Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE QUEST OF THE FATHERS, by JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE QUEST OF THE FATHERS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: What were our forefathers trying
Last Line: Is what our forefathers were trying to find.
Alternate Author Name(s): Johnson Of Boone, Benj. F.
Subject(s): God; Home; Pilgrimages & Pilgrims; Sailing & Sailors; Travel; Journeys; Trips


WHAT were our Forefathers trying to find
When they weighed anchor, that desperate hour
They turned from home, and the warning wind
Sighed in the sails of the old May-flower?
What sought they that could compensate
Their hearts for the loved ones left behind --
The household group at the glowing grate? --
What were our Forefathers trying to find?

What were they trying to find more dear
Than their native land and its annals old, --
Its throne -- its church -- and its worldly cheer --
Its princely state, and its hoarded gold?
What more dear than the mounds of green
There o'er the brave sires, slumbering long?
What more fair than the rural scene --
What more sweet than the throstle's song?

Faces pallid, but sternly set,
Lips locked close, as in voiceless prayer,
And eyes with never a tear-drop wet --
Even the tenderest woman's there!
But O the light from the soul within,
As each spake each with a flashing mind --
As the lightning speaks to its kith and kin!
What were our Forefathers trying to find?

Argonauts of a godless day --
Seers of visions, and dreamers vain!
Their ship's foot set in a pathless way, --
The fogs, the mists, and the blinding rain! --
When the gleam of sun, and moon and star
Seemed lost so long they were half forgot --
When the fixed eyes found nor near nor far,
And the night whelmed all, and the world was not.

And yet, befriended in some strange wise,
They groped their way in the storm and stress
Through which -- though their look found not the skies --
The Lord's look found them ne'ertheless --
Found them, yea, in their piteous lot,
As they in their faith from the first divined --
Found them, and favored them -- too. But what --
What were our Forefathers trying to find?

Numb and agasp, with the frost for breath,
They came on a frozen shore, at last,
As bleak and drear as the coasts of death, --
And yet their psalm o'er the wintry blast
Rang glad as though 'twere the chiming mirth
Of jubilant children landing there --
Until o'er all of the icy earth
The snows seemed warm, as they knelt in prayer.

For, lo! they were close on the trail they sought: --
In the sacred soil of the rights of men
They marked where the Master-hand had wrought;
And there they garnered and sowed again. --
Their land -- then ours, as to-day it is,
With its flag of heaven's own light designed,
And God's vast love o'er all. . . . And this
Is what our Forefathers were trying to find.





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