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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

(27 February 1807 – 24 March 1882 / Portland, Maine)


When first in ancient time, from Jubal's tongue
The tuneful anthem filled the morning air,
To sacred hymnings and elysian song
His music-breathing sehll the minstrel woke.
Devotion breathed aloud from every chord:
The voice of praise was heard in every tone,
And prayer and thanks to Him, the Eternal One,
To Him, that with bright inspiration touched
The high and gifted lyre of heavenly song,
And warmed the soul with new vitality.
A stirring energy through Nature breathed:
The voice of adoration from her broke,
Swelling aloud in every breeze, and heard
Long in the sullen waterfall, what time
Soft Spring or hoary Autumn threw on earth
Its bloom or blighting; when the summer smiled;
Or winter o'er the year's sepulcher mourned.
The Deity was there; a nameless spirit
Moved in the breasts of men to do him homage;
And when the morning smiled, or evening pale
Hung weeping o'er the melancholy urn,
They came beneath the broad, o'erarching trees,
And in their tremulous shadow worshipped oft,
Where pale the vine clung round their simple altars,
And gray moss mantling hung. Above was heard
The melody of winds, breathed out as the green trees
Bowed to their quivering touch in living beauty;
And birds sang forth their cheerful hymns. Below,
The bright and widely wandering rivulet
Struggled and gushed amongst the tangled roots
That choked its reedy fountain, and dark rocks
Worn smooth by the constant current. Even there
The listless wave, that stole with mellow voice
Where reeds grew rank on the rushy-fringed brink,
And the green sedge bent to the wandering wind,
Sang with a cheerful song of sweet tranquillity.
Men felt the heavenly influence; and it stole
Like balm into their hearts, till all was peace:
And even the air they breathed, the light they saw,
Became religion; for the ethereal spirit
That to soft music wakes the chords of feeling,
And mellows everything to beauty, moved
With cheering energy within their breasts
And made all holy there, for all was love.
The morning stars, that sweetly sang together;
The moon, that hung at night in the mid-sky:
Dayspring and eventide; and all the fair
And beautiful forms of nature, had a voice
Of eloquent worship. Ocean, with its tides
Selling and deep, where low the infant storm
Hung on his dun, dark cloud, and heavily beat
The pulses of the sea, sent forth a voice
Of awful adoration to the spirit
That, wrapt in darkness, moved upon its face.
And when the bow of evening arched the east,
Or, in the moonlight pale, the curling wave
Kissed with a sweet embrace the sea-worn beach,
And soft the song of winds came o'er the waters,
The mingled melody of wind and wave
Touched like a heavenly anthem on the ear;
For it arose a tuneful hymn of worship.
And have our hearts grown cold? Are there on earth
No pure reflections caught from heavnly light?
Have our mute lips no hymn, our souls no song?
Let him thatin the summer-day of youth
Keeps pure the holy fount of youthful feeling,
And him that in the nightfall of his years
Lies down in his last sleep, and shuts in peace
His dim, pale eyes on life's short wayfaring,
Praise Him that rules the destiny of man.

Submitted: Tuesday, March 30, 2010

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