Three Hours; Or, The Vigil Of Love: Third Hour Poem by Sarah Josepha Buell Hale

Three Hours; Or, The Vigil Of Love: Third Hour

It was two hundred years ago,
When moved the world so very slow,
And when the wide Atlantic Sea
Appeared like an eternity:--
Few who crossed it e'er returned,--
'Twas then the Pilgrim fathers earned,
And not alone by faith and prayers,
Homes and graves for them and theirs.
Stern the struggle, sharp the strife,
Many a pilgrim hero died;
There was many a childless wife;
Many a widowed bride,--
Many a first-born, sleeping child
Awakened by the war-whoop yell,--
Midnight flames, and ravage wild,
Before the savage tribes they quell.

'Eleven o'clock!'--it strikes the hour,
The Lady feels the spell of power,--
Her latest vigil is begun;
And she, like the night-blooming flower,
Looks loveliest in the darkest hour--
Oh! would her watch were done.

'Eleven o'clock!--Ah! wo is me,
The murdering sachem may be near,--
I must not dream such misery,--
Oh, heaven will bring my husband here!
I will not weep'--and then she wept,
And closer to the cradle crept;
There she was not all alone,
Her boy still slept in heavy rest,
And to his cheek her lips she pressed;
Hot and dry his cheek had grown,
And his breath came short like a stifled moan.

As she upraised her pallid face
From that long, sweet, but sad embrace,
The candle in the socket fell,
Flickered a moment, and then died!
How dark it left her none can tell--
She had but one beside.
She watched the slowly smouldering brands,
And closely clasped her quivering hands--
'I shall not be forsaken quite,'
She murmured--'God will give me light.'
The fire flashed up, even as she spoke,
The flash her little Sydney woke,
And as he lisped his mother's name,
What joyous rapture thrilled her frame!
And sweet as Spring her answer came.

And now the candle, 'twas her last,
She lighted that her child might see;
her gloomy fears and cares were past,
Her smile was glad as smile could be;
That taper shone to her as bright
As does to us a Drummon light!
She placed it where her boy would view,
And watched his large, black, lustrous eyes,
While he looked up in grave surprise,
As children woke from sleep will do.
--On her son, while thus she gazes,
Thought a kindred likeness raises;
And by the blush of love that came
And made her cheeks like summer roses;
And by her blue eye's kindling flame,
That the heart's warm throb discloses,--
And by the tear on her eye-lash brim,
She thinks of his father, while gazing on him.

'Water, water, mother, pray!'
Said the boy, in pleading tone;
Ere his hot, parched lips could say
The words, her feet had flown.
Who shall picture her despair?
Not a drop of water there!
In the vessel, where 'twas kept,
Was a fissure small;
While she watched, and prayed, and wept,
It had vanished all.
Drop by drop it stole away,
Like minutes from the shrinking day,
While all unmarked their silent flow--
They are gone is all we know.
The gliding sand will leave the glass,--
But who has ever heard it pass?

The lesson, rightly read, will show
The vanishing hope of things below.
How prone are men to garner up
Their life-draught in a single cup,--
Keeping their treasure in vessel of clay,
Till drop by drop it filters away.
And then, when thirsting, they must die,
Or do battle, hard and high
With dark thoughts that come like clouds
When the storm the night enshrouds;--
With wild wishes that like winds
Shake Hope's flower-seeds from our minds;
--Hopes are nursed 'neath sunny skies,
Passions on life's storms arise,--
And while their earthward burnings reign
The thirsty soul will seek in vain
For living waters,--draughts from heaven
Are only to the heaven-ward given.

--Constant blessings, common things,
From these how many a pleasure springs!
Take from us water, air, or light,
The world would be but Death and Night!
Would aught survive this night and death?
Ay, Woman's love, and Woman's faith.
Even now that loving Mother's eye,
The while her great loss she could trace,
Was calm as summer waters lie
Whene'er they would entice the sky,
And stoop the stars to their embrace.

There was water, cool and clear,
The gushing Spring the Lady knew;--
A sober Pond was sleeping near,
And tall, old trees their shadows threw
Around the green turf margin fair,--
Where you may see them any day;
The Turf, the Trees, the Pond are there,--
The Spring has oozed away.

Ah! pale she was, that Mother mild,
As tenderly she kissed her child;--
Placing the pillows to raise his head,
She propped him up in his cradle bed,
And gazed in his eyes with such tender love
As the Saviour may feel for his children above;
--And murmured--'Sydney will lie still,
And watch and see the candle burn,
While mother goes? and she'll return.'
--Calmly the boy replied--'I will.'
She knew that she might trust his word,
For, like young Samuel, to the Lord,
Even from his birth, had he been given,
And pure as cherubs are in heaven,
And truthful in his every thought
Was he, for thus he had been taught.

She took the flagon to depart,
And yet her feet were loath to move;
A tremor shook her boding heart--
But oh! the depth, the might of love!--
It can strengthen or subdue,--
It gave her power her task to do;
'The Saviour guard thee, precious one!'
Was the word to the child, and the mother is gone.
She drew the door with close, firm grasp,
Fastening its latch with a curious clasp,
A clasp that closed like a padlock true,
And she and one other could only undo.

And then she paused--though not in dread,
Her supernatural fears had fled;
The Mother's heart had broke their chain,
And freed her from the phantom's reign.
But other dangers might be met--
The Indian might her steps beset;
The path was long and lone by day--
Now darkness seemed to hedge the way;
And never in the night before
Had she stood alone without her door.
And so she paused and strained her sight,
But only saw the robe of night.
The warring winds had sunk to rest,
Like weary men with fight oppressed.
She listened with a quickened ear
That her heart's throbbing pulse could hear;
In vain--the earth seemed listening too;
But only heard the falling dew,
That came as still as heavenly grace,
Known only as it makes us blest,
And as we leave its holy trace
In blessings to a neighbor's breast:
And silent blessings are the best.

The lowly Cottage-home was placed
Where then was all a lonely waste;
For Morton, always first to come
At duty's call or danger's frown,
Had chosen there to fix his home,
Without the limits of the town,
Then to the narrow streets confined
That nearest to the water lay:
Around Fort Hill the dwellings wind,
And cluster near the open Bay;--
And westward then as now was heard
Like herald summons to be gone;
An undefined and wandering word,--
Its common import--further on.
And westward then had Morton gone
To draw the settlers further on.

And who would credit, standing there,
Where now the stately mansions rise,
And Temple turrets stud the air,
Painting their tall heads on the skies,
And 'merchant princes' throng the way,
And Fashion flaunts her rich array,--
That there, two hundred years ago,
Lowly and lone one Cottage rose?
Like plant that could in desert grow,
Or hermit holding men as foes;--
For not a dwelling was in sight;
Above it was the bleak Hill's height,
And sweeping down the old trees stood--
The north was all a thick, dark wood,
Shadowing the lowly Cottage eaves,
And raining there the Autumn leaves.
--'Tis peopled now by silent men,
An d graves are thick as trees were then.
There sleep the parents of the Sage
Who beckoned lightning from the sky,
And left his impress on an age--
The Franklin, who will never die.
And while those garden-graves you see,
Where shrub has ta'en the place of tree;
The holy, shadowed resting-place,
Where garnered lies the precious dust
Of those who led the Pilgrim race,
And stamped their motto--'Try and Trust!'
--Then think how strong the Soul can be--
And through what perils Men have trod,
Who held one purpose--to be free;
One faith--the Bible faith in God.

This faith sustained the Lady's soul;
As there in loneliness she stood,
A tranquil trusting o'er her stole,--
God could protect her, and he would.
And though the East was coffin black,
And not a star sent down its ray,
Yet she could keep the narrow track
She knew so well by day,--
An Indian trail that reached the Spring;
And surely not a living thing
Would haunt the path on such a night;--
And yet her step was very light.
Camilla's footing scarce could pass
More lightly o'er the feathery grass;
Cornelia's soul was not more true--
The Lady had her jewel too;
Her son's sweet face seemed ever present,
--For his dear sake the toil was pleasant:
Thus God upholds the mother's love,
And aids her from His strength above.

On, on she sped like arrow true,
One hope to buoy, one goal in view,--
When sudden, on her quickened ear,
A sound, a rustling noise comes near!
She listens--'tis the playful breeze
Creeping amid the tall, dark trees;
And then, a welcome sight I ween,
She saw the Old Elm's crown of green,
The Patriarch of the sylvan scene.
And still that forest Patriarch stands;
And though its aged arms decay,
The heart is sound as it was the day
It welcomed the Pilgrim Bands.
Oh! guard it well, that brave old Tree,
Where first our Eagle shook his wings,
Till from the heaving Sunset Sea,
And Rio Grande, flowing free,
The Union-Olive-Branch he brings.

And friend of mine, whoe'er thou art,
The Author's friend, or friend in heart,
Remember, shouldst thou ever be
Shadowed beneath that old Elm Tree,--
While visions of the Past float by,
As 'twere between the mind and eye,
Fair forms, and never seen, perchance,
Save by Imagination's glance:--
To her the Peri power is given,
Roving o'er earth, to rest in heaven,
And there such glorious scenes behold
As tongue nor pen have never told!
Ay, feeble as the sun's eclipse
To represent his noon-tide ray,
Would be the language of the lips
These heavenly visions to portray.
But such high raptures rarely come
'Mid heart-warm thoughts of friends and home;
Then dream, among thy fancies free,
The Spring was gushing near that Tree,
Its waters pure as loves of home,
And thither had the Lady come.

She filled her flagon, and homeward flies
Like wind-driven cloud across the skies;
Fast and faster her hurrying feet,
Quick and quicker her heart's wild beat;
While an echo strangely hollow
On her footsteps seemed to follow!
Not Mother-Earth's short, sobbing speeches,
As when the coffin-lid she reaches--
But her tone, low, muffled, dull,
As when a grave is nearly full!
And yet the sky above was clearer--
The Lady felt that God was near her;
And then her heart was warm with prayer,
--Oh! her home--she's almost there.

Horror! what has she espied?
The Cottage door is open wide!
And see, a shadow dark and tall
Is rising to the ceiling wall!
It lifts its grisly hand to mock!--
Its finger points to the old brass clock!
It is the fiend--there was none to pray--
The hour has struck, and she away!

For a moment fixed she stood,
Paralyzed in every limb;
Curdling at her heart the blood,
And her straining eye-balls dim;
Then, like heaven's electric flame,
Love's reviving current came:
Her soul seemed, like a new-strung bow,
Strong for the struggle with evil or wo,
As she rushed with a cry, like the plover wild,
Over the threshold, 'My child! my child!'

Morton clasps her to his breast
And kisses all her tears away;
And oh, how fervently they pray!
How sweet and soothing is their rest,
While Grace recounts her heart's alarms,
Safe sheltered in her husband's arms!
And Morton feels 'tis blest to live
While such dear shelter he can give;
And that in blessing he is blest,
While on her faith his heart can rest;
That home to fallen man was given
To keep alive his hope in heaven;
And that the truth of future bliss,
Of happiness in worlds above,
Is proven when we show in this
That Earth can be a Heaven of love.

Sarah Josepha Buell Hale

Sarah Josepha Buell Hale

the United States
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