Home  »  An American Anthology, 1787–1900  »  220 The Vanishers

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). An American Anthology, 1787–1900. 1900.

By John GreenleafWhittier

220 The Vanishers

SWEETEST of all childlike dreams

In the simple Indian lore

Still to me the legend seems

Of the shapes who flit before.

Flitting, passing, seen and gone,

Never reached nor found at rest,

Baffling search, but beckoning on

To the Sunset of the Blest.

From the clefts of mountain rocks,

Through the dark of lowland firs,

Flash the eyes and flow the locks

Of the mystic Vanishers!

And the fisher in his skiff,

And the hunter on the moss,

Hear their call from cape and cliff,

See their hands the birch-leaves toss.

Wistful, longing, through the green

Twilight of the clustered pines,

In their faces rarely seen

Beauty more than mortal shines.

Fringed with gold their mantles flow

On the slopes of westering knolls;

In the wind they whisper low

Of the Sunset Land of Souls.

Doubt who may, O friend of mine!

Thou and I have seen them too;

On before with beck and sign

Still they glide, and we pursue.

More than clouds of purple trail

In the gold of setting day;

More than gleams of wing or sail

Beckon from the sea-mist gray.

Glimpses of immortal youth,

Gleams and glories seen and flown,

Far-heard voices sweet with truth,

Airs from viewless Eden blown;

Beauty that eludes our grasp,

Sweetness that transcends our taste,

Loving hands we may not clasp,

Shining feet that mock our haste;

Gentle eyes we closed below,

Tender voices heard once more,

Smile and call us, as they go

On and onward, still before.

Guided thus, O friend of mine!

Let us walk our little way,

Knowing by each beckoning sign

That we are not quite astray.

Chase we still, with baffled feet,

Smiling eye and waving hand,

Sought and seeker soon shall meet,

Lost and found, in Sunset Land!