John Greenleaf Whittier

(17 December 1807 – 7 September 1892 / Haverhill, Massachusetts)

A Lay Of Old Time


One morning of the first sad Fall,
Poor Adam and his bride
Sat in the shade of Eden's wall--
But on the outer side.

She, blushing in her fig-leaf suit
For the chaste garb of old;
He, sighing o'er his bitter fruit
For Eden's drupes of gold.

Behind them, smiling in the morn,
Their forfeit garden lay,
Before them, wild with rock and thorn,
The desert stretched away.

They heard the air above them fanned,
A light step on the sward,
And lo! they saw before them stand
The angel of the Lord!

'Arise,' he said, 'why look behind,
When hope is all before,
And patient hand and willing mind,
Your loss may yet restore?

'I leave with you a spell whose power
Can make the desert glad,
And call around you fruit and flower
As fair as Eden had.

'I clothe your hands with power to lift
The curse from off your soil;
Your very doom shall seem a gift,
Your loss a gain through Toil.

'Go, cheerful as yon humming-bees,
To labor as to play.'
White glimmering over Eden's trees
The angel passed away.

The pilgrims of the world went forth
Obedient to the word,
And found where'er they tilled the earth
A garden of the Lord!

The thorn-tree cast its evil fruit
And blushed with plum and pear,
And seeded grass and trodden root
Grew sweet beneath their care.

We share our primal parents' fate,
And, in our turn and day,
Look back on Eden's sworded gate
As sad and lost as they.

But still for us his native skies
The pitying Angel leaves,
And leads through Toil to Paradise
New Adams and new Eves!

Submitted: Tuesday, April 06, 2010

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