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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

At Marshfield

By William Cleaver Wilkinson (1833–1920)

[From “Webster: an Ode.”—Poems. 1883.]

HIS way in farming all men knew;

Way wide, forecasting, free,

A liberal tilth that made the tiller poor.

That huge Websterian plough what furrows drew,

Through fallows fattened from the barren sea!

Yoked to that plough and matched for mighty size,

What oxen moved!—in progress equal, sure,

Unconscious of resistance, as of force

Not finite, elemental, like his own,

Taking its way with unimpeded course.

He loved to look into their meek brown eyes,

That with a light of love half human shone

Calmly on him from out the ample front,

While, with a kind of mutual, wise,

Mute recognition of some kin,

Superior to surprise,

And schooled by immemorial wont,

They seemed to say, We let him in,

He is of us, he is, by natural dower,

One in our brotherhood of great and peaceful power.

So, when he came to die

At Marshfield by the sea,

And now the end is nigh,

Up from the pleasant lea

Move his dumb friends in solemn, slow,

Funereal procession, and before

Their master’s door

In melancholy file compassionately go;

He will be glad to see his trusty friends once more.

Now let him look a look that shall suffice,

Lo, let the dying man

Take all the peace he can

From those large tranquil brows and deep soft eyes.

Rest it will be to him,

Before his eyes grow dim,

To bathe his aged eyes in one deep gaze

Commingled with old days,

On faces of such friends sincere,

With fondness brought from boyhood, dear.

Farewell, a long look and the last,

And these have turned and passed.

Henceforth he will no more,

As was his wont before,

Step forth from yonder door

To taste the freshness of the early dawn,

The whiteness of the sky,

The whitening stars on high,

The dews yet white that lie

Far spread in pearl upon the glimmering lawn;

Never at evening go,

Sole pacing to and fro,

With musing step and slow,

Beneath the cope of heaven set thick with stars,

Considering by whose hand

Those works, in wisdom planned,

Were fashioned, and still stand

Serenely fast and fair above these earthly jars.

Never again. Forth he will soon be brought

By neighbors that have loved him, having known,

Plain farmers, with the farmer’s natural thought

And feeling, sympathetic to his own.

All in a temperate air, a golden light,

Rich with October, sad with afternoon,

Fitly let him be laid, with rustic rite,

To rest amid the ripened harvest boon.

He loved the ocean’s mighty murmur deep,

And this shall lull him through his dreamless sleep.

But those plain men will speak above his head,

This is a lonesome world, and WEBSTER dead!