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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

Interludes from “Bitter-Sweet”

By Josiah Gilbert Holland (1819–1881)

[Born in Belchertown, Mass., 1819. Died in New York, N. Y., 1881. Bitter-Sweet. 1858.—Complete Poetical Writings. 1879.]


WHAT is the little one thinking about?

Very wonderful things, no doubt!

Unwritten history!

Unfathomed mystery!

Yet he laughs and cries, and eats and drinks,

And chuckles and crows, and nods and winks,

As if his head were as full of kinks

And curious riddles as any sphinx!

Warped by colic, and wet by tears,

Punctured by pins, and tortured by fears,

Our little nephew will lose two years;

And he’ll never know

Where the summers go;—

He need not laugh, for he’ll find it so!

Who can tell what a baby thinks?

Who can follow the gossamer links

By which the manikin feels his way

Out from the shore of the great unknown,

Blind, and wailing, and alone,

Into the light of day?—

Out from the shore of the unknown sea,

Tossing in pitiful agony,—

Of the unknown sea that reels and rolls,

Specked with the barks of little souls—

Barks that were launched on the other side,

And slipped from Heaven on an ebbing tide!

What does he think of his mother’s eyes?

What does he think of his mother’s hair?

What of the cradle-roof that flies

Forward and backward through the air?

What does he think of his mother’s breast—

Bare and beautiful, smooth and white,

Seeking it ever with fresh delight—

Cup of his life and couch of his rest?

What does he think when her quick embrace

Presses his hand and buries his face

Deep where the heart-throbs sink and swell

With a tenderness she can never tell,

Though she murmur the words

Of all the birds—

Words she has learned to murmur well?

Now he thinks he’ll go to sleep!

I can see the shadow creep

Over his eyes, in soft eclipse,

Over his brow, and over his lips,

Out to his little finger-tips!

Softly sinking, down he goes!

Down he goes! Down he goes!

See! He is hushed in sweet repose!


SIXTEEN barrels of cider

Ripening all in a row!

Open the vent-channels wider!

See the froth, drifted like snow,

Blown by the tempest below!

Those delectable juices

Flowed through the sinuous sluices

Of sweet springs under the orchard;

Climbed into fountains that chained them;

Dripped into cups that retained them,

And swelled till they dropped, and we gained them.

Then they were gathered and tortured

By passage from hopper to vat,

And fell—every apple crushed flat.

Ah! how the bees gathered round them,

And how delicious they found them!

Oat-straw, as fragrant as clover,

Was platted, and smoothly turned over,

Weaving a neatly-ribbed basket;

And, as they built up the casket,

In went the pulp by the scoop-full,

Till the juice flowed by the stoup-full,—

Filling the half of a puncheon

While the men swallowed their luncheon.

Pure grew the stream with the stress

Of the lever and screw,

Till the last drops from the press

Were as bright as the dew.

There were these juices spilled;

There were these barrels filled;

Sixteen barrels of cider—

Ripening all in a row!

Open the vent-channels wider!

See the froth, drifted like snow,

Blown by the tempest below!