Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, LARABELLE; CANTO FIRST, by LEVI BISHOP

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LARABELLE; CANTO FIRST, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Upon a wide and far extended plain
Last Line: Of johny green and charming larabelle.
Subject(s): Farm Life; Frontier & Pioneer Life; Pioneers; Agriculture; Farmers

Upon a wide and far extended plain,
That seemed to roll like gently rolling main;
Beside a stream which, by unvarying law,
Eternal feeds and swells the Saginaw,
There stood a cottage. High upon the hill,
It overlooked the meadow and the mill;
And from its door, as rich the harvest grew,
A native forest charmed the public view.

There dwelt the pioneers of other times,
Who sought a western home, from other climes;
And quiet there, from year to year was seen,
A worthy son by name of Johny Green.
The boy was faithful to indulgent sire,
And to his mother kind. Nor did he tire
In prompt relief to whomsoe'er had need,
While friendship true appeared in every deed.
An active lad, he grew to twenty years;
Nor wayward life, the sigh or fruitless tears
Had ever drawn. His father's, mother's love
Were on him shed, like fountains from above.

The farm our Johny tended; watched the kine;
The plow directed; trained the creeping vine:
The teeming seed in loamy furrows cast;
The flocks, a shelter gave, from snowy blast.
With swinging axe he made the forest ring,
That crackling fuel to the hearth might bring
The cheerful circle, song and winter's tale,
Despite the frost without and chilling gale.
To school he went, beside the public way,
His books to con; was active, too, at play:
And when the task was done and lesson said,
He of the class was often at the head.
And as the moon was gleaming on the snow,
And cheeks that braved the cold were all aglow,
With sleight-ride party, late the brilliant night,
He swept the plain with rollick and delight.
And in the town, in ample music hall,
As horn and viol charmed the country ball,
There, in the contra-dance, in whirling scene,
Was often found the happy Johny Green.

Upon the plain, within a thrifty wood,
Across the stream, another cottage stood;
And though in summer, leaves of ash and oak
The view obstructed, yet the curling smoke
That upward stole, beyond, from day to day,
In silence told of friends ne far away.
And there was found another pioneer,
Who, with a wife and child and scanty gear,
Expecting wild adventures manifold,
Had left the land of pilgrim fathers old --
Had run the great canal, and Erie main,
Nor hoped to see his native land again.
The child was sprightly -- bright as morning star;
Her piercing eye, in forest shade afar,
Would quick discover, void of childish fear,
The nimble squirrel and the browsing deer.
She grew a maid; and then she often went
On sly emprise of mischief; often spent
Her leisure hours, in rearing rose and pink,
And vine and violet; and o'er the brink
Of gliding stream -- the gentle mirror brook,
She sometimes bent, to court the smiling look;
A look when e'en reflected, that might well
True love inspire -- true love for Larabelle.

At home our Lara, on the useful bent,
Her willing service to her mother lent.
She ever held the busy -- active life;
Her tact and prudence often quelled the strife
Of hasty words. At school she often led
The eager class, yet none there were to dread
Her modest excellence. She kindly cast
A smile below as if she were the last.
Nor she, in harvest time, would shun the fields,
Where hay, new made, delicious fragrance yields;
But there, in lightsome dress and janty hat,
She filled the air with glee and merry chat;
And oft' she took the scythe, the rake, the fork,
In high pretense to hasten on the work:
And tho' her strength could but a trifle yield,
Her presence lent a magic to the field.

She also angled -- with the rarest skill,
And from the brook her string could easy fill;
While others toiled and dashed their lines in spite
At meagre luck, or none, with scarce a bite.
And when the yellow sear of autumn came,
And others caught, she freely dressed the game;
And when the neighbors met to husk the corn,
Her cheerful presence would the scene adorn.

And Lara drove the horses -- to the town
With rein and saddle gained a high renown.
She well could check and guide the prancing steed;
Nor, self-possessed, did any caution need.
And in the sleigh, upon the creaking snow,
Of winter eve, her rosy cheeks would glow
As with the biting frost the eager strife
She freely waged, with all the gush of life.
The jingling bells and laugh and merry song,
The time beguiled as Lara dashed along.
Nor was the race avoided: wild she flew,
While plain and forest swept apast the view.
And when the hall was reached -- the dancing hall,
And thickly swarmed the gala country ball;
And music rose to waltz and giddy whirl,
And every boy was matched with every girl;
And when the figure and the lively jig
Excitement lent; and no one cared a fig
What happened elsewhere; then, amid the swell
Appeared our Lara -- charming Larabelle.

Nor was the western land, in times of old,
Without the Christian faith and Christian fold:
Beneath a thrifty oak beside the wood,
The neat but unpretentious chapel stood.
Upon the Sabbath, here, of mien discreet,
Would many friends and distant neighbors meet;
And earnest, here, the missionary sought
The good of men, and free salvation taught.
A faithful band were to the alter led,
There to receive the cup and broken bread:
Among the rest, to grace the solemn scene,
Were Larabelle and worthy Johny Green.

And thus were passed the busy days and years,
With pleasing hopes, devoid of bitter tears.
The land was ample: wicked were the strife,
That might intrude to mar the happy life.
His father, mother, loved their Johny Green;
They taught him virtue in the modest mien:
To fame and honor true they showed the way,
And found in him no wish to disobey.
Her father, mother, loved their larabelle:
Her cheerful nature threw a charming spell
On every circle -- every social band;
Nor did she ever draw the reprimand.
The youthful mates and neighbors, all around,
In this fair girl a kind companion found:
Her heart was guileless and her friendship true,
And when her wish was known, at once there flew
To her relief, a ready -- eager throng:
As quick they spring to right her every wrong.
Nor in the circuit wide, was ever seen,
A lad with more of friends than Johny Green.
In every sport and game and enterprise,
For leader shrewd and bold, approving eyes
Were turned to Johny, where at once, in brief,
The strategist was found -- the worthy chief.
Nor was this favor, boastfnlly, confined
To vague attachments, that too often bind
And loose again, as interest may suggest,
Or fancy prompt; -- a flash; as quick at rest.
Far, far from this: It deeply, strongly grew,
As grows the oak; was firm and ever true;
And John could say that friends would never fail,
Tho' wildest storms the future might assail.

And in this western land, as elsewhere found,
The circles of the young might well abound
In gay flirtations. Here the earnest youth
Might also plight their vows of love and truth.
And while the months and years were gliding by,
Nor rumors told of love, the practised eye
Could well discern, in Johny's thoughtful mien,
That Cupid there had lit his fires unseen.
Or if observed, none could exception take,
To that which well might happy union make.
And one and all, as if by one consent,
To hint suggestive, acquiescence lent.
And one and all, in admiration due,
As more and more the indications grew,
Foretold the nuptials all approved so well,
Of Johny Green and charming Larabelle.

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