Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE CHOPPER'S CHILD; A STORY FOR THANKSGIVING DAY, by ALICE CARY

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First Line: The smoke of the indian summer
Last Line: As the chopper's little child.
Subject(s): Holidays; Thanksgiving Day

THE smoke of the Indian Summer
Darkened and doubled the rills,
And the ripe corn, like a sunset,
Shimmered along the hills;
Like a gracious glowing sunset,
Interlaced with the rainbow light
Of vanishing wings a-trailing
And trembling out of sight;

As, with the brier-buds gleaming
In her darling, dimpled hands,
Toddling slow adown the sheep-paths
Of the yellow stubble-lands --
Her sweet eyes full of the shadows
Of the woodland, darkly brown --
Came the chopper's little daughter,
In her simple hood and gown.

Behind her streamed the splendors
Of the oaks and elms so grand,
Before her gleamed the gardens
Of the rich man of the land;
Gardens about whose gateways
The gloomy ivy swayed,
Setting all her heart a-tremble
As she struck within their shade.

Now the chopper's lowly cabin
It lay nestled in the wood,
And the dwelling of the rich man
By the open highway stood,
With its pleasant porches facing
All against the morning hills,
And each separate window shining
Like a bed of daffodils.

Up above the tallest poplars
In its stateliness it rose,
With its carved and curious gables,
And its marble porticoes;
But she did not see the grandeur,
And she thought her father's oaks
Were finer than the cedars
Clipt so close along the walks.

So, in that full confiding
The unworldly only know,
Through the gateway, down the garden,
Up the marble portico,
Her bare feet brown as bees' wings,
And her hands of brier-buds full,
On, along the fleecy crimson
Of the carpets of dyed wool,

With a modest glance uplifted
Through the lashes drooping down,
Came the chopper's little daughter,
In her simple hood and gown;
Still and steady, like a shadow
Sliding inward from the wood,
Till before the lady-mistress
Of the house, at last, she stood.

Oh, as sweet as summer sunshine
Was that lady-dame to see,
With the chopper's little daughter,
Like a shadow at her knee!
Oh, green as leaves of clover
Were the broideries of her train,
And her hand it shone with jewels
Like a lily with the rain.

And the priest before the altar,
As she swam along the aisle,
Reading out the sacred lesson,
Read it consciously, the while;
The long roll of the organ
Drew across a silken stir,
And when he named a saint, it was
As if he named but her.

But the chopper's child undazzled
In her lady-presence stood --
(She was born amid the spendors
Of the glorious autumn wood) --
And so sweetly and serenely
Met the cold and careless face,
Her own alive with blushes,
E'en as one who gives a grace;

As she said, the accents falling
In a pretty, childish way:
"To-morrow, then to-morrow
Will have brought Thanksgiving day;
And my mother will be happy,
And be honored, so she said,
To have the landlord's lady
Taste her honey and her bread."

Then slowly spake the lady,
As disdainfully she smiled,
"Live you not in yonder cabin?
Are you not the chopper's child?
And your foolish mother bids me
To Thanksgiving, do you say?
What is it, little starveling,
That you give your thanks for, pray?"

One bashful moment's silence --
Then hushing up her pain,
And sweetness growing out of it
As the rose does out of rain --
She stript the woolen kerchief
From off her shining head.
As one might strip the outer husk
From the golden ear, and said:

"What have we to give thanks for?
Why, just for daily bread!"
And then, with all her little pride
A-blushing out so red --
"Perhaps, too, that the sunshine
Can come and lie on our floor,
With none of your icy columns
To shut it from the door!"

"What have we to give thanks for?"
And a smile illumed her tears,
As a star the broken vapors,
When it suddenly appears;
And she answered, all her bosom
Throbbing up and down so fast:
"Because my poor sick brother
Is asleep at last, at last.

"Asleep beneath the daisies:
But when the drenching rain
Has put them out, we know the dew
Will light them up again;
And we make and keep Thanksgiving
With the best the house affords,
Since, if we live, or if we die,
We know we are the Lord's:

"That out his hands of mercy
Not the least of us can fall;
But we have ten thousand blessings,
And I cannot name them all!
Oh, see them yourself, good madam --
I will come and show you the way --
After the morrow, the morrow again
Will be the great, glad day."

And, tucking up her tresses
In the kerchief of gray wool,
Where they gleamed like golden wood-lights
In the autumn mists so dull,
She crossed the crimson carpets,
With her rose-buds in her hands,
And, climbing up the sheep-paths
Of the yellow stubble-lands,

Passed the marsh wherein the starlings
Shut so close their horny bills,
And lighted with her loveliness
The gateway of the hills.
Oh, the eagle has the sunshine,
And his way is grand and still;
But the lark can turn the cloud into
A temple when she will!

That evening, when the corn fields
Had lost the rainbow light
Of vanishing wings a-trailing
And trembling out of sight,
Apart from her great possessions
And from all the world apart,
Knelt the lady-wife and mistress
Of the rich man's house and heart.

Knelt she, all her spirit broken,
And the shame she could not speak,
Burning out upon the darkness
From the fires upon her cheek;
And prayed the Lord of the harvest
To make her meek and mild,
And as faithful in Thanksgiving
As the chopper's little child.

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