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

By John GreenleafWhittier

226 In the “Old South”

SHE came and stood in the Old South Church

A wonder and a sign,

With a look the old-time sibyls wore,

Half-crazed and half-divine.

Save the mournful sackcloth about her wound,

Unclothed as the primal mother,

With limbs that trembled and eyes that blazed

With a fire she dare not smother.

Loose on her shoulders fell her hair,

With sprinkled ashes gray;

She stood in the broad aisle strange and weird

As a soul at the judgment day.

And the minister paused in his sermon’s midst,

And the people held their breath,

For these were the words the maiden spoke

Through lips as the lips of death:

“Thus saith the Lord, with equal feet

All men my courts shall tread,

And priest and ruler no more shall eat

My people up like bread!

“Repent! repent! ere the Lord shall speak

In thunder and breaking seals!

Let all souls worship Him in the way

His light within reveals.”

She shook the dust from her naked feet,

And her sackcloth closer drew,

And into the porch of the awe-hushed church

She passed like a ghost from view.

They whipped her away at the tail o’ the cart

Through half the streets of the town,

But the words she uttered that day nor fire

Could burn nor water drown.

And now the aisles of the ancient church

By equal feet are trod,

And the bell that swings in its belfry rings

Freedom to worship God!

And now whenever a wrong is done

It thrills the conscious walls;

The stone from the basement cries aloud

And the beam from the timber calls.

There are steeple-houses on every hand,

And pulpits that bless and ban,

And the Lord will not grudge the single church

That is set apart for man.

For in two commandments are all the law

And the prophets under the sun,

And the first is last and the last is first,

And the twain are verily one.

So long as Boston shall Boston be,

And her bay-tides rise and fall,

Shall freedom stand in the Old South Church

And plead for the rights of all!