Olivia Ward Bush-Banks' Original Poems and Driftwood

Dreams By The Driftwood Fire

Dreams By The Driftwood Fire

A Dream of the New Year

Through the waning hours and moments,
Of the slowly dying year,
I sat watching, watching, waiting,
For the New Dawn to appear.
While the Old Year's strife and struggle,
Like a swiftly flowing stream,
Passed before me till I wearied,
Fell asleep--asleep to dream.

That I saw a lofty castle,
Vast in size, and wondrous bright,
And I stood outside its portals,
Waiting for the dawning light.
From its towers the bells were ringing,
In a strange discordant tone,
Wailing out their mournful measures,
Like a mortal's dying moan.

Still I waited, knocked and waited,
Lingered through the shadowed night,
For I longed to learn the secret
Of this castle, vast and bright.
Till a voice within, cried loudly,
"Thou shalt have that wish sublime,
Thou art knocking at Life's castle,
And the Keeper's name is Time."

"And the bells you hear above you,
Ring out all the dying years,
Ring out Man's past griefs and sorrows,
Ring out blasted hopes and fears.
With the coming of the New Year,
They will cease their sad refrain,
You will hear them chiming sweetly,
Ringing out a joyous strain.

Watch and wait awhile with patience,
Wait with hope, and not in fear,
For the New Year swift approaches,
Its bright dawning draweth near."
So I waited, watched and waited
Till the castle's door swung wide,
And the keeper bade me enter,
Saying, "Mortal, here abide."

'Twas indeed a wondrous castle,
With its arches gleaming bright,
E'en the keeper's face was beaming,
With a rare and radiant light,
Through the spacious halls, he led me
Over floors of spotless white,
Till it seemed that mortal vision
Ne'er beheld a fairer sight.

On its walls in blazoned letters,
I could trace each written line,
And the words were wrought most strangely,
Words no mortal could define.
And the keeper softly speaking,
Read them, one by one to me;
"Resolution, Faith and Duty,
Hope and Opportunity."

Then I asked him, "Can you tell me
Why these written words appear?"
He replied, "These are the watchwords
That shall guide thee through the year,
Just resolve to do thy duty,
Thine the opportunity,
Hope shall aid thee, in thy purpose,
Do it well and faithfully."

Then the bells pealed out so loudly,
Ringing out their joyous strain
That I started from my slumbers,
Found myself alone again.
Saw no more Life's wondrous castle,
Vanished now the keeper, Time,
Heard no more the joyful pealing
Of the bell's sweet, tuneful chime.

Day had dawned, the night was over,
Life's old year was safely past,
Now had come a brighter morning,
Life's New Year had dawned at last.
But the dream had filled its mission,
Made my path of duty clear,
Hope and Faith were now the watchwords,
Brightening up my glad New Year.

The Plains of Peace

Again my fancy takes its flight,
And soars away on thoughtful wing,
Again my soul thrills with delight,
And this the fancied theme, I sing,
From Earthly scenes awhile, I find release,
And dwell upon the restful Plains of Peace.

The Plains of Peace are passing fair,
Where naught disturbs and naught can harm,
I find no sorrow, woe or care,
These all are lost in perfect calm,
Bright are the joys, and pleasures never cease,
For those who dwell on the Plains of Peace.

No scorching sun or blighting storm,
No burning sand or desert drear,
No fell disease or wasting form,
To mar the glowing beauty here.
Decay and ruin ever must decrease,
Here on the fertile, healthful Plains of Peace.

What rare companionship I find,
What hours of social joy I spend,
What restfulness pervades my mind,
Communing with congenial friend.
True happiness seems ever to increase,
While dwelling here upon the Plains of Peace.

Ambitions too, are realized,
And that which I have sought on earth,
I find at last idealized,
My longings ripen into worth,
My fondest hopes no longer fear decease,
But bloom forth brightly on the Plains of Peace.

'Tis by my fancy, yet 'tis true,
That somewhere having done with Earth,
We shall another course pursue,
According to our aim or worth,
Our souls from mortal things must find release,
And dwell immortal on the Plains of Peace.

Her Offering

Lay aside your pen for a moment,
And listen, my dear to me,
While I tell you a strange, sweet story,
The sweetest that ever could be.
And perhaps, the theme will inspire you
And perhaps you will catch the strain
Of sweetness, and maybe you'll write it
When you take up your pen again.

So, there in the evening twilight,
I gladly laid down my pen
And listened to hear her story,
As sweet to me now, as then.
It was just at the close of daylight,
When shadows begin to unfold,
I remember the time so clearly,
And this was the story she told,--

Last night, my dear, in dreamland,
I sat in a princely hall,
And its arches were solid marble,
Its pillars stately and tall,
I saw before me an altar,
Exquisitely wrought in gold,
And the white-robed priest behind it,
Was saying, my people behold,--

To-day is the great passover,
Of thanks and of sacrifice,
Give ye of your best and purest,
The least of these will suffice.
Come then with sincerest devotion,
Bring all that ye can afford,
Oh, who will be first to offer
Thanksgiving and praise to the Lord?

Down the aisle of the princely dwelling,
Two maidens in spotless white,
Came bearing rich treasures of silver,
Their faces beaming with light.
And, ascending the steps to the altar,
They offered their gifts to the Lord,
They had brought Him the best and the purest.
The richest each one could afford.

Just behind them in humble submission,
A woman came, weary and worn,
With feeble, faltering, foot-steps,
With garments so faded and torn,
In her hand she was tenderly bearing,
Two tiny pieces of bread,
And, ascending the steps to the altar,
She bowed, and tremblingly said,--

"Not a morsel of food have I tasted,
Since yesterday's early dawn,
But I've waited, Oh, earnestly waited,
For the coming of this bright morn,
This is all that I have to offer,
This simple gift to the Lord,
It's the best that I have and the purest.
The richest that I can afford."

And the white-robed priest said softly,
"Your gift will indeed suffice,
In youth you have kept the passover,
Of thanks and sacrifice."
And then, as the priest was speaking,
The scene faded slowly away,
And the princely hall had vanished.
I awoke to find it was day.

"So, my dear I have told the story,
And I hope you have caught the strain,
Of sweetness,--and now I leave you,
Good-night, till we meet again."
And there in the evening twilight,
I gladly took up my pen,
And I wrote this strange, sweet story,
As sweet to me now, as then.

My Dream of Long Ago 

I had a strange sweet dream long, long ago,
When in my years I yet was but a child,
And oft since then as I have dreamed it o'er
Its sweetness has my saddest hours beguiled.

It was that she who like my mother seemed
And I had travelled far and travelled long,
Her hand and mine together tightly clasped,
She with a thoughtful look, and I with song.

And walking thus our way led pleasantly
Mid winding paths on either side where grew
Rare flowers, their perfumes wafted on the breeze,
Which all around us their rich fragrance threw.

But soon our road turned suddenly aside,
Where rose a height of stony rugged ground,
No flowers bloomed upon this hilly waste,
Where sighing winds played mournfully around.

Below the hills, half-hidden, a tiny path
Went winding round and out into the road.
So smoothly did it keep its tiny way
It seemed a guide that nature had bestowed.

We paused, and she spoke there in tender tones,
"My child, you take the easy path around,
For I can better face the windy blast,
My feet can better tread the stony ground."

And I, who knew no will save hers alone,
Obeyed, and o'er the tiny pathway sped,
Oft looking up to see her bravely climb
The stony height with firm and steady tread.

And now the winds her garments roughly blew,
But she, unheeding their rude, blighting blast,
Pressed on, and when I from the pathway ran
We met, and hands again together clasped.

Before us stretched an endless smooth white road
Which ran beside the fairest verdant field
That ever mortal eye had looked upon
Or ever Nature's storehouse had revealed.

Above our heads the sun shone brightly now,
It seemed to thrill our hearts with hope anew
And shed upon our path a mellow light
Which all around us a soft radiance threw.

Thus hand in hand we lightly trod along
This pleasant road with neither curve or bend
When I awoke to find it all a dream
And we had never reached our journey's end.

And yet it may be that this very road,
The end of which we vainly tried to trace,
Might still have led to pastures far more fair,
We might have found some peaceful resting place.


The driftwood fire burns brightly on, but dreamingtime is over. Stern reality sounds its convincing call to the time of our awakening.

Over the troubled waters of our civilization comes a human cry for human rights--a starting echo from the far cry of bondage over half a century ago.

Prejudice, the floating wreckage of chattel slavery, rises ever to the surface of the turbulent waters of a Nation's life, obstructing each best attempt toward a safe course to its highest citizenship.

The clanking chains of racial injustice, that bind and hold fast the infinite longings and fondest ambitions of a human soul, must be broken.

Doors that are closed against him who lives and breathes in this, a free Republic;--who battles for its preservation, who embraces its educational opportunities, who enters its arena with unswerving purpose to aid in its progressive interests by contributing his own thrift, industry, intellectual and spiritual activities--must be opened.

Had the artist of 50 years ago desired to paint a thrilling picture of human woes, he might have produced upon his canvass this painfully familiar scene--the auction-block--the slaver--and the enslaved, and beneath he might have written these words:

"The Barrier to a Nation's Progress."

But, if in the intensity of his soul, the artist of today desires to paint a true picture of the present attitude of the American mind toward a part of its citizenship, he might portray upon his canvass the following scene--an American citizen of darker hue, with manly bearing, standing, with outstretched hands before the closed door of a minature institution known as "Progressive Civilization," and behind him, a lawless mob. Beneath this he might well write the convincing words: 

"Prejudice and Lynch Law--The Curse of the Twentieth Century."

But, happily, amid the wreckage, despite the turbulence, the floating spar of Hope is seen, making its way toward Right and Justice.

Julia Ward Howe beheld it, even through the gleaming camp-fires, when her soul longed for the "glory of the coming of the Lord." She saw its consummation in and through her mighty refrain, "His Cause is Marching On."

Harriet Beecher Stowe held fast to the firm support of Hope, in her vivid portrayal of Slavery, as a living dramatic reality, in that masterpiece of human history, "Uncle Tom's Cabin," and, it may be that her mantle will fall upon one who knows and feels the heart-throbs of his race, who has tatsted the bitterness of the bondage of American freedom and, who will yet write a great American Story, in which he shall tell of the Nation's greatest injustice, the denial of the ballot in the South; he shall also reveal volcanic fires of prejudice in the North, over which we daily tread.

Happily for him, he shall weave into the fabric of his genius, the inherited originalities of his people, the development and power of their musical birthright, and the cheering influence of their native humor.

It may be that the romance of home and social life will add a touch of coloring to his narrative.

But the pathos of his story, and the intensity of his longings will be most deeply felt, when he writes of an unalterable faith in the ultimate triumph of justice and its equalizing power. Surely then shall the Nation's heart be touched, and the American conscience stirred to higher, nobler impulses.

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