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

Middle States: Trappe, The, Pa.

The Old Church

By Isaac R. Pennypacker (1852–1935)

IN the heat of a day in September

We came to the old church door,

We bared our heads, I remember,

On the step that the moss covered o’er.

There the vines climbed over and under,

And we trod with a reverent wonder

Through the dust of the years on the floor.

From the dampness and darkness and stillness

No resonant chantings outrolled,

And the air with its vaporous chillness

Covered altar and column with mould.

For the pulpit had lost its old glory,

And its greatness become but a story,

By the aged still lovingly told.

O’er the graves ’neath the long waving grasses

In summer the winds lightly blow,

And the phantoms come forth from the masses

Of deep tangled ivy that grow.

Through the aisles at midnight they wander,—

At noon of the loft they are fonder,—

Unhindered they come and they go.

And it seemed that a breath of a spirit,

Like a zephyr at cool of the day,

Passed o’er us and then we could hear it

In the loft through the organ-pipes play.

All the aisles and the chancel seemed haunted,

And weird anthems by voices were chanted

Where dismantled the organ’s pipes lay.

Came the warrior who robed as a Colonel

Led his men to the fight from the prayer,

And the pastor who tells in his journal

What he saw in the sunlight’s bright glare,

How a band of wild troopers danced under

While the organ was pealing its thunder

In gay tunes on the sanctified air.

And Gottlieb, colonial musician,

Once more had come over the seas,

And sweet to the slave and patrician

Were the sounds of his low melodies;

Once again came the tears, the petition,

Soul-longings and heart-felt contrition

At his mystical touch on the keys.

There joined in the prayers of the yeomen

For the rulers and high in command,

The statesman who prayed that the foemen

Might perish by sea and by land;

And flowers from herbariums Elysian

Long pressed, yet still sweet, in the vision

Were strewn by a spiritual hand.

There were saints,—there were souls heavy-laden

With the burden of sins unconfessed.

In the shadow there lingered a maiden

With a babe to her bosom close pressed,

And the peace that exceeds understanding

Borne on odors of blossoms expanding

Forever abode in her breast.

Then hushed were the prayers and the chorus

As we gazed through the gloom o’er the pews,

And the phantoms had gone from before us

By invisible dark avenues,

And slowly we passed through the portals

In awe from the haunts of immortals

Who had vanished like summer’s light dews.

O church! that of old proudly flourished,

Upon thee decay gently falls,

And the founders by whom thou wert nourished

Lie low in the shade of thy walls;

No stone need those pioneer sages

To tell their good works to the ages:

Thy ruin their greatness recalls.