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


I. Juvenile Poems. Thanksgiving

WHEN first ancient time, from Jubal’s tongue

The tuneful anthem filled the morning air,

To sacred hymnings and elysian song

His music-breathing shell the minstrel woke.

Devotion breathed aloud from every chord:

The voice of praise was heard in every tone,

And prayer and thanks to Him, the Eternal One,

To Him, that with bright inspiration touched

The high and gifted lyre of heavenly song,

And warmed the soul with new vitality.

A stirring energy through Nature breathed:

The voice of adoration from her broke,

Swelling aloud in every breeze, and heard

Long in the sullen waterfall, what time

Soft Spring or hoary Autumn threw on earth

Its bloom or blighting; when the summer smiled;

Or Winter o’er the year’s sepulchre mourned.

The Deity was there; a nameless spirit

Moved in the breasts of men to do him homage;

And when the morning smiled, or evening pale

Hung weeping o’er the melancholy urn,

They came beneath the broad, o’erarching trees,

And in their tremulous shadow worshipped oft,

Where pale the vine clung round their simple altars,

And gray moss mantling hung. Above was heard

The melody of winds, breathed out as the green trees

Bowed to their quivering touch in living beauty;

And birds sang forth their cheerful hymns. Below,

The bright and widely wandering rivulet

Struggled and gushed amongst the tangled roots

That choked its reedy fountain, and dark rocks

Worn smooth by the constant current. Even there

The listless wave, that stole with mellow voice

Where reeds grew rank on the rushy-fringed brink,

And the green sedge bent to the wandering wind,

Sang with a cheerful song of sweet tranquillity.

Men felt the heavenly influence; and it stole

Like balm into their hearts, till all was peace:

And even the air they breathed, the light they saw,

Became religion; for the ethereal spirit

That to soft music wakes the chords of feeling,

And mellows everything to beauty, moved

With cheering energy within their breasts

And made all holy there, for all was love.

The morning stars, that sweetly sang together;

The moon, that hung at night in the mid-sky;

Dayspring and eventide; and all the fair

And beautiful forms of nature, had a voice

Of eloquent worship. Ocean, with its tides

Swelling and deep, where low the infant storm

Hung on his dun, dark cloud, and heavily beat

The pulses of the sea, sent forth a voice

Of awful adoration to the spirit

That, wrapt in darkness, moved upon its face.

And when the bow of evening arched the east,

Or, in the moonlight pale, the curling wave

Kissed with a sweet embrace the sea-worn beach,

And soft the song of winds came o’er the waters,

The mingled melody of wind and wave

Touched like a heavenly anthem on the ear;

For it arose a tuneful hymn of worship.

And have our hearts grown cold? Are there on earth

No pure reflections caught from heavenly light?

Have our mute lips no hymn, our souls no song?

Let him that in the summer-day of youth

Keeps pure the holy fount of youthful feeling,

And him that in the nightfall of his years

Lies down in his last sleep, and shuts in peace

His dim, pale eyes on life’s short wayfaring,

Praise Him that rules the destiny of man.