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The Tent on the Beach and Others Part 4, from Volume IV., the Works of Whittier: Personal Poems   By: (1807-1892)

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This eBook was produced by David Widger [widger@cecomet.net]

THE TENT ON THE BEACH

BY

JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER

CONTENTS:

THE TENT ON THE BEACH. PRELUDE THE TENT ON THE BEACH THE WRECK OF RIVERMOUTH THE GRAVE BY THE LAKE THE BROTHER OF MERCY THE CHANGELING THE MAIDS OF ATTITASH KALLUNDBORG CHURCH THE CABLE HYMN THE DEAD SHIP OF HARPSWELL THE PALATINE ABRAHAM DAVENPORT THE WORSHIP OF NATURE

THE TENT ON THE BEACH

It can scarcely be necessary to name as the two companions whom I reckoned with myself in this poetical picnic, Fields the lettered magnate, and Taylor the free cosmopolite. The long line of sandy beach which defines almost the whole of the New Hampshire sea coast is especially marked near its southern extremity, by the salt meadows of Hampton. The Hampton River winds through these meadows, and the reader may, if he choose, imagine my tent pitched near its mouth, where also was the scene of the Wreck of Rivermouth . The green bluff to the northward is Great Boar's Head; southward is the Merrimac, with Newburyport lifting its steeples above brown roofs and green trees on banks.

I would not sin, in this half playful strain, Too light perhaps for serious years, though born Of the enforced leisure of slow pain, Against the pure ideal which has drawn My feet to follow its far shining gleam. A simple plot is mine: legends and runes Of credulous days, old fancies that have lain Silent, from boyhood taking voice again, Warmed into life once more, even as the tunes That, frozen in the fabled hunting horn, Thawed into sound: a winter fireside dream Of dawns and sunsets by the summer sea, Whose sands are traversed by a silent throng Of voyagers from that vaster mystery Of which it is an emblem; and the dear Memory of one who might have tuned my song To sweeter music by her delicate ear.

When heats as of a tropic clime Burned all our inland valleys through, Three friends, the guests of summer time, Pitched their white tent where sea winds blew. Behind them, marshes, seamed and crossed With narrow creeks, and flower embossed, Stretched to the dark oak wood, whose leafy arms Screened from the stormy East the pleasant inland farms.

At full of tide their bolder shore Of sun bleached sand the waters beat; At ebb, a smooth and glistening floor They touched with light, receding feet. Northward a 'green bluff broke the chain Of sand hills; southward stretched a plain Of salt grass, with a river winding down, Sail whitened, and beyond the steeples of the town,

Whence sometimes, when the wind was light And dull the thunder of the beach, They heard the bells of morn and night Swing, miles away, their silver speech. Above low scarp and turf grown wall They saw the fort flag rise and fall; And, the first star to signal twilight's hour, The lamp fire glimmer down from the tall light house tower.

They rested there, escaped awhile From cares that wear the life away, To eat the lotus of the Nile And drink the poppies of Cathay, To fling their loads of custom down, Like drift weed, on the sand slopes brown, And in the sea waves drown the restless pack Of duties, claims, and needs that barked upon their track.

One, with his beard scarce silvered, bore A ready credence in his looks, A lettered magnate, lording o'er An ever widening realm of books. In him brain currents, near and far, Converged as in a Leyden jar; The old, dead authors thronged him round about, And Elzevir's gray ghosts from leathern graves looked out.

He knew each living pundit well, Could weigh the gifts of him or her, And well the market value tell Of poet and philosopher. But if he lost, the scenes behind, Somewhat of reverence vague and blind, Finding the actors human at the best, No readier lips than his the good he saw confessed... Continue reading book >>




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