Thomas Cogswell Upham

(1799-1872 / the United States)

Days Of Youth : Part Second


Alas, how ceaseless is life's silent tide!
How rapidly onward waters glide!
Not meads nor flowers, that crown its liquid way,
Can check its course, and tempt its floods to stay.
Fair blows the wind, and all my sails are set,
The last blue wave heaves not its bosom yet;
Pleasant companions and bright waves I find,
But still I cast the lingering look behind.
My busy spirit fails not to retrace
Each house, and haunt, and oft remembered face;
The rugged rock, the hill, the shaded plain,
Once more I tread with youthful feet again,
And in Imagination's eye review
Each scene that cheered me, when my life was new.

Nor is it strange; it thus hath always been,
And thus will always be, while men are men.
No change of place, companionship, or state,
The heart from its first loves can separate;
Unbribed by joys, which have a foreign birth,
Its claims, unchanged, its own, its natal earth.

See, how aloft, with struggling step and slow,
The daring Switzer climbs his heights of snow,
While o'er the mountain's brow the chilling storm,
With stern invasion, smites his youthful form!
Go, take him thence, and place within his hand
The gifts and pleasures of some happier land,
Bid o'er his head Italia's summers glow,
Her breezes fan, her flowers around him blow;
You do not pluck his memory from its seat,
You do not, cannot make his soul forget;
His father's form is present to his mind,
His mother's look, that ever beamed so kind;
His much loved sister's voice he seems to hear,
The herdsman's song invades his startled ear;
And often will he think, and often sigh
For his own mountain hearth and stormy sky.

Where, in yon field, my father used to keep,
Pride of his little farm, his flock of sheep,
Where bright-eyed birds in birch and maple sing,
From branch to branch with gaily glancing wing,
A joyous group of the same heart and age,
We took our predatory pilgrimage.
Bright was the sun, and balmy was the air,
And life, and buoyant health, and youth were there;
The squirrel, in his old, fantastic tree,
Chirped forth his welcome loud and merrily;
And mellow autumn, in his treasures dressed,
Waved o'er the land, to tempt and make us blessed.
With one triumphant leap we passed the brook,
Cast on the barren beech a wishful look,
Explored the ripened walnut bough, and then
Rushed loud and joyous down the hazel glen,
And where the apples reddened in the sun,
Climbed to the topmost branch, and treasures won.

Not distant far, shut from the public eye,
Save when he wandered forth for charity,
The tenant of a hut, which seemed to be
As shattered, rent, and beggarly as he,
There lived, (and oft we called to see him there,
Supported in his rude, capacious chair,)
Poor Will the beggar, miserably old,
With hunger pinched, and shivering with the cold.
I name him here, for he too was a place
Among the forms, that fancy loves to trace;
And I should do my heart and memory wrong,
Were I, unnamed, to pass him in my song.

Sometimes, when birds with music hailed the morn,
And round his pathway waved the yellow corn,
With vacant eye, and with uncertain feet,
He groped his way into the public street.
One day I marked him at the rich man's gate,
Just in the attitude his wants to state.
His locks were gray, and cautiously he pressed,
Upon the faithful staff, his bending breast;
His hat he reached abroad with trembling hand,
And few his meek petitions could withstand.
The village lads, who knew him, stopped their play,
To mark his rags, and hear what he could say.
He gently eyes them, as they flock around,
And for each cent half bends him to the ground.
His tattered garments and his feeble frame
The greatness of his age and wants proclaim;
And some, who know no pity, pause to see
His grateful bows and sad civility.

Farewell, poor Will! With one accord we part,
And next are met around the Pedlar's cart.
He, honest man, with whip o'er shoulder placed,
His long, interminable journey traced,
O'er mud and dry, o'er hillock and o'er plain,
In mild and storm, in sunshine and in rain.
Hark! How his wagon thunders! What a sound
His pails and pans and dippers scatter round!
With knowing look and strangely various store.
Combs, ribbons, knives, and pocket-books he had,
To grace the lass and please the country lad,
With rattles, drums, and jews-harps for the boys,
Whate'er could please the eye, or make a noise.
His little books he carefully displayed,
The Children of the Wood, to death betrayed;
John Gilpin and his famous turnpike race,
The tales of Robin Hood and Chevy Chase.
To passers by, (no shame-faced youth was he,)
He gave the nod, and called out merrily.
Whatever others sold, or had to sell,
He proudly boasted, he could do as well;
Perched high upon his rusty cart, the same,
With which from immemorial time he came,
With pie-bald horse, the rusty cart that drew,
And like his master all the country knew.

Nor when our pastimes, pleasures, feats we name,
Should we forget the military flame;
Alas! When it should be rebuked, controlled, repressed,
Too early kindled in the youthful breast.
See through the streets the young militia come;
List to the screaming fife, the rattling drum;
See how they move with martial head erect,
And wooden guns, their country to protect!
Many a gallant boy with matchless soul
Gave in his name to swell the muster-roll;
Free waved our 'kerchief banner high and proud;
Oft flamed our tiny cannon pealing loud;
While hats and smoke in upward whirls aspire;
The overflow of freedom's generous fire.

How blessed 'twould be, if armies in array,
With sword and battle axe, were children's play,
And, as they marched with banners up and down,
Served but to please themselves, or please the town,
And while they thus amused the eye and ear,
Drew down no widow's cheek the burning tear,
Raised in no orphan's breast the bitter sigh
O'er distant friends, that fall, and bleed, and die.

But see! The leaf is yellow on the hill;
The birds are few, the moaning winds are chill;
The Autumn suns diffuse their transient beam
And from the plains returns the loaded team.
There had the farmer toiled from early morn,
And plucked with busy hand the full-eared corn.
Blest in his fruits, his cattle, and his sheaves,
With shouldered hoe and axe, his field he leaves;
Well-pleased, his boy is trudging at his side,
A sharer in the father's joy and pride.
Weary, but patient, he erects his goad,
And homeward urges fast the rustling load;
While o'er the hills the setting sun-beam glows,
And leaves the world to shadows and repose.

Hope of the land, ye farmers, who can bring
Heaps from the soil ye sowed in early spring,
Your labors well demand the poet's lays,
Too oft on subjects spent less worthy praise.
Around the hearth, that brightly beams the while,
Of newly-gathered corn ascends the pile;
Around that pile, with cheerful voices loud,
Gather, on Autumn nights, the husking crowd.
The neighbors come with joyous heart and face,
Their Rural Festival to cheer and grace,
To yield their sympathy, their aid to yield
To those, who, like themselves, subdue the field;
And while the busy hand their task they ply,
And with their labors cheer the master's eye,
Who marks the love that crowns the closing year,
In baskets brightening with the golden ear,
Traditionary tales the hours employ,
Old hearts are glad, and young ones heave with joy.

High rose the song, thrilled forth by many a tongue;
'Twas rude in measure, and 'twas rudely sung:
It told the daring deeds of Robin Hood,
Done in the starless night and pathless wood,
Who trained his bloody hand, his bow who bent,
Where Sherwood's forests crown the sylvan Trent.

And then there came, (it always had a place,)
The spirit-stirring strain of Chevy Chase;
And while we hear, before out mental eyes
Men, steeds, and spears, and bloody fields arise.
There goes Earl Douglas, like a Baron bold,
With milk-white steed, and armor bright as gold;
There doth Earl Percy not less boldly ride,
With fifteen hundred English at his side;
And Hugh Montgomery throws his dreadful spear;
Then first we wandering heard, and wept to hear.
Thus many an ancient tale and many a song,
The scene of bliss and hour of joy prolong.

At that united, friendly, festal hour,
The Old Blind Fiddler oft displayed his power.
He traveled through the country up and down,
Talk of the cottage, wonder of the town;
Where'er he went, he never lingered long,
And always made his welcome with his song.
His darkened eye saw not the brilliant day,
But in his soul shone friendship's genial ray;
He showed a minstrel's heart, a minstrel's skill,
And ruled both swains and maidens at his will.

In fancy still I see him proudly bear
His sooty face, and jet-black curly hair;
One foot he forward pressed, and 'neath his chin,
With head drawn back, he placed his violin;
And as we praised his skill, and closing round,
Exclaimed, impatient for the magic sound,
He poured at times the brisk and lively strain,
And then it slow and serious grew again.
At times he hit the stern and martial air,
And then struck something that would please the fair;
And as with practised hand he drew the bow,
And strains divine around the circle flow,
He rolled his sightless eye from place to place,
And bowed and smiled with self-complacent grace.

That strain is o'er; but joy waits not to borrow
The ray, that gilds it, from the beaming morrow;
'Tis dark without; the hearth still shining bright,
Relumes our walls, and fills our hearts with light;
Around its cheerful blaze we linger near,
And to some native legend lend the ear.
The huntsman from 'Seogee's mimic sea,
Or recent from the mount-crowned Ossipee,
Or farther still, where the White Mountains swell
Vast and majestic, had his tale to tell.
Full wondrous was the theme, and strange to hear,
Of game entrapped, or slain with gun and spear,
Of hair-breath 'scapes upon the stormy lake,
Of Indian, starting from the secret brake,
Of whirlwinds bearing desolation wide,
Of trees self-moved, hurled down the mountain side,
Of toils by day, of short and dangerous sleep,
Scared by the wolves their vigils near that keep.

Such were the scenes, that gave my early days
Their nameless charm, which round them still delays;
Such were the hours, in recollection blest,
That poured their pleasures o'er my youthful breast;
Blest in themselves, but rendered doubly dear.
For those who loved me, those I loved, were near;
Who, with their hearts in looks and actions shown,
Made all my griefs, and all my joys their own.

Friends of my Youth! I often think of you.
Sad was the hour, which saw the long adieu.
Companions dear! Ye yet shall have a part,
A place of refuge, in my inmost heart,
Till once again, with happiness complete,
Brought face to face, and soul to soul, we meet.
But this, alas, with some shall never be,
Who loved, with open arms, to welcome me.
Relentless Death, that spears nor friend nor foe,
Hath touched them in their bloom, and laid them low.
Yes! they are gone; but dead to outward sight,
They live, unchanged, in Memory's fadeless light.

Mark how the churchyard yews and elms enclose
Their narrows beds, and guard their deep repose.
Green is their turf, and scattered flowers have grown
Above the moveless heart, the mouldering bone;
And those, who loved them, when the setting day
Tinges the mountain with its farewell ray,
Around their dust with pious tears renew
The rites and honors, to their virtues due.

Yonder there sleeps a youth, whose promise fair
Shone in his eyes, his manners, and his air;
A child of genius! Mighty nature taught
Both power and feeling to his early thought.
I knew him well. The same with me in age,
Together we explored old Maro's page;
But there was that in his prophetic eye,
With which no vulgar mind had sympathy.
He sought, when oped the morning's purple dawn,
The breezy hill and solitary lawn;
But loved at eve the stream, or forest's gloom,
Or pensive paused beside the sculptured tomb;
Well known to talking age, and many a time
He sat and heard their legendary rhyme,
For other times, and deeds with ages dim,
Forgot by most, had secret charms for him.
But he is gone; and I am left alone,
Gone, like the flower, in early summer mown;
That poet's eye is dim; the sod is pressed
Coldly and sad upon his crumbling breast;
But long his image in the souls shall dwell
Of those, who knew him, those who loved him well.

Ah, there are thoughts more sad. Above thy grave,
Long lost Elizabeth, the willows wave;
Thou wast my sister, but didst never frame
A brother's sacred and endearing name;
Too young to know, or utter aught of me,
But none the less my love encircled thee.
Few were thy days, and those of deep distress,
But e'en thy griefs were bright with loveliness.
Returned from school, with heart averse from play,
I hastened where thy suffering body lay;
Beside thy humble cradle took my stand,
Thy forehead kissed and held thy little hand.
Oft didst thou feebly smile; and then again
Thy countenance confessed the bitter pain.
Deep to our hearts went each imploring gaze,
Which oft we saw thee to thy parents raise;
But all in vain; we wept; we saw thy tears;
Death heeded not our watchings, griefs, and fears,
But sternly quelled, regardless of thy cry,
Thy struggling heart, and quenched thy lovely eye.

Sister much loved! Although thy days were few,
And He, who gave thee, soon that gift withdrew,
Unchanged, thine infant beauty is impressed
Deeply within the chambers of my breast;
And oft, where willows guard thine early sleep,
I linger near, and o'er thine ashes weep;
Recall what thou wast once, what would be now,
If ripened womanhood had graced thy brow,
And fondly think, when I too take my flight,
Once more to meet thee in the realms of light.

And it is ever thus. Frail man shall die;
Strength quit his limbs, and light desert his eye;
But there's a shore, when life's poor house is past,
Which welcomes home the wanderer at last.
Deserted and forlorn, a friendly hand
Shall guide the Christian to that better land;
No longer doomed in earth's dim realms to stray,
Where storms affright, and shadows clothe the way.
See! How he mounts aloft, his perils o'er,
Where sin and sorrow shall be known no more;
Where, in the glories of that brighter sphere,
The sigh is hushed, and banished every tear.

Thus taught the village Pastor, on whose tongue,
Deeply attent, my youth and childhood hung,
As venerable man, he loved to trace,
In contrast to our woes, a Savior's grace.

I recollect him well. In yonder wood,
Shut from the world, his humble mansion stood;
Scarce to the passing stranger's eye betrayed,
Amid the mountain ash and sumac's shade.
He loved his sacred work; but well he knew,
'Twas no small task, his Savior bade him do;
A task, which claimed whate'er he had of power,
The daily discipline, the midnight hour.
In solitude, remote from public care,
He strove by faith, by penitence, and prayer,
To purify the troubled heart within,
And thus reproved more bold the people's sin;
'Till from his lips his warnings and advice
Came with the power of mandates from the skies.

But deem him not unkind; he shared the love
Of those whom duty called him to reprove;
For when stern justice spoke in tones severe,
He yet to Pity gave the willing tear.
The poor ne'er failed to find in him a friend,
Ready his counsel, care, and aid to lend.
The great and rich revered him, for they saw
His heart was fixed in heaven, and heaven his law;
And when at times he walked the public street,
The children came the holy man to greet,
And from his lips, still to their office true,
A father's prayer, a father's blessing drew.

When on the bed of death his flock were laid,
And turned to human art in vain for aid,
When friends, who shed the agonizing tear,
Around that bed of death were gathered near,
We saw him oft to that dread scene repair,
And lift to heaven the humbly fervant prayer.
In life and death one object he pursued,
To check the vicious, and build up the good,
To pour the light upon the darkened mind,
To guide the wretch to vicious paths inclined,
And mid the maze of life to point the way,
That upward leads to heaven's unclouded day.

Youth lasts not always; suns and stars roll on;
And scarce its bliss is tasted, ere 'tis gone.
I older grew, and then it was my care
For riper life and duty to prepare;
And moving on a more extended plan,
To lay aside the boy, and act the man.
Still rises to my thought that saddened day,
Which broke my dreams, and called me far away,
To leave, (I left them not without a tear,)
All I had honored, loved, and held most dear.
As I went forth and viewed the glorious sun,
And looked, where wild Cocheco's waters run,
And gazed upon each loved and chosen scene,
The ancient wood, the ornamented green,
And heard once more the birds and bounding rill,
And saw the lambs, that gamboled on the hill,
What days and years into that moment came,
Gleamed at the melting eye, and shook the frame.
Thoughts, troubled and o'ercharged, my bosom swell;
I sadly turned, and sighed a long farewell.

Sadly and slow, I sought the Cottage door,
Ere I depart, to taste its bliss once more;
But vainly strove, dear as it was, to find
A solace for my grieved, desponding mind.
There stood around, (it shames me not to tell,)
Brothers and sisters, whom I loved full well;
Who, as they saw, not soon to see again,
Showed in their sorrowed looks, the inward pain.
Nor they alone: yet other friends were near,
To give the warm embrace, the frequent tear,
And sadly to lament, too dear at last,
The joys, that blessed them, now forever past.

But ere, a pilgrim to another land,
I bade Adieu, and gave the parting hand,
My watchful Mother called me from the rest,
With heart unchanged, her warmest love expresed;
Nor let me go, till from its place she drew
A Bible, kept for this last interview.
Take, my dear child, she said, this Sacred Book,
And often in its page of wisdom look.
Make this your counsellor, and though you be
Far from your home, and far, too far, from me,
I will not fear. Let this your ways control,
And to its teachings lend your inmost soul;
Then shall your Mother's gladdened heart be blest,
Her griefs subdued, her anxious thoughts at rest.

My Mother! I began with thee my strain;
To thee I turn my changeless heart again.
Though not in all the same, as thou wast then,
When forth I tried the troubled haunts of men,
For age, that comes to all, hath come to thee,
With kindling eye less bright, and step less free,
Thou did'st not ever, and thou could'st not prove
One throb diminished from a mother's love.
And thou hast had thy sorrows. He is gone,
And left thee in thy widowhood alone,
Who bore with thee the burden of the day,
Who watched with thee thy children's infant play,
Sustained the Husband's and the Father's name.
I too will weep, for I have deeply known
The love, that in his life and aspect shone.
Blest, sacred form, that, ever placed by thine,
Survives and brightens in the spirit's shrine!
But let me not forget, the shaft for me,
Not meant for one alone, had wounds for thee;
And that my watchful thoughts and cares are due
To her, who far the deeper sorrow knew.
Yes, let me come, and in thy weary age,
Attempt that hidden anguish to assuage,
And grateful, with a pious hand to bring
(Such as I may,) my filial offering.

The Bible! from thine own loved hand I took,
Wet with a Mother's tears, the sacred Book.
'Twas the last gift, when from thy sight I drew,
To venture forth on doubtful scenes and new.
And thou was kind: that Book hath done me good,
Many an inward evil hath subdued,
Taught me the nature of the world to see,
The frailness of its hopes, its vanity,
And from the scenes around me turned mine eye
To other scenes and mansions in the sky.
There may I meet with thee; be that our home,
No more to sorrow, never more to roam;
There are the bowers, whose bloom shall ne'er decay,
While all inferior glories fade away;
There shall the wanderers meet, the weary there,
In songs of everlasting triumph share.

Submitted: Friday, October 08, 2010

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