Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, WHITE MAGIC: AN ODE, by WILLIAM STANLEY BRAITHWAITE

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

WHITE MAGIC: AN ODE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: White magic of the silences of snow!
Last Line: Up the steep road of life to heaven's gate.
Subject(s): Whittier, John Greenleaf (1807-1892)

(Read at the Centenary Celebration of the birth of John
Greenleaf Whittier at Faneuil Hall, December 17, 1907)

White magic of the silences of snow!
Over the northern fields and hills, the moon
Spreads her veil o'er the wizardry below;
Amongst the ruined treetops is a croon
Of the long-vanished populace of spring;
There is a glory here
Where the lone farmhouse windows, glimmering
Across the snow-fields, warm the chilly air.
Peace is upon the valley like a dream
By Merrimac's swift stream,
Where his pure presence made the earth so fair.

Time cannot tarnish the glory of the hills:
Tides cannot wear the immaterial winds
To outworn voids where no loud echo fills
The long beach-comber which the sea unbinds;
The moon shall light the sun ere these things be;
But sooner our glad hearts
Know not darkness from sunlight on the sea
Ere from the lips of memory departs
Thought or speech unpraiseful of Whittier's life,
White magic of song and strife --
Strife for the right -- Song for a sake not art's.

In the rough farmhouse of his lowly birth
The spirit of poetry fired his youthful years;
No palace was more radiant on earth
Than the rude home where simple joys and tears
Filled the boy's soul with the human chronicle
Of lives that touched the soil.
He heard about him voices -- and he fell
To dreams, of the dim past, 'midst his daily toil;
Romance and legend claimed his Muse's voice
Till the heroic choice
Of duty led him to the battle's broil.

Song then became a trumpet-blast; he smote
The arrogance of evil in the State;
The indignation of his music wrote
A flaming wrath in councils of debate.
'Twas passion for the justice of God's word --
Man's common heritage
Fulfilled in the high name of brotherhood.
The oracle and prophet of his age,
He led men doubtful between wrong and right
Through Song to see the light
And smite the evil power with their rage.

He helped to seal the doom. His hope was peace
With the great and attained. Beyond his will
Fate shaped his aims to awful destinies
Of vengeful justice -- now valley and hill
Groaned with the roar of onset; near and far
The terrible, sad cries
Of slaughtered men pierced into sun and star;
Beyond his will the violence -- but the prize
Of freedom, blood had purchased, won to God
His praise that all men trod
Erect, and clothed in freedom, 'neath the skies.

Let thanks be ours for this great passion in him;
And praise be our remembrance of his trust;
Blessings that no compromise could win him,
Like Ichabod, to soil his glory in the dust.
Let ours be, too, his spirit of forgiving:
We can but master fate
By the same knowledge of our brother's living --
Won by matching his virtues, not his hate.
Let the white radiance of his Inward Light
Be to us, step and sight
Up the steep road of life to Heaven's gate.

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