Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Old Sleepy Hollow Church and Irving’s Grave

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Middle States: Tarrytown, N. Y.

Old Sleepy Hollow Church and Irving’s Grave

By Stephen Henry Thayer (1839–1919)

TWO centuries have left their hoary trace

Upon yon ancient pile of weathered stone.

Triumphant church! It stands alone!

Militant no more, nor of the present race.

Its elder saints, called to celestial grace,

No longer now their sins bemoan.

No architectural fancy mars its wall,

Nor modern beauty frets its artless mould;

The truth is plain, ’t is very old;

And as I enter through its silent hall,

From faded recollection I recall

The names its history has told.

In imaged thought I seem to see once more,

Around its homely porch and narrow walk,

The sturdy youth in rustic frock;

And decked in quaintest fashion, as of yore

Are grouped the maidens round the outer door;

I hear the ancient people talk.

Their uncouth dialect and gestured speech

Betray the lusty blood of Fatherland.

A stern and pious little band,

Their simple parson leads to pray and preach.

They know by heart the lesson he will teach,

And crave a blessing from his hand.

Alas! the voices which I seem to hear

Are dreamy echoes of the silent ones;

I read the churchyard’s dingy stones,

The very names sound agéd to the ear,

And half the rude memorials disappear

Where’er the sere gray lichen runs.

Scarce distant from these ancient graves, I turn

And trace the In Memoriam, by the dust

Of one whose pure disdain of lust,

Whose famed yet gentle life no marble urn

Nor bronze recites; but only hedge and fern

Are wreathed about a nation’s trust.

The love a selfish world unselfish bears

Is better left to memory alone;

No need of praise on mocking stone

Where every passing eye in wonder stares;

Or, richly blazoned in the city squares,

Forsooth to claim what men disown.

Ah! not the boasting shaft enshrines the man.

Time has no hour in which to knell the fame

Upborne by an immortal claim.

For it a bridge ethereal shall span

The ages; nor the wisest critic’s ban,

Nor aught despoil the deathless name.