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

The Seaside and the Fireside

By the Fireside. Pegasus in Pound

  • Written as proem to The Estray, a collection of poems edited by Mr. Longfellow.

  • ONCE into a quiet village,

    Without haste and without heed,

    In the golden prime of morning,

    Strayed the poet’s wingèd steed.

    It was Autumn, and incessant

    Piped the quails from shocks and sheaves,

    And, like living coals, the apples

    Burned among the withering leaves.

    Loud the clamorous bell was ringing

    From its belfry gaunt and grim;

    ’T was the daily call to labor,

    Not a triumph meant for him.

    Not the less he saw the landscape,

    In its gleaming vapor veiled;

    Not the less he breathed the odors

    That the dying leaves exhaled.

    Thus, upon the village common,

    By the school-boys he was found;

    And the wise men, in their wisdom,

    Put him straightway into pound.

    Then the sombre village crier,

    Ringing loud his brazen bell,

    Wandered down the street proclaiming

    There was an estray to sell.

    And the curious country people,

    Rich and poor, and young and old,

    Came in haste to see this wondrous

    Wingèd steed, with mane of gold.

    Thus the day passed, and the evening

    Fell, with vapors cold and dim;

    But it brought no food nor shelter,

    Brought no straw nor stall, for him.

    Patiently, and still expectant,

    Looked he through the wooden bars,

    Saw the moon rise o’er the landscape,

    Saw the tranquil, patient stars;

    Till at length the bell at midnight

    Sounded from its dark abode,

    And, from out a neighboring farm-yard,

    Loud the cock Alectryon crowed.

    Then, with nostrils wide distended,

    Breaking from his iron chain,

    And unfolding far his pinions,

    To those stars he soared again.

    On the morrow, when the village

    Woke to all its toil and care,

    Lo! the strange steed had departed.

    And they knew not when nor where.

    But they found, upon the greensward

    Where his struggling hoofs had trod,

    Pure and bright, a fountain flowing

    From the hoof-marks in the sod.

    From that hour, the fount unfailing

    Gladdens the whole region round,

    Strengthening all who drink its waters,

    While it soothes them with its sound.