Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE FADING OF THE MAYFLOWER, by THEODORE TILTON

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THE FADING OF THE MAYFLOWER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: But is it fading? Is it doomed to die?
Last Line: ^18^ so named from the town of worstead in england.
Subject(s): Mayflower (ship); Pilgrim Fathers; United States; America


But is it fading? Is it doomed to die?
And is our árbute not an ámarant
But a mere perishable plant
Whose pink is paler as the years go by?
... There be forebodings! And I well know why:
For Hope is cowardly when Faith is scant!
Yet still the Jordan and whole Levant
Bear lilies such as pleased the Master's eye!
—I think our árbute pleased Him once as well:
Nor fails it yet to bloom when Spring comes on:
But dangers threaten it, so that to-day
This sacred bud of ours—O sad to tell!—
Lacks something of the sap of days agone:
But is our darling dying? Nay, O nay!


Thou lately, O New England, hadst a choir
Of venerable poets of renown,—
Whose verse, I deem, is destined to go down
Exempt from Death,—though they who tuned the lyre
Are now in dust. Those men had tongues of fire!
Their words were like the jewels of a crown!
Or like those signal-lamps in Boston town
Which Paul Revere saw in the Old North spire!
—I knew those bards! They died ere yet had come
This Pest of Money-Madness! Else not I,
But they instead, should strike this warning key:
Yet who that loves his country can be dumb?
I see the peril—so I cry my cry!
Ye people, harken to my Epopee!


With pious tread, and with a pensive mind,
In homage to our Pilgrim Sires of old,
I oft have climbed the hill that hides their mould:
Nor have I ever, with a word, maligned
Their thoughts as narrow, or their sight as blind!
They bade no mass be sung, no beads be told!
'It is the Christ, the Christ,'—(thus did they hold)—
'And not the Crucifix,—that saves mankind!'
They spurned idolatry, those Christly men!
But we, their sons, as if to shame our sires,
Adore a pagan image,—for at last
The Golden Calf is now a god agen!—
And since the gold needs the refining fires,
The land shall shrivel in the furnace-blast!


But be the fiery prophecy unmade!
It cannot come to its fulfillment! No!
This is the self-same land which long ago
The holiest men who ever knelt and prayed
Received from Heaven,—while Nature, half afraid,
Stood shivering lest a mayflower could not grow
On such a rock, in such December snow!
... To wilt is not to wither!. ... Heaven will aid
Our scatheless flower to scorn the furnace-heat!
Hath not our Lord a yet remaining rod
To drive the money-changers from the fane?
Our Golden Calf is godless, not a god,—
And though his beastly image rules the street,
Yet false and spurious is his right to reign.


I love the ever-honored rock where first
The Pilgrims found a refuge from the waves!
I love the slanting slates upon their graves!
—Those blessed dead, when living, would have curst
This flame of greed, if then it had outburst!
—And are their sons a pack of thieves and knaves?
Has Mammon bought us, as his willing slaves?
—Our Fathers were the best of men: and we the worst?
—O bonnie blossom, thou for many a May
Shalt bourgeon, rooted in thy rocky soil,
To testify to toilers yet unborn
How gratefully, at each Thanksgiving Day,
Our sires felt Heaven-rewarded if their toil
Had filled with modest measure Plenty's Horn.


The Pilgrims—not so prodigal as we—
Were not so grasping. Pelf was not their aim!
Their pious Charter bore the Lord's own name
Self-writ upon it, as its guarantee!
For while our sires were yet upon the sea
He signed it in their cabin! They too signed the same.
... This Charter is our birthright! ... O the shame
Were we to sell it for a golden fee!
Our God is God! He is the God by Whom
The Pilgrims, ere they reached their granite rock,
Were well-forewarned that wintry skies would lower,
Nor would the season show a sign of bloom,
No, not a crocus, nor a hollyhock,
Nor an anemone, the wind's own flower.


So when the hawthorne of their native land
Was left behind them as no longer theirs,—
And when the exiles had with tears and prayers
Cast anchor on our rude Atlantic strand,
They longed in spirit for the reason bland
That brings the mayflower:—(though our May now bears
A raucous ill-repute for frosty airs,
And seems to merit Nature's reprimand).
—Our Fathers loved the name their vessel bore,
And looked upon the arbute as a sign
That Present Ill would turn to Future Good!
So too the Shamrock, when its leaves are four,
Betokens that a brighter day will shine
On Erin's isle. (And much I wish it would!)


The greater love is for the lesser flowers,—
The greatest, for the least! ... With windy shell
Let Triton, as a boaster, puff and swell
In braggadocio of his coral-bowers
That have no freshness of the dews or showers,
Nor any fragrance! ... Yet the glen or dell
Where mayflowers grow is sweetened by a smell
That seems a whiff from better worlds than ours!
—Our arbute is the laurel of the ground!
It may be lowly—it is lofty too!
Yea, doubly high is the repute it bears:—
For ship and flower alike are world-renowned!
.. Our Past is safe whatever we may do!
Our Future is what God Himself prepares!


So though I borrow trouble from my theme,
And though my song with heaviness be sung,
Yet surely never since the world was young
Hath any shallop on the ocean-stream
Had such a guidance! Now I dare not deem
The guidance gone! But since my heart is wrung!—
O thou my Nation, let my warning tongue
Curse thy new idol with a curse supreme!
Our Fathers hither brought no Calf of Gold,
Nor did they build to him an altar here,
Nor wreathe him as a Nile-god or a king;
But we ourselves—O shameful to be told—
Re-gild his image brighter every year,
Though Egypt's plagues be in the impious thing!


The Vikings came—long ere our Pilgrim band;—
But back they went, not knowing what they did!
Then came thy countrymen, O conquering Cid!—
Heroic nation!—ever sword in hand!—
(Yet once too often!—for thy battle brand
Then failed thee!) ... Thou hast gold (they say) but hid!
... O find it not, Hispania! ... God forbid
Thy mines be minted to corrupt thy land!
—The Golden Calf that first was maledict
Was one that Aaron made and knelt before,
Till Moses dashed it down—ignoble fate!
But we a worse down-dashing must inflict
On our offender that offends the more
As more colossal and more reprobate!


Our sires had meadows,—and their meadows, kine,—
Descendants of that gentle bovine breed
Who heard the tidings and who ran with speed
To render to the barn-born Babe Divine
Their homage! But this Golden Calf of thine,
O my deluded land!—this god of greed—
This molten Apis—comes to supersede
The star-led Magi of old Palestine!
But cometh he to kneel? Ah, not at all!
He cometh to be knelt to! O the shame!
His image hath a place in every town!
And well he knows—as at his feet we fall—
How like the Philistines, at Dagon's name,
We brutify ourselves by bowing down!


The destiny of man is pre-designed;—
But not by man himself. The Pilgrim band
Were not foretold that such a virgin land
As their adventurous vessel was to find,
Would rear an image of a heathen kind,
And that a Christian nation, great and grand,
Would let this idol insolently stand
As typical of such a nation's mind!
Our Golden Calf assumes Jehovah's name,^1^
Elóhim, the 'Almighty.' For the beast,
Though dumb, is not insensate like a stone:
And hence the land to which the Pilgrims came
Beholds the monster now so much increased
That lest we throw him we are overthrown!


Three hundred years ago those holy men
Took ship and chased the sun from east to west,
And leapt ashore where now their ashes rest!
They came, they saw, they conquered!—dying then
Ere yet their vision with prophetic ken
Could have foreseen or gauged or dreamed or guessed
The grandeur of their conquest!—unexpressed
And inexpressible by tongue or pen!
—So how they lived and died—and how their worth
Outweighed the meagre merit of their kings:
All this is not a tale for me to tell:—
It has been told to all the listening earth!
But I will mention some omitted things—
For O I love those Pilgrims wondrous well!


The orange-blossom (in these later years)
Is for a bride. Our Pilgrim brides were fair,
But had no orange-blossoms for their hair:
They wore the mayflower! Also, it appears
That pearls were drops too costly for their ears,—
Yet as to rubies, not the earth elsewhere
Saw redder lips!—for O what salty air!—
And what ozóne! ... So all the world still hears
Whose lips! were reddest! And as time brought round
Each anniversary of her wedding-day,
Priscilla and John Alden—she and he—
Went to the woods and searched until they found
As many mayflowers as would twine a bay
To garland Raghorn's head,—a sight to see!


For Raghorn—(in himself a cattle-show!)—
The Puritan of bulls!—was snowy white—
Without a stain: and he was gentle—quite:
He kindly carried children too and fro—
As many as could mount him: and we know
How fair Priscilla, sitting bolt upright,
And pillow-propt, rode (with a little fright)
Home from her wedding on his back of snow.^2^
... Our Fathers had the ivy and the fern;
They had the pansy and the heather-bell;
And even while their graveyard still was small
They had the daisy there at every turn;
And yet how tenderly their records tell
What flower it was they loved the best of all!


It is as modest as a mignonette,
Yet runic from the calyx to the core;
And could we rightly read this runic lore,
We might remember what we now forget,—
How all this wealth whereon our hearts are set
Is not the wise frugality of yore;
For while we glut our coffers more and more,
We waste ourselves in gathering what we get!
This woeful waste is all the proof we need
That Plenty's Horn is over-filled for nought!
... A boon too bountiful is half a bane!
... To be too rich is to be poor indeed!—
The gold unmans the getter: he is caught
In the long doldrums of a languid brain.


How dare our Fathers' sons outreach to clutch
With itching palms of unrestrained desire
The Devil's apple—golden to admire,
Yet God-forbidden!—therefore sure, as such,
To turn to worse than ashes at their touch,—
And sure to bring upon their heads the ire
Which Heaven reserves for mortals who aspire
To win too cunningly what costs too much!
The arbute never grew in Paradise!
And so, since Eden bore all other flowers,
They each partook the curse save this alone!
O chilly May, thou month of snow and ice,
Nip not our Fathers' bud for faults of ours,
But prosper it for virtues of their own!


And though we know how witches once were whipt
And how, for men who kissed their lawful wives
Except on weekdays, there were jails and gyves;
And how, when any frisky goat had slipt
The Sabbath sheep-fold, both his ears were clipt;
And how, when tattling tongues, as keen as knives,
Went hacking ruthlessly at holy lives,
The gossips on a ducking-stool were dipt:—
Yet who can charge our sacred bud with sin?
It is as guileless as a drop of dew!
For neither God nor Nature, Man nor Time,
Nor seasons going out or coming in,
Nor any country either old or new,
Will call our arbute capable of crime!


The nightshade is a criminal, I grant!
... But thou hast no defilement on thy fame!
For always when a Sunday morning came,
And cast a beam of sacred light aslant
From Plymouth Rock to Shawmut and Nahant,
And filled the land with Pentecostal flame,—
Thou didst not fail, O arbute, to proclaim
Thy holy presence as our amarant!
Strange that our sires—the dead of Burial Hill—
Should have bequeathed by mortmain to their race
A cast of mind of less supernal mould!—
Less Puritan in every wish and will!—
Less palpitant to all the sad disgrace
Of this unquenchable desire for gold!


It is a gainlessness miscalled a gain!
... A modern Croesus has no quiet hour!
Where is his lotus? How is it to flower?
His very recreation is a strain!
He walks as one who clanks a golden chain,
Or sits as one who, from his prison-tower,
Looks forth on liberty, yet has no power
To free himself—and there he must remain!
... The greed of gold outgnaws the iron's rust,
And eats its way into an upright mind
As when the wood-work of a bungalow
Is gnawn by the toredo to a dust—
All unsuspected till the neighbors find
A pillar fallen from the portico.


There is another borer in the dark,—
An insect thrice more mischievous to man,
And which no optic-glass hath power to scan!
Nor does it eat its way into the bark
Of oak or elm—for we can trace its mark
On man alone! Its ravages began
Ere yet the tenth from Adam lived to plan
A shelter from it in the gopher Ark!
It is the Gold Bug! Welcome be the sting
Of gadfly, willowgall, or pangolin,
Or of the woodtick, or a poisoned brier!
But unto man the Gold Bug comes to bring
No transitory itch into the skin,—
For the fierce maggot sets the brain on fire!


There have been wonders in the ancient past:
And there are wonders now,—and yet to be:
But things that are most wonderful to me
Are fleeting fancies, all too bright to last,—
And we who clutch them cannot hold them fast:
So off they go, and never shall we see
Their like agen,—and terrified are we,—
And all we do is just to stand aghast!
But fears are follies! So this lyre of mine,
Which I unwillingly take up, is keyed
To no excuses! Let a bard be bold!
O lend me for a harp, Urania, thine!—
Or thine, Polymnia,—forcing men to heed!—
For there is danger in this Calf of Gold!


The Brazen Serpent would be standing yet,
Except that Judah's image-breaking King^3^
Took tardy umbrage at the cankered thing!
... How long are We to wait before we get
Our needful catapult of vengeance set
To crush the Golden Calf?—to whom we swing,
Meanwhile, the censer,—and at whom we fling
Odor and ointment from the cassolette!
For though the tiny gods which Rachel stole
Had but clandestine homage, nought beside,
(And hence she hid them)—yet this hulk of ours,
This mammoth body with a pigmy soul,
This huge and gilded bull-calf deified,
Is worshipt openly and crowned with flowers!


He is our deity of tare and tret!
But though he rules with undisputed sway,
Yet as he fears to fall,—so, day by day,
Re-anxious, he begins agen to fret,
Until his image starts into a sweat
As if the glittering gold were common clay!
—Meanwhile, such tribute to him as we pay,
He takes as if we owe it, like a debt!
He has remembrances—this graven brute!
His thoughts go back to Mizraim, whence he came!
His mummied mind retains an ancient sense
That once the Nubian lands were his to loot!—
He killed the lotus then!—His present aim
Is to destroy the mayflower!—Drive him hence!


I know not how th' immortal forger^4^ feels
Who gave our continent its wrongful name
And robbed Columbus of his rightful fame!
How grand a larceny! It still appeals
To human scorn! It still encrusts, anneals,
And blackens thee, O Justice, with the blame
Of being blind to such a glaring shame!
... I know not what the Future World reveals,—
But if 'no sea be there,' then ships and isles
And undiscovered coasts of pearls and gold
Will rouse no envy in that heavenly sphere!
And furthermore if 'nothing that defiles'
Is there to enter,—we are thus foretold,
O Golden Calf, that thou shalt perish here!


There was an antique ship of fifty oars,
And at each oar a mythic hero sat:—
(A pretty story which we marvel at.)
This phantom-ship went seeking phantom-shores!
And we may follow it as it explores
The moonlit Lemnos where the lynx-eyed cat
Would crouch in ambush till the water-rat
Came swimming shoreward from the madrepores.
—Our sires, embarking with no mythic masts,
No visionary sails, no dreamy breeze,
Met blizzards fiercely real; for then (and still)
A westward prow must face those ruder blasts
Which to an eastward keel give smoother seas!
For thus (though strange) is Nature's fickle will.


Nor would there have been value to requite
The Mayflower's Argonauts, I think, if they
(Like Jason's heroes of a former day)
Had won a trophy which, however bright,
Was naught but gold—red with a lurid light,
And ill of omen! ... So our sires, I say,
Came not to seek and snatch and take away
A prize so little precious in their sight!
They sought the prize of prizes—which they won!
They won it, and they never let it go!
Was it a gift of Mars, a Golden Fleece?
It was the soul's reward for duty done!—
Done with a pride that stooped to nothing low!
Done with a steadiness beyond caprice!


Their touchstone was a more than Lydian gem:
It was a 'periapt'—whose holy fire
Could further purify a pure desire!
... Those men would self-accuse and self-condemn
The natural dust upon their garment's hem!
... Our goodly globe they deemed a bog and mire!
Their hopes were ever in the skies or higher!
The World Celestial was the world for them!
The Earth was nothing!—it was less than nought!
The Heavens were all-in-all, and would be theirs!
This was their theme of sermon and of psalm!
So Paradise—their one and constant thought—
Was in the easy grip of all their prayers,
And could be snatched to make their pillows calm.


O heavenly gift of slumber! What a power!
It is the harbinger and proof and test
That God, who visits every human breast,
Is fond of coming at the midnight-hour
To nerve the bravest lest their courage cower!
—The soldier needs a blanket and a rest:
So He who made our frame and knows it best
Ordains a pillow as our nightly dower!
'He giveth His beloved ... sleep!' And yet,
O strangely foolish! we disdain the gift!
We sleep but little! For we dream of gold—
Which men, though wide-awake, find hard to get!
So now the passion of the time is Thrift,—
For Wealth is aping Honor's rank of old.


Our sires were poor. The wolf was at their door:
But they so baffled him from sneaking in,
That back he gauntly fled to gorse and whin,
And afterward he worried them no more!
Their nets brought many a herring-shoal ashore:
And though their barley slowly came to bin,
Yet soon their luscious 'Wilderness of Zin'
Ran maple-juice like tarfa-gum of yore!^5^
But folk who tilled an unfrequented waste
Nor saw for forty miles on either hand
A Christian neighbor to be nodded to
Grew quickly aboriginal in taste!
So with impetuous eagerness they planned,
And launched, and thrice upset their first canoe!


Our sires (like savages) ate succotash
And assaquash and samp and Indian maize
(Called 'turkey-wheat' in those Patuxet^6^ days:)
And though the sea-side wells were oft so brash
That salt would glitter in the calabash,
Yet Plymouth in its higher banks and braes
Had fresher waters—glassy to the gaze—
Or wrinkled by the frog's perpetual splash.
In Plymouth village, on its Leyden street,
The houses one by one till they were seven
Rose in a twelvemonth; with a church besides;
Though every house should be a church complete!—
A sort of earthly vestibule to Heaven!
For what is heaven? A home where love abides!


Built they a shelter? Winds would blow it down!
And yet they builded better than they knew!
And guests they had—the petrel and the smew!
Nor could the winter—(adding to its frown
Its awful thunder)—ever wholly drown
The voice of household hymn-books:—whereunto
The gulls came screaming:—for their noisy crew
Had habitations in the self-same town.
... The settler's hearthstone!—this must be the place
Whereon to build a nation that shall stand!
The home is its foundation! Here must dwell
The social virtues! Here must shine the grace
Which can obey!—the power which can command!—
And here all courtesy should prosper well.


Our Pilgrim Fathers, Christianly polite,
Were known as 'God Almighty's gentlemen': ^7^
Nor has the world's urbanity, since then,
Seen manners lifted to a purer height
Than when, as if in God's own very sight,
The godly Puritans, by speech and pen,
Unfailingly, no matter where or when,
Gave every man his honor due by right!
... The bayberry candles which our Fathers burnt
Flung out a flicker of a greenish hue,
Whereof the glamour made a Pilgrim's face
Look sour and sallow: yet our sires had learnt
That as no candle is self-lit, so too
No soul is lighted save by heavenly grace.^8^


The motive deepest-hidden in the breast:—
This is what makes the man! And we are sure
That if a human motive can be pure,
The Puritans may let their name attest
How God to men makes plainly manifest
That thus, by hardships hardest to endure,
The soul most shaken is the most secure,—
For faith is firmest when the hardest pressed!
Our sires were toilers for Another's sake,—
And so, no matter what they undertook,
Their business was the Lord's, and not their own!
But we, in all the mighty schemes we make,
Care mainly if they wear a gilded look
Reflected from the Golden Calf alone!


The grumbling Israelites, for forty years
Ere yet they reached at last their Promised Land,
Were daily fed on manna by a Hand
They never thanked! ... But O it thrice endears
The memory of our sires to whoso hears
With what a valiant patience, grimly grand,
They scorned to whine, or whimper, or demand
Flesh-pots from Egypt, or turn mutineers!
No matter how they suffered, they were dumb!
Their first and worst of winters was a time
To hide their misery: so they hushed their moan!
Their wonder was if May would ever come?
It came and brought the bud which many a rhyme
Shall lilt in languages as yet unknown!


Is life too short? Not when we first perceive
That God and Nature, for the good of Man,
Have made our earthly term a narrow span—
To widen it hereafter! Here we weave
No finished web!—for all we here achieve
Is but a mere beginning! So our plan,
Which Death completes as early as he can,
Implies that we resume the work we leave!
And so the Pilgrims, in their pious way,
Made each a temple of his own abode;
For ere his hut was scarce a house at all,
Yet from the ridge-pole—at the break of day—
As loud a chanticleer as ever crowed
Announced the hour of prayer, to great and small.


A peep into his cottage would disclose
The love of learning in the Pilgrim sire:
For every morning, round his ingle-fire,
While yet the January thaws re-froze,—
And while his children sat and warmed their toes,—
He from a 'horn-book' helped them to acquire
Their ABC's,—proceeding slowly higher
To Hebrew poetry (in English prose.)
The mother, deeming idleness a wrong,
Forbore to rock the cradle with her hand
But with her foot: So at the cradle-side
She sat and 'did her knitting', late and long,
Nor paused but at some hungerful demand
When her wee Puritan awoke and cried.


With chilly elegance the Pilgrims wore
Their never-ruffled ruffs! And when they ate,
What dignity they gave a pewter-plate!
They carpeted their table, not their floor!
And they would fix against a wall or door
A Magna Charta, which I venerate,
Or Calvin's Institutes, which I would hate
Except that I remember them no more!
Quintiple points, now pointless!^9^ Folly sheer!
For not the pen of mortal can define
The Lord Almighty's limit! Shall a priest
Mark out for the Omnipotent a sphere?
So of the Articles called Thirty-Nine,
I disbelieve in forty at the least!


Nor do I deem the dogma to be true
That the Almighty Father of our race
Hath built His Heavenly City in a place
So very small, and for so very few,
That only saints, and of the bluest blue,
And even these by special act of grace,
Shall ever get a chance to see His face,—
Although He loves both saint and sinner too!
...If Paradise be open not to all,
But merely to a handful, then I say
That as an earthling I could be resigned
To stay for ages on this earthly ball
Among my mates, nor would I skulk away
To join a rescued remnant of mankind.


The Pilgrim Sunday—eager to begin—
Had got, by grant from Heaven, a gracious leave
To start itself on Saturday at eve!
The Pilgrim and his dog alike came in,—
For not to keep the Sabbath was a sin:
The household webster ceased at once to weave,—
And household chatter had a dumb reprieve
Save only for the cricket's chirpy din.
O cricket, with what never-ending awe
We hear the rigmarole thou hast to tell!
I sometimes think that thy redundant tale
Is a discourse upon the moral law!
Art thou indeed a clergyman? Ah well,
To beg thee to be brief shall not avail!


The Reverend Ipse Dixit, if he will,
May go to ninthly, if the folk will stay!
He is behind the age! The Sabbath Day
Has dropt its ancient gloom. So Jack and Jill
May worship in a field, or on a hill,
Or by a water-brook! And who shall say
What moral law such strollers disobey
Who do no mischief and who think no ill?
For He who said, 'The Sabbath is for Man'
Intended it to be a day of rest:
But if a sermon wends its weary way
As Jordan lengthens from the fount of Dan,—
No hearer of the homily is blest!
So let him roam the woods, if so he may.


And yet when Elder Brewster's text was read,
The arbute, as became a lowly sprout,
Shrank in the high-backed pew, nor stared about,
Nor slyly flaunted its embellished head,—
But like a fennel, it behaved well-bred,
And sweetly tried to sit the sermon out;—
For flowers that go to church should be devout—
Remembering Him who wore the thorns instead!
... And is our fragile bud to keep its bloom
Forever and a day? I must admit
It seems too delicate to last so long!
Yet not the trump of Sempiternal doom
Shall smite it in the least—no, not a whit!
The Heavens will do no amarant a wrong!


So though King Jamie, with his weazen pen,
Morosely wrote of man's immortal mind
As something which the church could chain and bind,—
And though he packed his jails with pious men,—
Yet now the Church, less bigoted than then,
Can wink at morals, or be shrewdly blind
To half of the Commandments if it find
A lack of grace to keep the total ten!
I am no satirist! I only say
As one who sees (for who can fail to see?)
That every slanting-slate and burial-sod
On Plymouth hill-top, of a former day,
Now crieth from the ground, reproaching thee,
O Christian country, for thy heathen god!


Meanwhile our junco^10^ is a bird whose pipe
Is all the louder if his eager look
Espies a mayflower by a forest brook;—
For even if the berry be unripe
He swoops upon it with a hawkish gripe,—
Nor doth he care more than an owl or rook
For all the task our Fathers undertook
Whereof the arbute is the archetype.
O flower, thy very silence is a screed
Rehearsing what no fairy-tale can tell
Nor parable can hint,—and yet, forsooth,
Thou art Cassandra-like! We fail to heed!
For thou art wise in warning us so well,
But we are fools!—we disbelieve the truth!


I say, we disbelieve the truth, yet how?
'Great is our Golden Calf!' This is our cry!
Our cry is false! We know it for a lie!
Yet to this brutish thing we bend and bow
Until the homage which we thus avow
Is more obsequious than in times gone by
When Aaron sinned on Sinai! ... Fie, O fie!
What would the Pilgrims say if living now?
Or what rebuke of theirs would be enough?
I think our saintly Fathers would no more
Regard us as the scions of their stock,
For surely we must be of baser stuff,—
Or else what means it that we dare adore
A Golden Calf set up on Plymouth Rock?


They were a hundred souls—no mighty host—
Yet the Divine Centurion of their band,
Who by a way they scarce could understand
Led them to plough a sea, to sow a coast,
To reap an empire,—now is grieved the most
To find that we, the heirs to such a land,—
His faithless watchmen, false to His command,—
Have proved like sentinels who quit their post!
... How long was Nineveh a nation's pride?
It was a city whose foundation-stone
Now stirs at every breeze! So ye who trust
That the Almighty's will may be defied
Shall see your Golden Calf so overthrown
That ye who bow to it shall bite the dust!


This money-madness, this rapacious rage,
This playing to the hazard of a die,
This open theft, this cheating on the sly,
This rush to ruin,—O ye wise and sage
Who rule our country, judge ye now and gauge
These evil times, nor wait till years roll by,
Lest then—all insolent and proud and high—
The Golden Calf shall stand from age to age!
He is foredoomed to fall! But when and how?
For still his favor is our highest aim!
We beg his help with our devoutest prayer!—
We are idolaters already!—now!
What shall we be to-morrow but the same?
—So heave his image from the public square!


It is intrusive there! It has no place
Save what it can usurp, or we permit!
—What was the Golden Calf of Holy Writ?
It was of gold but only on its face!
So Moses—since it inwardly was base—
Burnt it to ashes, and said, 'Drink of it!'
Whereat he flung the ashes from the pit
Into their cups!—to Israel's just disgrace!
Shall we ourselves be chastened less than they?
Shall we have less of bitterness to drink?
... To worship idols is a sin and crime!...
Beware! There is for us a reckoning day!
The punishment is greater than we think—
In thus offending Heaven a second time!


There was a Puritan whose name I hate!
Nor will I utter it to vent my ire!
Three centuries have covered it with mire!
Why pluck it thence? Forget it, Church and State!
And let oblivion be the wretch's fate!
A Puritan, and yet no Pilgrim sire!
He stayed in England, and from shire to shire
He wrought a mischief which I execrate!
He gave to Heaven for welfare of his soul
A million fragments of the storied glass
Of old cathedral-windows which he cracked:
And never by a tombstone did he stroll
But off he ripped the old memorial brass,—
As if the Lord would love him for the act!


I hope such bigotry has had its day!
The hottest gospellers are now more cool!
Theology—(except in Istamboul)—
Is circumspect in what it has to say,
Nor dares to bully in the same old way!—
Yet Torquemáda does not lack a school;—
And Priest and Presbyter, if left to rule,
Would burn us if we dared to disobey!
How strange! The Church had pincers and a rack!
It had the brank!—the triangle!—the screw!
These are the toys of Christian saints no more!
But Mammon-worship has come stalking back!
The Golden Calf must needs be burnt anew,
And we must drink the ashes as of yore!


Now when Mohámmed saw the Great Abyss—
(The Gulf of Hell)—'It needs a bridge,' he said.
So over it he flung a spider's thread—
To be a roadway to the realms of bliss!
And then he said, 'Ye Arabs, heed ye this:
Whoever is not certain of his tread
Shall lose his footing and shall sink as lead!—
The Heavens are easy for a man to miss!'
... Thus Mecca! How the Académe? Nor mark!—
For Plato said, 'I have a lamp whose ray,
Though feeble, yet affords a guiding gleam
To Fields Elysian, just beyond the dark,
And not unfindable nor far away,
But reached by ferriage of the Stygian stream!'


... Thus Plato. But the Lord! O what saith He?
He saith, 'I have been down and had a sight—
Not of Mohámmed's bridge—(an arch too slight)—
But of the realm which Plato tried to see,—
The Land Elysian in the world to be!
I saw the Shéol whereof poets write!
So Immortality I brought to light—
Which still would be a darkness save for Me!'
... These three majestic voices of the past—
(The Lord's outweighing both the other two)—
Declare that man is transitory here—
A bird of passage—of a flight not fast
But most reluctant to be hasting through—
Though instinct points him to a future sphere.


So though this earth of ours, for ought we know,
May soon or late, to man's forelooking mind,
Reveal new knowledge, meant for all mankind,
Concerning worlds above or worlds below
And how to journey thither,—yet, if so,
With what shamefacedness a man may find,
At starting, that his years of greed and grind
Have made him vulgar and unfit to go!
Meanwhile I say,—O arbute, be unstemmed!—
Uprooted!—turned into a worthless weed!—
Yea, die and rot!—ere any rabble-raff
Of Mammon's mercenaries, Heaven-condemned,
Shall ever dare the sacriligeous deed
Of wreathing mayflowers round the Golden Calf!


So lest our Pilgrim Fathers be forgot,
Or half remembered with a chill respect,
O pause, my Countrymen, and thus reflect:
Ours is the chief of nations, is it not?
The Pilgrims planted it: our easier lot
Was to inherit it from God's elect!
... But had our Fathers' cockle-shell been wrecked
And they been sunk at sea,—then what, O what?
O saucy arbute, dost thou shake thy head
And say, 'This could not be!' Ah well, I too
Am of thy shrewd opinion, for I think
That Fate is wrongly named, and might instead
Be christened Providence. ... Our sires foreknew
That not their ship, nor they themselves, would sink.


Nor long at Lethe's wharf wert thou delayed,
O flowery hulk! This too was not to be!
Thy pretty cousin at the Zuyder Zee
(The Holland hyacinth) is quick to fade,
And at its fullest bloom is half decayed!
... Not so the Land of Dykes! Not so is She,
Its Royal Rose! Long be her people free,
Her realm a garden, and her mace a spade!
... We are at peace with every foreign sword,—
Yet swords are in their scabbards not to rust
But to be drawn! For man must fight his foe!
And yet, O Heaven, ordain a full accord
Among a hundred nations to be just,—
Inspiring each to let the olive grow!


I hate the lust of war! Yet men who fight
As Captain Standish fought—in self-defence—
Are vindicated by an inward sense
Of doing to religion no despite:
So when he snift the smell of smoke at night
And saw the torches, he made no pretence
Of pious tenderness in driving thence
The imps of arson! Was the Captain right?
He rightly rendered to each hostile host
Of bows and arrows a convincing proof
That Virtue, certain of its own reward,
Might risk a sin against the Holy Ghost
By planting cannon on the chapel-roof
To teach the savages to fear the Lord!


Our grandams—spectacled and old and bent—
Knew how to put their mayflower to a use
More reverential! They would introduce
Both stem and blossom, deftly interblent
To be a Bible book-mark—such as lent
The sacred page a fragrance so profuse
As to exhale from prophecies abstruse
(Like Jonah's gourd) the message that was meant!
... Our sires discovered that to bend their knees
Was to uplift their hearts and minds and souls!
Has all the old devoutness passed away?
But where are now such self-less devotees?
So to their ancient Rock the ocean rolls,
Yet cries aloud, 'The Fathers! where are they?'


The world has missed them and will miss them more!
The Lord who walked the waves of Galilee
Saw His twelve fishermen turn pale at sea,
All fearing they would drown! Our Fathers bore
A braver spirit! Not their rocky shore,
When first they touched it,—bold as it might be,—
Was firm as they! ... The world may well agree
That they were men whom kings might bow before!
What courage and what conscience! Neither failed!
And merry was their wit: they loved a laugh:
They welcomed Mother Goose with gay applause:
And though a fiercely moral frost prevailed
To freeze their Maypole, yet no Golden Calf
Wrought rampage on their liberties and laws!


For on their mast, amid a sea untracked,
Our sires had from the first swung out at night
The Love of Freedom as their lantern-light!
Prophetic statesmen! Wise to pre-enact
A civic polity so well-compact,
So iron-bound, so rigid, and so right
That Feudal Europe felt a thrill of fright
At finding all its fiefs at once attacked!
'A church without a bishop' must imply—
(So said our sires)—'a state without a king!'
A new apocalypse was in the thought!
The world will be the freer by and by
When crown and mitre—each an evil thing—
Shall perish with the wrongs which they have wrought.


Nor did those humble Pilgrims seek to claim—
Or dream of winning—honor and renown!
Long was their village growing to a town!
Long did the Mayflower shrink beside the fame
Of that arch-mariner who earlier came
To where the Palisades forever frown,
And where he dropt the Half Moon's anchor down
In that clear river which reflects his name!
How little like unto thy Cavaliers,
O proud Virginia, was the Pilgrim band!
And yet New England said , 'To us is known
A great Virginian—first among his peers!
So lend him to us! Let him lead the land!
But be the glory unto God alone!'


And hence it happened that our first of men—
Our great Virginian—answered to the call,
And led the land—(its Puritans and all,
Himself as pure as they!) ... And not since then
Hath Earth beheld, nor shall behold agen,
A chief so mandatory to appal
A foe so great, and by a force so small!
... And hence, O muse of Liberty, thy pen
Hath put on record—for the times to be—
How Hope, when dark, and needing visual aid,
Shall catch a glimmer of a seven-fold light
Such as at Valley Forge was his to see
Who in the snow at midnight knelt and prayed,
And won his victory ere he fought his fight!


So now he sits his horse in Jena Square^11^
And points his hallowed weapon to the sky,
As if to say to every passer-by
'All wisdom is from Heaven!'... The people stare,
For they are strangers,—come from everywhere,—
And much they marvel, asking how and why
His country now, with such a greedy eye,
Can see in pelf more profit than in prayer!
... What land has been forefathered like our own?
The Temple which King Solomon upreared
Had walls of lily-work!—for not as yet
Had any mayflower sprouted from a stone!—
But from the day our arbute first appeared,
It was our Lord's own lily by brevet!


The lilies 'toil not,' but they crown a toil!
The lilies 'spin not,' but the vesture spun
For Israel's pontiff was so richly done
That lilies poorly served it for a foil!
And as for plodders in the mirk and moil
I honor every lowly craft—each one—
Respecting all alike—despising none—
Yet ranking chief the tilling of the soil!
The soil is Nature's most imperfect boon:
She gives it to the sower to complete:
She lends him helpers in the cloud and rain:
She links his fortunes with the sun and moon:
But Thou, O Holy Ghost, Thou Paraclete,
Must guard him from the over-greed of gain!


Ye Yankees, ask of Dartmouth, ask of Yale,
Or ask of any college—east or west—
What is it gives so wonderful a zest
To such an old and such a threadbare tale
As I am telling (for I wholly fail
To keep my promise, heretofore expressed,
To tell it not.) The answer may be guessed:
The halo of the Pilgrims cannot pale!
... No matter how their ship might toss and reel,
No matter for the tempest and its wrath,
Yet having once embarked at Heaven's command,
They sailed as if their consecrated keel
Must cut and cleave for them an ocean-path
As straight and narrow as their own on land!


So Plymouth strictly kept what tea it had,
Nor threw it overboard in Boston bay!
But Boston loves a whim-wham! Hence to-day
The whole great Universe itself, egad!
Has Boston for its Hub! Thus every fad
Is centered there:—like Karma:—(not to stay
But just to flicker and to die away
Like moonshine on a mackerel or a shad!)
Ye Harvard wizards, call ye up the dead?
Can Bradford answer to ye from his shroud?
Has Winslow come? And do ye plainly see
How Winthrop followed where the Pilgrims led?
And are they all a gay, immortal crowd?
Then bid these spectres show themselves to me!


Mount up, ye ghosts, from where ye long have lain,
And ride on Raghorn's back! A bull so white
Would be so good a ghost at dead of night
That ye could guide him now without a rein,
Nor need ye jag his nostrils with the pain
Of that old iron-ring whose rope, when tight,
Would jerk him—right to left, and left to right—
While always he obeyed nor dared complain!
And as a chronicler I here aver
That I have taken pious care to read
What certain dusty documents depose:—
How Raghorn—gentle, fat, and loth to stir—
Was thus the only Puritan indeed
Whom men were safe in leading by the nose!


Our sires had an equality of rank,
For so the Lord's own table typified!
He was their Master—they had none beside!
He sat among them while they ate and drank,—
And not a lily from the Jordan's bank,
No, not the whitest, said in all its pride,
'Avaunt ye lowly, whom the proud deride! '
... O arbute, are those chains agen to clank?—
Were not those fetters broken at a blow?
Shall we re-rivet them? ... It is too late!...
What was the wrath that rent in twain the land?
It was the Highest lifting up the Low!
For God is love! But tyrants are his hate!
... Beware a second buffet from His hand!


At this late day, shall our re-trampling feet
Re-crush a lowly race who still require
Our help and not our hindrance, to rise higher?
Why tread them down? Did God leave incomplete
A Civil War which He must now repeat?
Commands He a re-lighting of the fire?
Not so! I think it is our Lord's desire
To make this land of ours His chosen seat!
He gives us many signs which seem to say
That all His heart is with us! Yet I fear
That as He wept of old, so must He find
A ten-fold heavier cause of grief to-day
At all our mongrel worship, insincere,
Of Holy Rood and Golden Calf combined!


The soul is flesh-bound! Every breath we draw
Reminds us that by Nature's hard decree
All living things which are, or are to be,
Are ever subject to the self-same law:
Which is, that always every hungry maw—
In man or worm—each in its own degree—
Will plunder every coast and sky and sea
By right of hand or wing or fin or claw!
If God restrain us not, will Nature? No!
Man is her chiefest beast—her sharpest tooth—
Out-savage-ing the spider and the snake!
... Will the Almighty always have it so?
Or will He deem the earth (and soon, forsooth?)
A world to crush, re-model, and re-make?


These things are dark, and past our finding out:
We grope our way as in a cave of gloom!
Here is a cradle—yonder is a tomb!
Is Life a certainty? Is Death a doubt?
And do we quit the world, to turn about
And dwell on earth agen (as some assume?)
And did Pythágoras—who chose his doom—
Expire in famine to revive in gout?
Our sires had no uncertain thoughts like these:
And many a mind is happier, having none!
Yet if we toy with puzzles—if we play
At guessing riddles,—then th'Eternities
Are problems we may try our wits upon
As good enigmas for a rainy day!


The Pilgrims had their bigotry, O yes!
They hated Christmas!—which, it is agreed,
Is now our proto-feast of joy indeed!
We hail its happy coming! We profess
That downward from the days of good Queen Bess
The world has found no saint to supersede
Our dear Saint Nicholas!—whose pious creed
Is love of children,—whom he comes to bless!
For it is he who hints to girls and boys
To hang their stockings up, at Christmas eve,
In merry hope to find, at Christmas morn,
That every stocking has been filled with toys!
And now no Puritan (as I believe)
Would vent on Santa Claus a word of scorn.


The softest, tenderest hearts in manly breasts
Are named (as having hardness) 'Hearts of Oak':
So when among our sires the plague outbroke,
O how that winter's pestilence attests
The labors of the love that never rests!
For in that colony of loving folk,
Each served the other! No one ever spoke
Of first attending to his own behests!
So Governor Carver waited on the sick
Till in his noble humbleness he died:
No house but had a death-bed: while, as yet,
In all that winter-whistling bailiwick,
The bud of May—which was to be their pride—
Seemed hesitant to show its estafet.


Our Fathers therefore took the trees for friends,
And found that oaks could answer speech with speech,
While every rustling poplar, elm, and beech
Could utter something from the earth's far ends;—
For every breeze to which a tree-top bends
Brings news from distant nations, and may teach
All listening lands how each should honor each!—
One's country thus through all the world extends!
Meanwhile the royalty that rules by wrong
Deserves no name of kingship—since a king
(If king he be by nature) is a guide
Whom all his people, as a willing throng,
Are proud to follow,—and to whom they cling
From sense of duty after loss of pride.


And so King Jamie's outcasts^12^—sad and lone—
And wistful of the country whence they came—
Still flew the flag of England all the same:
Their exile made it all the more their own:
And when, by civil swords, the kingless throne
Was more than kinged, how proudly they could claim
Old Ironsides, whose more than royal name
Shook every continent and clime and zone!
Thus shall the least be greatened by the great,
For every beggar is at heart a prince!—
And He, the highest, in a manger lay,—
Who, going forth without a sign of state,
But with a shepherd's crook, hath ever since
Out-Cæsar'd Cæsar in imperial sway!


One morn I dropt a tear at Bunyan's tomb:
He lies in Bunhill Fields (or fields no more,
For they are noisy with a London roar):
And there I stood and listened to the boom
Of half a kingdom's traffic—done by whom?
By mortal men whose death is at their door,
But they forget it, while with greed galore
Of pence and pounds, they rush upon their doom!
O Bedford jail, thy Pilgrim should be thanked
For lifting up these earthly minds of ours
Beyond these greeds that come so soon to nought!
Our highest good is oftest under-ranked!—
But since we may commune with heavenly powers,
The mind should hourly think a heavenly thought.


Now when the Mayflower sailed, a grey-eyed lad
(As yet unstricken by the later blight
Whereby, at last, 'his day brought back his night')
Might have embarked on board:—and if he had,
The Rock at Plymouth now would superadd
To all the glories which it has by right
The Epic of all Epics!—writ in light
Such as out-gleamed Olympus, snow-yclad!
... With what a scorn into the pit of Hell
He cast down Mammon!—for of Satan's crew
The poet deemed that Mammon was the worst!—
'Mammon, the least erected spirit that fell!'—^13^
Worse than the Devil's self,—so, of the two,
Mammon for meanness still must stand the first.


And so, O Golden Calf, with what a din
Thy praise is racketed in all our ears!
The daily rattlebang (as now appears)
Is not enough—so night is counted in,
To eke the day out! Anvils re-begin
At midnight! ... And along our new frontiers,
By moonlight, I have seen our pioneers
Plough all night long!—For gold is hard to win!
All this is brave, but weakens flesh and bone!
It is too much for mortals to endure!
God took a week to make the world, they say!
Why did He dally so? For it is known
That Man, who frets at what is slow and sure,
Would at a dash have done it in a day!


When Samoset said 'Welcome!' it was thought
That peace millennial, hitherto deferred,
Was drawing nigh! How oft have prophets erred!
The world stood tip-toe lately! Word was brought
Of battles fiercer than were ever fought!
Cathay, that slept, had wakened and was stirred:
And we, the West, surmised from what we heard
That Chaos was to bring the world to nought!
O fudge! What fears were these? No Tamerlane,
No Genghis Khan dare evermore aspire
To seize a continent in whole or half,—
For well we know that all the world's domain
Is now by universal joint desire
In sole subjection to the Golden Calf!


But nay, O wise Mikado! Let me throw
A mayflower at thy feet! Thou hast forborne
To ask that he whose laurels thou hast torn
Should pay thee for the tearing! ... Be it so!
Thou hast out-Christianed thus thy Christian foe!
Has Fame a trumpet? Does she blow a horn?
Then let her ask a laurel to adorn
Another brow!—the brow to which we owe
The primal thought of this great Pact of Peace!
How grandly our Rough Rider overrid
All haggle, all dispute, all vain delay!
He boldly said, 'This bloody war must cease!'
And so he stopt it. And for what he did,
No laurel is too green to be his bay!


Each country has its flower:—to symbolize
(As every flower must do) how brief a span
Is human life as seen in any man,—
Or seen in any people. To the wise
The Book of Nature ever open lies:
And Nature's method, since the world began,
Has often turned upon the pretty plan
Of moral meanings in a floral guise:
The mayflower is for modesty! How fit
That such a plant should have its habitat
Within the proudest land beneath the skies!
This is a stroke, I think, of Nature's wit!—
To show us how much blinder than a bat
The glitter of our gold has made our eyes!


This glitter is a thousand ages old!
It first began while yet the world was new!
It still is ever seeking to outdo
The ancient buccaneering—which, though bold,
Dared never dream of treasures so untold
As men now pile about them till the view
Shuts out the Good, the Beautiful, the True!
—Our Yellow Peril is our rage for gold!
—No crocodile, no shark has ever sinned;—
But man, the sinner, ramps from crime to crime:
The tiger is more innocent than he,—
Nor cares to pick a purse, nor is chagrined
At losing of a dollar or a dime,—
Nor, like a miser, clutches a baubee.^14^


But though in every man there be a brute,
Yet also every man (if so he will)
May bid the inward monster, 'Peace, be still:'
For 'Silence!' is a word to quell dispute:
And he who in his rages can be mute,
And who can spare whom he hath power to kill,
Shall learn that in returning good for ill
The soul will find its blessedest pursuit!
... The Pilgrims knew the wisdom of the wise,
Yet never learned the shrewdness of the shrewd.
They hated double dealing. They disdained
The craft of courtiers! So they wore no guise,
Nor made they a pretence. They merely viewed
The Earth as lost to them, but Heaven as gained!


Things that are great begin by being small:
How soon our arbute pushed itself ahead!
Our runic flower hath spread, and is to spread!—
Not climbing high, like ivy on a wall,
But trailing far:—an emblem to recall
The glory of our Fathers, not as fled,—
For their indomitable sons instead
Have simply spread it wider, that is all!
The tortoise—slow yet swift—is an adépt
In creeping from his woods without a fear!
—And tortoise-like, our mayflower more and more
Into the New Hespérides hath crept!—
From forest, over prairie!—year by year!—
Till now it spangles the Pacific shore!


Thus, to our arbute, owe we all our East,
And half our North, and half of half our West—
Until, of flowers, our mayflower is the best—
Except our Lord's own lilies! We at least
May love it next to these! ... Or have we ceased
To pin it in our cap—to manifest
(As by an edelweiss) a soul at rest
But when it climbs? ... Alas, our sacred Beast
Is what we bow to! Much art thou adored,
O Golden Calf! Thy wide-encroaching rule
In all our fifty commonwealths is rife!
We dote upon thee! Look! Our golden hoard
Out-fortunes Fortunátus! ... He—a fool!—
To save his wallet, forfeited his life!


Ye future bards, how will ye grace your names
More surely than to key your words and wires
To celebrate the virtues of our sires,
Whose souls—all alien to all sordid aims—
Were warmed with nobler heat than now inflames
Each racer in his race till he desires
No simple sprig of honor but requires
More than the parsley of the Isthmian games!
The fate of Atalanta is for thee,
O thou my Country, if with greedy eyes,
Amid thy swift career, thou stoop so low
As to pick up (however bright they be)
The baubles flung to cheat thee of thy prize!
... Thou wilt be loser of thy honor so!


In these bewildering days how strange it seems
That this our nation ever once was sane!
There is no sanity in greed of gain!
Are blocks of porphyry hewn from purple dreams?
What stoneless, woodless, worthless piles and beams
A fool may build with! Come and re-explain,
O wise Cumæan, by thy warning strain,
How men provoke the downfall of their schemes!
I watch Cape Cod in summer: all the strand
Has troops of children who, in merry play,
Dig with their spades to rear an ocean-wall!
But we—their elders—we too on the sand
Are building what is sure to melt away!
—A single sudden surge will gulp it all!


But meagerness of comfort may exceed
Abundant splendor that is superfine!
So Light and Heat (twin elements divine,)
Foreseeing what the reindeer is to need
As food for winter, lure him forth to feed
(To his content) upon the ivy vine:
Or if the ivy fail, he sees a sign
Where snow-hid mosses underlie a mead:
He paws the ice-crust till he hears the flow
Of an imprisoned rill beneath his hoofs,
And then he eats and drinks, and has his fill!
So with our sires: the blanket of the snow
That lay knee-deep upon their cottage-roofs
Was in itself a warmth, and not a chill.


Moreover, all the way to Marblehead,
While yet the Christian colonists were few,
The Turks came in, till every house had two—
A pair of Saracens—not foes to dread,
But knobs of brass, to be admired instead,—
And which, when rubbed, would glitter to the view,—
For heads of andirons then were ormolu,
To gild the hearthstone with the light they shed!
Those pagan Turks, not loth to serve our sires,
Evinced no heathen glumness in their looks;—
But now, on all that early-hallowed shore,
Such faithfulness in keeping up the fires
In Christian kitchens and in chimney-nooks,
Is what in servants can be found no more!


In that New Colony now called the Old
There was no gilded pomp which pride begets:—
No costliness of costume, nor the frets
Of cut-and-fit, nor worries manifold
Which the couturière (so I am told)
Now cunningly devises, or abets,
Until our later ladies (or their debts)
Begin to make the blood of men run cold!
Our fashions fail of quintessential grace!
A single season twists them all awry!
A last year's bonnet scares a this year's crow!
Each ugly pattern gives immediate place
To something new. The new is worse. And why?
Is it the fickleness of woman? No!


I trace it to Minerva! She no more
Has goddesses to gown! Yet it is clear
That were she gowning mortal women here,
She would offend in gusset, band, and gore:
For not a robe which her Olympians wore
Was tight and breathless! ... Let her rather rear
Our noble girls and boys to spurn and fear
The lust of lucre—which the Heavens deplore!
The world is changing:—not from bad to worse:—
The spirit of the age refutes the charge!
For growth is upward! Yet I dare maintain
That since the dawn of time no greater curse
Hath swept across a continent at large
Than all this nerve-destroying craze for gain!


If Nature breaks a ruby in a mine,
The stone will mend itself—the hurt will heal—
The gem will cicatrize through power to feel!—
For not a crystal could be crystalline
Except that Life be there—which is a sign
That Death is a revealer—to reveal
Whatever secrets Time and Tomb conceal:
For human ashes hide a spark divine!
... O thou my Country, will thy life be long?
Or wilt thou perish quickly? Who can tell?
Thy flag now ornaments the whole earth's face!
So launch thy battleships, and be thou strong!
Thy realm is wide, thou must defend it well!
Meanwhile thy Golden Calf is thy disgrace!


Ye Stars and Stripes, your primal pride was grand!
What saw ye from your flag-staff on the morn
When first—amid our nation newly-born—
Ye gazed upon our thousand leagues of land—
All constituting—fresh from Nature's hand—
The Poor Man's country! No prophetic Norn
Then showed ye in advance the Gilded Horn
Of our successor to the Pilgrim band!
What see ye from your flag-staff now to-day?
Is it the Rich Man's country, having lost
The Poor Man's blessing? For if so, what then?—
Why then, O thou my song be bold to say
We lose the Poor Man's blessing at the cost
Of losing with it, also, God's Amen!


Our Pilgrim Fathers came to plough and sow!
The seed-bag held their fortunes! Toils like theirs
(With Heaven's auxiliary of answered prayers)
Kept warm their winter-wheat beneath the snow;—
And if the summer with belated glow
Held back their hopes and multiplied their cares,—
Yet even now no 'staff of life' compares,
O Saint Botolphus, with thine own! For lo!
It is a loaf which all the week is white,
But changes every Sunday into brown,—
Robust with beany phosphor to restore
The six days' waste in that perpetual fight
Which still is fought where Bunker Hill looks down—
(For Life is still a Battle as of yore.)


O Triple Mountain, be thy memory jogged!
Thy past is growing hazy and opaque!
Not even Boston now would undertake
To have its Quaker-women stript and flogged!
The female mind, if darkened and befogged,
Needs other light than faggots and a stake!
Yet Boston ladies have, for conscience' sake,
Been hung, and aureóled, and catalogued!
O Mary Dyer,^15^ thy name hath thus emerged
From shame to honor! Yea, O William Penn,
Hadst thou thyself been hung, or shot, or broiled,
Or locked in jail, or loosed but to be scourged,—
Thou wouldst to-day be named among the men
Whom Clio with her stylus never soiled!^16^


Meanwhile the Lion and the Unicorn
Keep up an old dispute forever new:
Are Health and Beauty one, or are they two?
The 'fairest fair' is she whom both adorn!
So Pilgrim maidens, on the Mayday morn,
Ran out and washed their faces with the dew,
In happy hope to keep—the whole year through—
The bloom to which those ocean-nymphs were born!
Have we a custom not akin to this?
Is woman's beauty but a false pretence?
(I speak of lady-paint, to be precise!)
Now how can painted cheeks deserve a kiss?
O Modesty, go back to Common Sense!
O Virtue, leave all gaudiness to Vice!


But O ye damsels of my honored land,
Who seek with high ambition to be great,
And who can purchase semi-royal state
By paying for it with a milk-white hand
(Which means a bank-account, you understand,)
Make haste, I say, or ye will be too late,—
Since eligible dukes with whom to mate
Are now too few to fill the great demand!
Some five are left in France—some eight, in Spain—
All poor yet proud, and pensively antique—
Though some in Portugal are 'ever gay'
(For so that nation is). In Rome remain
Some bargains yet in viscounts (so to speak.)
But dukes are dear delusions passed away!


And hence the Yankee maiden grandly grieves!
She is an heiress—so her heart is sore!
Strange agony! Her 'auto,' on its door,
Hath still no 'coronet'!—though she believes
Her dukedom is to come! So while she heaves
Her heavy heart, which has a ducal core,
She wonders where the duchesses of yore
Bought pre-historic lace to fluff their sleeves!
Yes, she would be a duchess! She is proud,
As proud as Lilith, but of purer mind—
Full of humility though rich and grand—
A lowly woman loftily endowed—
Revering God and Nature and Mankind—
And lucky is the duke who wins her hand!


In days gone by, ere yet the Iron Horse
Had terrified a graveyard or a glen,
There was a quietude of mind in men:—
The green of meadows was a moral force:—
The Peace of God seemed rooted in the gorse!
Morever, where a ringdove or a wren
Once built his nest, he built it there agen:—
For Nature kept her old Arcadian course.
But now our Eagle with his busy beak
Swoops down upon us at the dawn of day;—
And all day long he rips our vitals out!
He is no Puritan! His greed is Greek!
Our brains and nerves are his Prométhean prey!
But we shall tame him yet, I have no doubt.


And how? The plan is plain—yet not so plain
But that it is a riddle hard to guess!...
What is enough? ... Now if a man possess
A just sufficiency of wordly gain,
He needs no more. ... And yet with toil and pain,
And oft with strong, delirious, fierce distress,
He cries, 'Thou soul of mine, now push and press
Toward other millions which thou must attain!'
Then if he wins them in a year or two,
Has he enough? And is his soul content?
He chuckles, but is greedier than before!—
Out-crazing ancient Midas! ... Midas knew
He had too much. ... The modern man is bent,
Not on enough, but on too much, and more!


I am no laureate of a church or creed,
Yet if a dozen prophets, each divine,
With Malachi, the latest of the line,
Should all cry out to threaten, warn, or plead,
Yet vain would be their ram's-horn or their reed:
So why should this mere scrannel-pipe of mine
Attempt to blare a punishment condign
Against the Golden Calf—with none to heed?
I cast no horoscope of blight and bane!
I think no evil of my native land!
It is the land of lands! Can it deserve
An early wasting of its brawn and brain?
Meanwhile its toilers ought to understand
The precious worth of the unshattered nerve!


We live our lives at far too fast a rate!
We crowd too much into too little time!
Go watch the mountaineers who wisely climb:
They hasten slowly, for their toil is great!
We work and overwork—all day till late:
And then (like harlequins in pantomime)
We fool the night away until the prime!
... So worms shall eat us at an early date!
Meanwhile, O Golden Calf, we give thee what?
We give thee all our thought and nerve and will!
We immolate our bodies and our minds!
Thus hath our over-wealth enriched us not!
Are we a people grinding at a mill?
The mill is grinding us—and grinds and grinds!


The workman at his work I love to see:
And yet I love to see him pause awhile
When noon is rung, and when he stops to smile
And to salute his wife (or it may be
His daughter) who has cooked his 'fricazee'
And brings it to him in the rustic style,
And who, to comfort him, and to beguile
His noonday hour, sits with him vis-a-vis!
Now as the grapes of Eschol were a bunch
To gladden hungry Anaks in the East,
So, O my Country, let us see at noon
Our million workmen eating for their lunch
King Harry's capon,—leg or wing at least:
And let the night bring Sancho Panza's boon!


For when our days are worried, let our nights
Knit up anew our raveled sleave of care!
The early slumber mends the wear and tear!
Why banish darkness, like the Sybarites?
Yet what had Sybaris for festal lights
Save torches which a breath of wind would flare?
We have the Jovian flash with all its glare!
While all the poisons tempt our appetites!
Our wealth, as yet, is only for the few,
Not for the many. This may make us base!
Our ways are worldly. This may make us blind!
We cannot keep our greed and glory too!
We are no miserly, ignoble race!
Nor are our ethics of the cobweb kind!


It is a sin to steal a pin, I know:
But is it wrong to catch a salmon? Nay!
Our Fathers fished in Izak Walton's way—
Well-tackled, wisely knowing where to go,
And how to rob the pool at every throw!
But salmon—plenty then—are scarce to-day:
Is this a proof of Puritan decay?
... The Golden Calf is what will bring us low!
For in the Table of the Turpitudes
The chief is sordidness! It heads the list!
Be warned! It speedeth nations to their fall!
Where cities prospered, there the bittern broods!
The Evils are but one: none else exist:
The Love of Lucre is the root of all!


It is the chief, the universal sin!
Not new but old!—and dating farther back
Than to Iscariot and his leather-sack!
A man is proud of what he prospers in:
So goodly burghers think the wealth they win
Will buy for them whatever boon they lack!
... O Hope!—thou flying fish!—thou hast the knack
To spurn a wave—but thou art faint of fin!
So any dolphin's maw, in any sea,
May be thy only harbor in a storm,
For in a twinkling thou art out of breath!
... Our sires, when they were tempest-tossed like thee,—
Braved every ill of life, in every form,
By reason of the faith that conquers death!


But faith is free! It is of many kinds!
Let every man be manful for his own!
Our Fathers prayed and fasted. Flesh and bone
Are not the soul. So meditative minds
Will need the balm which every seeker finds—
If so he will. There is a peace unknown:
It passeth knowledge! Faith is thus alone
The one enthralment freeing whom it binds!
Hence there were soulful wonders in those days!—
Magnalian marvels!'^17^—God was close to men!—
Nor is He ever distant! No indeed!
Yet we offend Him now in many ways:
He may not come so near to us agen!
Cares He for money-bags? He hates our greed!


We too begin to hate it! For our eyes
Are slowly opening to the bane it brings!
... Do riches have a trick of taking wings?
... A lucre-laden mortal finds it wise
To set his wealth a-flying ere he dies!
Go on, ye billionaires, outrival kings
In broadcast bounty! For the hand that clings
With miser-clutch knows not what money buys!—
It buys the luxury of doing good!
... Hast thou a money-vault where pelf is stored?
Unlock thy coffer—throw the key away!
The ring of Gygés—(fling it where he would!)—
Came back to him! ... ye lenders to the Lord,
How shrewd ye are! ye know He will repay!


The Pilgrims lived as at a heavenly height!
This earth of ours was not their all-in-all!
No wind could whisper, and no brook could brawl
But spake to them of that All-Potent Might
Which wisely guides this wayward world aright,
And which beyond this mere terrestrial ball
Hath girt a City with a Jasper Wall—
Our final home—our ultimate delight!
The soul of man is like a waterfall,
That comes at first from Heaven, its place of birth,
And dashes down with flying spray and foam,
Then disappears—ascending at the call
Of Him who sent it hither to the Earth,
Yet bids it hence to its Eternal Home!


Now when it happened, in those Pilgrim days,
That death was busy with the Pilgrim band,
The bee-hives (just as in the Mother-land)
Were draped in black with bombazine and baize,
And every hive, in turn, in Yorkshire phrase,
Was whispered to, and made to understand
That when a funeral-train was close at hand
No swarm of bees should vex the public gaze!
O thou my Country, crape thy bees no more!
But clothe thyself in sackcloth! ... I foresee
(So I foresay) what is to be thy lot!
For if thy heart be sordid at the core,
And if thy Golden Calf remain with thee,
Thy day is ending though thou know it not!


Am I too rash, O Nemesis, thou hag?
My country is my country, right or wrong!
I sing the Pilgrims—they deserve a song!
Yet Plymouth Rock, in spite of 'Yankee brag,'
Is now a splintered, semi-hidden slag
Which folk with guide-books (O the gaping throng!)
May miss a glimpse of, as they pass along,—
Uplooking for a lone and lofty crag!
For O thou lump of sacred syenite,
Thy Plymouth townsmen had thee hewn and split,
And part of thee they took into the town,
And there the fragment lies in open sight;—
But the submerged remainder, bit by bit,
Is dwindling—save in honor and renown!


The very 'horn-book' too is now no more;
The spinning-wheel is in the garret hid;
The Worstead wonders,^18^ which our mothers did
To be 'ensamplers' to the babes they bore,
Are out of date. Nor now (as heretofore)
Is any child a 'lamb,' but is a 'kid;'—
(And so from Plymouth round to Pemaquid
The 'sheep' are 'goats'—in the eternal score!)
Yet let our babes be 'kidded' or be 'lambed,'
I cannot think that our Almighty Sire
(Whose name is Love!—which is the Name of names!)
Will give consent to have our infants damned!—
But O if Moloch has a furnace-fire,
The Golden Calf shall perish in the flames!


A robin red-breast, twice the English size,
Now hops on Burial Hill from stone to stone,
And twitters in a retrospective tone
And says (or seems to say) how wondrous wise
Those English robins were to change their skies
Ere England had become (as now is known)
A nest too narrow for a brood so grown!
... Whereto this epopee of mine replies:
God bless the Mother and the Daughter too!
I love them both, and by this lay of mine
I seek to honor each, for both are one!—
And never may a discord, old or new,
Disturb these double realms of single line,
But may their destiny be jointly done!


For if the twain be but as one in will,
The oak shall prosper, though the owls may hoot!—
Nor shall the Maypole lack the dance and flute!—
And though the winter whitens Pilgrim Hill,
And though the spring too nippishly may kill
All other mayflowers of a less repute;—
Yet this, our arbute,—deathless at the root,—
May seem to die, yet be perennial still!
Imperishable flower, I know thy fate!
Thou art the fair forerunner of a time
When our re-consecrated Christian land
Shall rise above its riches, and be great
With such a greatness as shall be sublime
For being greedless! ... Is the time at hand?


Not yet, O starry groundling! For thy gaze
Turns coyly up, and pallor chills thy blush—
Through half a dread that all our noisy rush
That fills the envious world with such amaze
Is bearing us to bedlam, like a craze!
Be wroth, O bud! Put on an angry flush,
And to the evil prophets answer, 'Hush!'
Or bid them prophesy of purer days!
O flower of May! Defy the chill of spring!
Rise from the snow, and spread thee to the sun!
Thou art as everlasting as the sky!
Not Time himself hath any scythe to swing
With power to slay thee! Live, thou pretty one,
Thou art our amarant—and not to die!


^1^ 'The Almighty Dollar.'—Washington Irving.

^2^ 'The Courtship of Miles Standish.'—Longfellow.

^3^ Hezekiah.

^4^ Americus Vespucius.

^5^ The tarfa-tree was the tamarisk.

^6^ Patuxet was the Indian name of Plymouth.

^7^ Dryden.

^8^ The Puritans resented the Quaker doctrine of the 'Inner Light.'

^9^ The five points of Calvinism were total depravity, predestination,
election, effectual calling, and final perseverance of the saints.

^10^ The blue snow-bird of New England.

^11^ This is the statue which the Women of America gave to the City of

^12^ "I will make them conform, or I will harry them out of the land."
—Speech of James the
First, 1604.

^13^ Paradise Lost, I, 679.

^14^ The original baubee was a small coin which represented James the First
as a baby.

^15^ Hanged on Boston Common, 1660, for Quaker speeches.

^16^ See Macaulay.

^17^ See Mather's 'Magnalia Christi.'

^18^ So named from the town of Worstead in England.

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