Achsa White Sprague

Nov. 17, 1827 - Jul. 6, 1862



by Achsa White Sprague

I see them in their beauty once again:
The dear Green Mountains greet my eyes to-day,
Not black and bare as when they met my view
But one month since; but rich with foliage green,
As if they donned a festal robe to greet
My coming feet. How still the valley lies
Beneath their shade! as if protecting arms
Unseen, sustained it there, and gave it rest.
How every leaf, and flower, and tiny bud,
Looks up and smiles, and thanks the sun's warm beams
That steal so lovingly into its heart,
To give it richer tints and fairer sheen!
And hush! the murmur of an unseen power
Is on the air, as if 'twere Nature's song,
The lullaby she sings unto her child,
When weary of the heat and glare of day.
There's such a music in the low-breathed strain,
So half unheard, that all my soul grows hushed
And still, beneath the strange, mysterious sound,
As if an angel sung. Each bough and leaf
Upon the tree, just trembles to the strain,
As if 'twere keeping time to every note,
Or possibly because the thrilling touch
Of this unseen musician stirs their depths,
And sets them all to music. Now there comes
A sudden breeze upon the grass, that waves
Its courteous salutation, as it goes
To touch Eolian harps among the trees
That guard the tall old mountain's breast,
Like serried ranks of men. How every string
Gives answer to the touch; and sends its voice
With stirring peal, deep home to every heart
That listens to the sweep, and stirs within
A stronger wish for action in itself.
It is as if a God had sudden passed,
And every tree grew conscious to its depths,
And bends its head in homage at the sight,
And trembles through the leafy veil of green,
With secret awe.

I love the Mountains grand,
For they have boldly stood confronting storms
And tempests in their wrath; and hurricanes
And whirlwinds beat their forms in vain.
They never cower when comes the biting blast,
Or shrink when storm-clouds wrap them in their shrouds,
But rear their foreheads to the sky the same;
And when the cloudy veil is rent in twain,
Bright, living sunshine, like the smile of God,
Upon their summit rests. Alike in storm or calm
Immovable, fit emblem of the true
And loyal hearts that cling to truth and right,
Still firmly standing when the weaker fail,
And pointing, reaching still unerringly
Toward heaven. How can one human being live
Beneath their shade, unconscious of the truth,
The mighty lesson that they teach? How can
Disloyal hearts, disloyal to themselves,
Their God, their country, and their sense of right,
Grow up beneath their calm, unbending fronts,
And shame the soil from whence they sprung?
But few such souls find breath amid their wilds,
And they are aliens, even at their birth.
Old Scotia's Highlands reared such noble hearts;
Her crags and dells held eagle-hearted men
Who would not brook the foul usurper's power,
But made the Lowlands feel the hungry beak
Of those who thirsted for their freedom gone.
There Wallace dwelt, -- her truest, bravest son, --
And lit the beacon fire that burned a flame
At last on Freedom's altar, once defiled,
But now swept clean once more from every stain.
And Switzerland's bold mountains bore a Tell,
As bold and as invincible as they;
Who woke the echoes of their dizzy heights
With Freedom's watchword; till the tyrant fell,
Pierced with a shaft from that Swiss, patriot's hand.
And at his fall bright Liberty arose,
And stood erect within the citadel,
The rocky fortress God's own hand has made
To shield the brave.

Thank God! a thousand times
Thank God for mountains! They have ever been
The exile's home, the outlaw's safe retreat,
The last resort of God's old martyr-saints
When men had cast them out as heretics,
Closing the temple-gates against their forms,
And hunting them with rack and torturing art,
E'en to their death. The Mountains took them in,
God's grand cathedrals towering to the skies,
Within whose depths the ever-sweeping winds
Make grand and solemn anthems unto God,
That rise toward Heaven forever. Many a time
Have their deep, shadowy aisles at midnight woke
With paeans of pure praise from loyal hearts
That, cast from earthly temples, sought their wilds,
To pour the fulness of their hearts in prayer
To Him who casts them not away. What prayers
Have welled from breaking hearts amid their deeps!
What vows of vengeance have the mountains nursed!
What deep devotion has gone up from souls
To whom devotion was their life and light!
How many a houseless, homeless, wand'ring one
Has slept secure upon the mountain's breast,
Protected by its canopy of leaves,
And soothed to rest by its wild lullaby!
The martyr's bones are bleaching there unknown;
The living martyr-patriot nurses there
His wrongs yet unredressed, until his strength
Shall be sufficient for his utmost needs;
When, rushing on his foe like mountain stream
Just swollen by rains, he brings the power
That makes the Red Sea for their Pharaoh hosts.
When Freedom's altar is o'erturned, defiled,
Her emblems rent and stained with blood and sin,
When, wounded, bleeding, from her shrine she turns,
With tyrant blood-hounds howling on her track,
Her last retreat shall be her temple, built
Amid the mountain fastnessess by her
Own true and tried; the last to turn-away
And leave her to her fate, the last to fail
In Freedom's cause, these hardy mountaineers;
Tile last to gather round her in her need,
And make a bulwark with their forms, and stand
Defending her till death.

Ah, once again
I welcome thee, old Mountains of my youth,
As thou dost welcome me, a wanderer!
I've been so weary since I saw thy face,
So faint with pain, and anguish, and distress,
So almost wild with fever's frenzied touch,
Heart-weary, sick of all the world, of life!
Oh, how I longed to have some friendly arm
Bear me away from that far stranger land,
And bring me unto thee, and lay me down
Upon thy cool, true breast, and let me die!
And now I come, and but one touch of thine
Sends healing through my weary frame once more.
I lean my head on thy unchanging breast,
And draw fresh strength through every vein, and life
In every pore. And all the murmur of
Thy sounding pines, thy trembling, sighing leaves,
Thrills every nerve with sudden joy. Thy breath
Steals soft o'er cheek, and brow, and lip, so full
Of fragrance, bringing back my childhood's days,
That I forget the weary midnight past,
And dream I am a child again. Thy voice,
Thy touch, thy power win back td life once more.
I shall not die.

Teach me, sublime old mount,
To stand like thee, defying clouds and storms,
And wrap the snow-white mantle of a calm
And holy resignation round my soul,
When sorrow's dreary winter-time shall come!
And when 'tis past, like thee reclothe myself
In life's fresh verdure, till the hour shall come
To be reclothed in Higher Worlds, in robes
That young immortals wear, to lose their light
No more forever.

Plymouth, May 24, 1862


The Poet And Other Poems.
Copyright 1864
Boston: William White And Co.,
158 Washington Street.