Ode by Frances Anne Kemble
WRITTEN FOR THE 22 OF AUGUST 1834—THE BERKSHIRE JUBILEE.
Darkness upon the mountain and the vale—
Forest and field are bathed in dewy sleep,
And the night angels vigil o’er them keep.
No sound, no motion, over hill and dale,
A calm and lovely Death seems to embrace
Earth’s fairest realms, and heaven’s unmeasured space.
The dark wood slumbers, leaf, and branch, and bough,
High feathery crest, and lowliest grassy blade,
All restless wandering wings are folded now,
That swept the sky, and in the sunshine played.
The lake’s wild waves rest in their rocky bowl,
Harmonious silence breathes from nature’s soul,
And night’s wide star-sown wings brood o’er the whole.
In the deep trance of the hushed universe
The dark death-mystery doth man rehearse.
Now for awhile, cease the swift thoughts to run
From task to task—tired labour, overdone,
With lighter toil than that of brain or heart,
In the sweet pause of outward life takes part,
And hope, and fear,—desire, love, joy, and sorrow,
Wait, ‘neath sleep’s downy wings, the coming morrow.
Peace upon earth, profoundest peace in heaven,
Praises the God of Peace, by whom ’tis given.
But hark! the woody depths of green Begin to stir,
Light thrills of life creep fresh between Oak, beech, and fir—
Faint rustling sounds of trembling leaves Whisper around,
The world at waking slowly heaves A sigh profound.
And showers of tears, Night gathered in her eyes,
Fall from fair Nature’s face as she doth rise.
A ripple roughens on the lake,
The cradled lilies shivering wake,
Small crisping waves lift themselves up and break Along the laurelled shore,
And woods and waters, answering each other, make Silence no more.
And lo! the East turns pale—
Night’s dusky veil Thinner and thinner grows,
Till the bright morning star
From hill to hill, afar,
His fire glance throws.
Gold streaks run through the sky,
Higher, and yet more high,
The glory streams—
Flushes of rosy hue,
Long lines of palest blue,
And amber gleams.
From the green valleys rise
The silver mists like spray,
Catch and give back the ray
In opal dyes,
Light floods the sky, light pours upon the earth,
In glorious light the joyful day takes birth.
Hail to the day that brings ye home,
Ye distant wand’rers from the mountain land!
Hail to the day that bids ye come
Again upon your native hills to stand!
Hail, hail! from rocky peak,
And wood-embowered dale,
A thousand voices welcome speak,
Hail, home-turned pilgrims, hail!
Oh welcome! from the meadow and the hill Glad greetings rise,
From flowing river, and from bounding rill,
Smooth sunny field, and gloomy wood-depth still,
And the sharp thunder-splintered crag, that strikes
Its rocky spikes,
Into the skies,
Gray Lock, cloud-girdled, from his purple throne
A shout of gladness sends,
And up soft meadow slopes, a warbling tone
The Housatonic blends.
Welcome, ye absent long, and distant far!
Who from the roof-tree of your childhood turned,
Have waged ‘mid strangers life’s relentless war,
While at your hearts the ancient home-love burned.
Ye that have ploughed the barren, briny foam,
And reaped hard fortunes from the stormy sea,
The golden grain-fields rippling round your home,
Roll their ripe billows from fierce tempests free.
Ye, from those western deadly blooming fields
Where Pestilence in Plenty’s bosom lies,
The sterner rock-soil of your mountains yields
Health’s rosy blossoms, to these purer skies.
And ye, who on the accursèd southern plain,
Barren, not fruitful, with the sweat of slaves,
Have breathed awhile the tainted air in pain,
‘Mid human forms, their spirits’ living graves,
Here fall the fetters—by his cottage door,
Lord of the lordliest life, each dweller stands,
Lifting to God, as did his sires of yore,
A heart of love, and free laborious hands.
On each bold granite peak, and forest crest,
Each stony hill-path, and each lake’s smooth shore,
Blessings of noble exiled patriots rest,
Liberty’s altars are they evermore.
And on this air there lingers yet the tone
Of those last sacred words to freedom given,
The parting utterance of that holy one,
Whose spirit from these mountains rose to Heaven.
Ye that have prospered, bearing hence with ye
The virtues that command prosperity,
To the green threshold of your youth oh come,
And hang your trophies round your early home.
Ye that have suffered, and whose weary eyes
Have turned with sadness to your happier years,
Come to the fountain of sweet memories,
And by its healing waters dry your tears.
Ye that departed young, and old return,
Ye who went forth with hope, and hopeless come,—
If still unquenched within your hearts hath burned
The sacred love and longing for your home—
Bright hill and dale
With mirth resound,
Join in the joyful strain,
Ye have not wept in vain,
The parted meet again,
The lost are found!
And may God guard thee, O thou lovely land!
Evil, nor danger, nigh thy borders come!
Green towers of freedom may thy hills still stand,
Still be thy valleys peace and virtue’s home,
The blessing of the stranger rest on thee,
Unmoved as Heaven be thy prosperity!