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

Introductory to Middle States


By John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)

(From The Pennsylvania Pilgrim)

NEVER in tenderer quiet lapsed the day

From Pennsylvania’s vales of spring away,

Where, forest-walled, the scattered hamlets lay

Along the wedded rivers. One long bar

Of purple cloud, on which the evening star

Shone like a jewel on a scimitar,

Held the sky’s golden gateway. Through the deep

Hush of the woods a murmur seemed to creep,

The Schuylkill whispering in a voice of sleep.

All else was still. The oxen from their ploughs

Rested at last, and from their long day’s browse

Came the dun files of Krisheim’s home-bound cows.

And the young city, round whose virgin zone

The rivers like two mighty arms were thrown,

Marked by the smoke of evening fires alone,

Lay in the distance, lovely even then

With its fair women and its stately men

Gracing the forest court of William Penn,

Urban yet sylvan; in its rough-hewn frames

Of oak and pine the dryads held their claims,

And lent its streets their pleasant woodland names.


Was it caressing air, the brooding love

Of tenderer skies than German land knew of,

Green calm below, blue quietness above,

Still flow of water, deep repose of wood

That, with a sense of loving Fatherhood

And childlike trust in the Eternal Good,

Softened all hearts, and dulled the edge of hate,

Hushed strife, and taught impatient zeal to wait

The slow assurance of the better state?

Who knows what goadings in their sterner way

O’er jagged ice, relieved by granite gray,

Blew round the men of Massachusetts Bay?

What hate of heresy the east-wind woke?

What hints of pitiless power and terror spoke

In waves that on their iron coast-line broke?

Be it as it may; within the Land of Penn

The sectary yielded to the citizen,

And peaceful dwelt the many-creeded men.

Peace brooded over all. No trumpet stung

The air to madness, and no steeple flung

Alarums down from bells at midnight rung.

The land slept well. The Indian from his face

Washed all his war-paint off, and in the place

Of battle-marches sped the peaceful chase,

Or wrought for wages at the white man’s side,—

Giving to kindness what his native pride

And lazy freedom to all else denied.

And well the curious scholar loved the old

Traditions that his swarthy neighbors told

By wigwam-fires when nights were growing cold,

Discerned the fact round which their fancy drew

Its dreams, and held their childish faith more true

To God and man than half the creeds he knew.

The desert blossomed round him; wheat-fields rolled,

Beneath the warm wind, waves of green and gold;

The planted ear returned its hundredfold.

Great clusters ripened in a warmer sun

Than that which by the Rhine stream shines upon

The purpling hillsides with low vines o’errun.

About each rustic porch the humming-bird

Tried with light bill, that scarce a petal stirred,

The Old World flowers to virgin soil transferred;

And the first-fruits of pear and apple, bending

The young boughs down, their gold and russet blending,

Made glad his heart, familiar odors lending

To the fresh fragrance of the birch and pine,

Life-everlasting, bay, and eglantine,

And all the subtle scents the woods combine.

Fair First-Day mornings, steeped in summer calm

Warm, tender, restful, sweet with woodland balm,

Came to him, like some mother-hallowed psalm

To the tired grinder at the noisy wheel

Of labor, winding off from memory’s reel

A golden thread of music. With no peal

Of bells to call them to the house of praise,

The scattered settlers through green forest-ways

Walked meeting-ward. In reverent amaze

The Indian trapper saw them, from the dim

Shade of the alders on the rivulet’s rim,

Seek the Great Spirit’s house to talk with Him.

There, through the gathered stillness multiplied

And made intense by sympathy, outside

The sparrows sang, and the gold-robin cried,

A-swing upon his elm. A faint perfume

Breathed through the open windows of the room

From locust-trees, heavy with clustered bloom.

Thither, perchance, sore-tried confessors came,

Whose fervor jail nor pillory could tame,

Proud of the cropped ears meant to be their shame,—

Men who had eaten slavery’s bitter bread

In Indian isles; pale women who had bled

Under the hangman’s lash, and bravely said

God’s message through their prison’s iron bars;

And gray old soldier-converts, seamed with scars

From every stricken field of England’s wars

Lowly before the Unseen Presence knelt

Each waiting heart, till haply some one felt

On his moved lips the seal of silence melt.

Or, without spoken words, low breathings stole

Of a diviner life from soul to soul,

Baptizing in one tender thought the whole.

When shaken hands announced the meeting o’er,

The friendly group still lingered at the door,

Greeting, inquiring, sharing all the store

Of weekly tidings. Meanwhile youth and maid

Down the green vistas of the woodland strayed,

Whispered and smiled and oft their feet delayed.

Did the boy’s whistle answer back the thrushes?

Did light girl laughter ripple through the bushes

As brooks make merry over roots and rushes?

Unvexed the sweet air seemed. Without a wound

The ear of silence heard, and every sound

Its place in nature’s fine accordance found.

And solemn meeting, summer sky and wood,

Old kindly faces, youth and maidenhood

Seemed, like God’s new creation, very good!