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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV. 1876–79.


Stratford-on-Avon at Night

By Henry Glassford Bell (1803–1874)

TWENTY-SEVEN paces in front,

And barely eleven deep,

Lights in every window but it,—

Are they dead, or do they sleep?

The merry gossips of Stratford

Gossip in shops all round,—

From that untenanted mansion

There cometh not a sound.

If you knock you will get no answer,—

Knock reverently and low,

For the sake of one who was living there

Three hundred years ago.

He was born in the upper chamber,

Had playmates down the street;

They noted at school, when he read the lesson,

That his voice was soft and sweet.

His father, they say, was a glover,

Though that is not so clear;

He married his sweetheart at Shottery,

When he came to his nineteenth year.

And then he left old Stratford,

And nobody missed him much,

For Stratford, a thriving burgh,

Took little account of such.

But somehow it came to be whispered,

When some short years had flown,

That the glover’s son was making himself

A credit to that good town.

The best folks scarcely believed it,

And dreamily shook their head,—

But the world was owning the archer

Whose arrows of light had sped;

Whose arrows were brightening space

With fire unknown before,

Plucked from a grander quiver

Than Phœbus-Apollo bore.

So his birthplace came to be famous,

And the ground where his bones were laid,

And to Stratford, the thriving burgh,

Nations their pilgrimage made.

They saw the tenantless dwelling,

They saw the bare flat stone;

But the soul that had brightened the world

Still lived to brighten their own.

And they learned the sacred lesson,

That he whom the proud eschew,

The simplest and the lowliest,

May have God’s best work to do.