Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SALEM, SELECTION, by WILLIAM WETMORE STORY



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SALEM, SELECTION, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Swift fly the years. Too swift, alas!
Last Line: When it has just begun.
Subject(s): Salem, Massachusetts


SWIFT fly the years. Too swift, alas!
A full half-century has flown,
Since, through these gardens fair and pastures lone
And down the busy street,
Or 'neath the elms whose shadows soft are thrown
Upon the common's trampled grass,
Pattered my childish feet.
Gone are the happy games we played as boys!
Gone the glad shouts, the free and careless joys,
The fights, the feuds, the friendships that we had,
And all the trivial things that had the power,
When Youth was in its early flower,
To make us sad or glad!
Gone the familiar faces that we knew,
Silent the voices that once thrilled us through,
And ghosts are everywhere!

They peer from every window-pane,
From every alley, street, and lane
They whisper on the air.
They haunt the meadows green and wide,
The garden-walk, the river-side,
The beating mill adust with meal,
The rope-walk with its whirring wheel,
The elm grove on the sunny ridge,
The rattling draw, the echoing bridge;
The lake on which we used to float
What time the blue jay screamed his note,
The voiceful pines that ceaselessly
Breathed back their answer to the sea,
The school-house, where we learned to spell,
The church, the solemn-sounding bell, --
All, all, are full of them.
Where'er we turn, howe'er we go,
Ever we hear their voices dim
That sing to us as in a dream
The song of "Long ago."

Ah me, how many an autumn day
We watched with palpitating breast
Some stately ship, from India or Cathay,
Laden with spicy odors from the East,
Come sailing up the bay!
Unto our youthful hearts elate
What wealth beside their real freight
Of rich material things they bore!
Ours were Arabian cargoes, fair,
Mysterious, exquisite, and rare;
From far romantic lands built out of air
On an ideal shore
Sent by Aladdin, Camaralzaman,
Morgiana, or Badoura, or the Khan.
Treasures of Sindbad, vague and wondrous things
Beyond the reach of aught but Youth's imaginings.

How oft half-fearfully we prowled
Around those gabled houses, quaint and old,
Whose legends, grim and terrible,
Of witch and ghost that used in them to dwell,
Around the twilight fire were told;
While huddled close with anxious ear
We heard them, quivering with fear
And, if the daylight half o'ercame the spell,
'T was with a lingering dread
We oped the door and touched the stinging bell
In the dark shop that led,
For some had fallen under time's disgrace,
To meaner uses and a lower place.
But as we heard it ring, our hearts' quick pants
Almost were audible;
For with its sound it seemed to rouse the dead,
And wake some ghost from out the dusky haunts
Where faint the daylight fell.

Upon the sunny wharves how oft
Within some dim secluded loft
We played, and dreamed the livelong day,
And all the world was ours in play;
We cared not, let it slip away,
And let the sandy hour-glass run,
Time is so long, and life so long
When it has just begun.





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