Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

The Belfry of Bruges and Other Poems

A Gleam of Sunshine

  • The scene of this poem is mentioned in the poet’s diary, under date of August 31, 1846. “In the afternoon a delicious drive with F. and C. through Brookline, by the church and ‘the green lane,’ and homeward through a lovelier lane, with barberries and wild vines clustering over the old stone walls.”

  • THIS is the place. Stand still, my steed,

    Let me review the scene,

    And summon from the shadowy Past

    The forms that once have been.

    The Past and Present here unite

    Beneath Time’s flowing tide,

    Like footprints hidden by a brook,

    But seen on either side.

    Here runs the highway to the town;

    There the green lane descends,

    Through which I walked to church with thee,

    O gentlest of my friends!

    The shadow of the linden-trees

    Lay moving on the grass;

    Between them and the moving boughs,

    A shadow, thou didst pass.

    Thy dress was like the lilies,

    And thy heart as pure as they;

    One of God’s holy messengers

    Did walk with me that day.

    I saw the branches of the trees

    Bend down thy touch to meet,

    The clover-blossoms in the grass

    Rise up to kiss thy feet.

    “Sleep, sleep to-day, tormenting cares,

    Of earth and folly born!”

    Solemnly sang the village choir

    On that sweet Sabbath morn.

    Through the closed blinds the golden sun

    Poured in a dusty beam,

    Like the celestial ladder seen

    By Jacob in his dream.

    And ever and anon, the wind

    Sweet-scented with the hay,

    Turned o’er the hymn-book’s fluttering leaves

    That on the window lay.

    Long was the good man’s sermon,

    Yet it seemed not so to me;

    For he spake of Ruth the beautiful,

    And still I thought of thee.

    Long was the prayer he uttered,

    Yet it seemed not so to me;

    For in my heart I prayed with him,

    And still I thought of thee.

    But now, alas! the place seems changed;

    Thou art no longer here:

    Part of the sunshine of the scene

    With thee did disappear.

    Though thoughts, deep-rooted in my heart,

    Like pine-trees dark and high,

    Subdue the light of noon, and breathe

    A low and ceaseless sigh;

    This memory brightens o’er the past,

    As when the sun, concealed

    Behind some cloud that near us hangs,

    Shines on a distant field.