Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE SYCAMORES, by JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER



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THE SYCAMORES, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: In the outskirts of the village
Last Line: Stand hugh tallant's sycamores.
Subject(s): Haverhill, Massachusetts; Plane Trees; Sycamores


IN the outskirts of the village,
On the river's winding shores,
Stand the Occidental plane-trees,
Stand the ancient sycamores.

One long century hath been numbered,
And another half-way told,
Since the rustic Irish gleeman
Broke for them the virgin mould.

Deftly set to Celtic music,
At his violin's sound they grew,
Through the moonlit eves of summer,
Making Amphion's fable true.

Rise again, thou poor Hugh Tallant!
Pass in jerkin green along,
With thy eyes brimful of laughter,
And thy mouth as full of song.

Pioneer of Erin's outcasts,
With his fiddle and his pack;
Little dreamed the village Saxons
Of the myriads at his back.

How he wrought with spade and fiddle,
Delved by day and sang by night,
With a hand that never wearied,
And a heart forever light, --

Still the gay tradition mingles
With a record grave and drear,
Like the rolic air of Cluny,
With the solemn march of Mear.

Merry-faced, with spade and fiddle,
Singing through the ancient town,
Only this, of poor Hugh Tallant,
Hath Tradition handed down.

Not a stone his grave discloses;
But if yet his spirit walks,
'T is beneath the trees he planted,
And when Bob-o-Lincoln talks;

Green memorials of the gleeman!
Linking still the river-shores,
With their shadows cast by sunset,
Stand Hugh Tallant's sycamores!

When the Father of his Country
Through the north-land riding came,
And the roofs were starred with banners,
And the steeples rang acclaim, --

When each war-scarred Continental,
Leaving smithy, mill, and farm,
Waved his rusted sword in welcome,
And shot off his old king's arm, --

Slowly passed that august Presence
Down the thronged and shouting street;
Village girls as white as angels,
Scattering flowers around his feet.

Midway, where the plane-tree's shadow
Deepest fell, his rein he drew:
On his stately head, uncovered,
Cool and soft the west-wind blew.

And he stood up in his stirrups,
Looking up and looking down
On the hills of Gold and Silver
Rimming round the little town, --

On the river, full of sunshine,
To the lap of greenest vales
Winding down from wooded headlands,
Willow-skirted, white with sails.

And he said, the landscape sweeping
Slowly with his ungloved hand,
"I have seen no prospect fairer
In this goodly Eastern land."

Then the bugles of his escort
Stirred to life the cavalcade;
And that head, so bare and stately,
Vanished down the depths of shade.

All the pastoral lanes so grassy
Now are Traffic's dusty streets;
From the village, grown a city,
Fast the rural grace retreats.

But, still green, and tall, and stately,
On the river's winding shores,
Stand the Occidental plane-trees,
Stand Hugh Tallant's sycamores.





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