Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SPRING IN NEW ENGLAND, by THOMAS BAILEY ALDRICH



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SPRING IN NEW ENGLAND, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The long years come and go
Last Line: Telling us spring has come again!
Subject(s): New England; Spring; Time


I.

THE long years come and go,
And the Past,
The sorrowful, splendid Past,
With its glory and its woe,
Seems never to have been.
The bugle's taunting blast
Has died away by Southern ford and glen:
The mock-bird sings unfrightened in its dell;
The ensanguined stream flows pure again;
Where once the hissing death-bolt fell,
And all along the artillery's level lines
Leapt flames of hell,
The farmer smiles upon the sprouting grain,
And tends his vines.
Seems never to have been?
O sombre days and grand,
How ye crowd back once more,
Seeing our heroes' graves are green
By the Potomac and the Cumberland,
And in the valley of the Shenandoah!

II.

Now while the pale arbutus in our woods
Wakes to faint life beneath the dead year's leaves,
And the bleak North lets loose its wailing broods
Of winds upon us, and the gray sea grieves
Along our coast; while yet the Winter's hand
Heavily presses on New England's heart,
And Spring averts the sunshine of her eyes
Lest some vain cowslip should untimely start--
While we are housed in this rude season's gloom,
In this rude land,
Bereft of warmth and bloom,
We know, far off beneath the Southern skies,
Where the flush blossoms mock our drifts of snow
And the lithe vine unfolds its emerald sheen --
On many a sunny hillside there, we know
Our heroes' graves are green.

III.

The long years come, but they
Come not again!
Through vapors dense and gray
Steals back the May,
But they come not again --
Swept by the battle's fiery breath
Down unknown ways of death.
How can our fancies help but go
Out from this realm of mist and rain,
Out from this realm of sleet and snow,
When the first Southern violets blow?

IV.

While yet the year is young
Many a garland shall be hung
In our gardens of the dead;
On obelisk and urn
Shall the lilac's purple burn,
And the wild-rose leaves be shed.
And afar in the woodland ways,
Through the rustic church-yard gate
Matrons and maidens shall pass,
Striplings and white-haired men,
And, spreading aside the grass,
Linger at name and date,
Remembering old, old days!
And the lettering on each stone
Where the mould's green breath has blown
Tears shall wash clear again!

V.

But far away to the South, in the sultry, stricken land --
On the banks of silvery streams gurgling among their reeds,
By many a drear morass, where the long-necked pelican feeds,
By many a dark bayou, and blinding dune of sand,
By many a cypress swamp where the cayman seeks its prey,
In many a moss-hung wood, the twilight's haunt by day,
And down where the land's parched lip drinks at the salt sea-waves,
And the ghostly sails glide by -- there are piteous, nameless graves.
Their names no tongue may tell,
Buried there where they fell,
The bravest of our braves!
Never sweetheart, or friend,
Wan pale mother, or bride,
Over these mounds shall bend,
Tenderly putting aside
The unremembering grass!
Never the votive wreath
For the unknown brows beneath,
Never a tear, alas!
How can our fancies help but go
Out from this realm of mist and rain,
Out from this realm of sleet and snow,
When the first Southern violets blow?
How must our thought bend over them,
Blessing the flowers that cover them --
Piteous, nameless graves!

VI.

Ah, but the life they gave
Is not shut in the grave:
The valorous spirits freed
Live in the vital deed!
Marble shall crumble to dust,
Plinth of bronze and of stone,
Carved escutcheon and crest --
Silently, one by one,
The sculptured lilies fall:
Softly the tooth of the rust
Gnaws through the brazen shield:
Broken, and covered with stains,
The crossed stone swords must yield:
Mined by the frost and the drouth,
Smitten by north and south,
Smitten by east and west,
Down comes column and all!
But the great deed remains.

VII.

When we remember how they died --
In dark ravine and on the mountain-side,
In leaguered fort and fire-encircled town,
Upon the gun-boat's splintered deck,
And where the iron ships went down --
How their dear lives were spent,
In the crushed and reddened wreck,
By lone lagoons and streams,
In the weary hospital-tent,
In the cockpit's crowded hive --
How they languished and died
In the black stockades -- it seems
Ignoble to be alive!
Tears will well to our eyes,
And the bitter doubt will rise --
But hush! for the strife is done,
Forgiven are wound and scar;
The fight was fought and won
Long since, on sea and shore,
And every scattered star
Set in the blue once more:
We are one as before,
With the blot from our scutcheon gone!

VIII.

So let our heroes rest
Upon your sunny breast:
Keep them, O South, our tender hearts and true,
Keep them, O South, and learn to hold them dear
From year to year!
Never forget,
Dying for us, they died for you.
This hallowed dust should knit us closer yet.

IX.

Hark! 't is the bluebird's venturous strain
High on the old fringed elm at the gate --
Sweet-voiced, valiant on the swaying bough,
Alert, elate,
Dodging the fitful spits of snow,
New England's poet-laureate
Telling us Spring has come again!





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