leaves and purple eyes ? What was it in this peaceful abode which was causing such a chattering and wild con-
fusion among the wrens ? It was only a little mangled body of a beautiful quadroon girl. That body, now mangled beyond all recognition, at midnight had stood on Sun¬ set Rock, the temple of a mighty love. The reputation of old Martha, the arch princess of the conjurers, was maintained, for her word had come true. " Mind you," she had said, " If you is dar 'zackly at mid¬ night, you and Annison will live together." Almost an hour after Annette had stood on Sunset Rock, just as a hand of the clock pointed ten minutes to one, Annison sud¬ denly seemed conscious. He raised himself upon his elbow in bed, and with a smile, said, " Annette, how beautiful you looks." He laid down, turned over on his side and sweetly went off to sleep. Next morning word was sent ten miles down the valley to Nelie Fraction for Elder Dangerfield to come up to Lunny's Hollow to preach An- nison's funeral.
A CHRISTMAS NIGHT.
Once more on the tall cliffs of Mount Paradise rest the melting rays of a setting sun. The bald tops of Gedor, Gibeah, and Mais Elias, as a thousand times before, flame in the distance with burnished gold. Gedor and Gibeah, from their bald tops, without emotion look down on centuries that have rolled away before them, like the mist of the morning. What shifting scenes, what tragedies of life have been played out on their sides and in the vales below. What mighty forces have gone out from before them to subdue the world, and to bring to it, peace and good will towards men. And still old Gedor and Gibeah stand on and on in grim silence, waiting for the perfection of that peace to come. As if to bless their patient waiting, on their bald tops the sun pauses with a good night smile, and to give once more a parting benediction. In the ancient stillness one can almost hear a hospitable greeting of Abraham to all the (140)
A Christmas Night. 141 world—Shalom Leka. Far over the val¬ leys, stretching away to the depressions of Cedron, where once were the vineyards and grain fields of Boaz and Ruth, and the sheep pastures of the boy David, the twi¬ light falls again, deepening more and more until all objects are lost in the indistinct¬ ness ; and once more a solemn and mys¬ terious awe drops down over Bethlehem, and the Christmas night begins to be.
The hills of the Highland Rim of Middle Tennessee—straggling spurs from the Unaka range, were lifting their lofty heads sky-ward, as they had been doing ever since the creation of the world. On their sides the green corn rustled and swayed to the passing breezes and the golden wheat waved in beautiful billowy undulations. The bright sun smiled down upon it with no cloud to dim his radiance. Slowly along the steep, winding path my friend and I walked in silence. He carried his gun— a little pretext for hunting— but, truly, he was out to take a last walk with me. Many a time before in a loving friendship of many years had we walked on this same path¬ way. Many a time before we both had gazed upon the inexpressible beauty of this same landscape, talking and dreaming of the future, with all of youth's hope and ambition. But this walk was a silent one. (142)
Soon my friend tired and we sat down un¬ der the shade of a great chestnut. Long we sat there. The sun moved upwards in the heavens and ever and anon his rays, like that of a great diamond, shot through some opening in the foliage. The branches of the trees above our heads, touched by an unseen hand of the winds, sang a low forest song. The hum of the insects and the twitter of the birds that belong to a summer's day in June, was all around^us. Far below us in the Liberty Valley all the grain fields were in a glimmer. My friend and I sat beside each other in a dreamy silence. Once he started suddenly and cocked his gun at a grey squirrel which frisked out before as upon a mulberry tree. It scampered off and my friend£sat down with a look on his face as if a'second thought of compas¬ sion had come to him. He was an unerring shot, but 0! in those hours life seemed so sweet to him. The slow and relentless hand of consumption was teaching him how to pity the living. He let the little squirrel pass which came frisking back again to bark at us. By and|by a faint echo of distant thunder, suggesting a summer shower, warned my friend to return to the house and me to pursue my journey. We arose to say good-by. Then there was a beating round the bush for some parting words. We both wanted to appear cheerful. I talked of my trip, soon to be made to Connecticut, and the long year of study there ; He, of his sum¬ mer's rest and recuperation to return to Fisk University. Thus we talked as we had talked before. But our souls—0 our souls! They were looking at each other face to face, and understood well enough the quibbling, lying words of our lips. When we started out for that good-bye walk we both knew that it was the last time we should ever walk together in our mortal bodies. When our hands clasped in the good-bye, with a promise to soon meet again, we knew that we would be in our robes of white when we did meet. And that last touch of hands was too much for us. Our souls gave a mutual cry for little more truth. And I said, "Be brave to the end, Little Wood. Sail your boat worthy of the Captain. When you are flagged to come in the port, go in with your colors still up." " I will," he said, " and don't you forget that your vessel is a light one,too." Again the thunder echoed along the hills and louder. We parted, my friend and I. At a bend in the path I turned to look again. Slowly homeward he walked. Yea, it was homeward that he walked. I stood and gazed till the gun and familiar form of "Little Wood'' passed from my view. Another June sun has smiled on the Highland Rim of Middle Tennessee, and on all the beautiful, rich Liberty Valley—as it has done a thousand times before. But it has made green for the first time the grave of my friend.