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

Southern States: Hampton, Va.

Three Summer Studies

By James Barron Hope (1829–1887)

THE COCK hath crowed. I hear the doors unbarred;

Down to the grass-grown porch my way I take,

And hear, beside the well within the yard,

Full many an ancient quacking, splashing drake,

And gabbling goose, and noisy brood-hen,—all

Responding to yon strutting gobbler’s call.

The dew is thick upon the velvet grass,

The porch rails hold it in translucent drops,

And as the cattle from the enclosure pass,

Each one, alternate, slowly halts and crops

The tall, green spears, with all their dewy load,

Which grow beside the well-known pasture-road.

A humid polish is on all the leaves,—

The birds flit in and out with varied notes,

The noisy swallows twitter ’neath the eaves,

A partridge whistle through the garden floats,

While yonder gaudy peacock harshly cries,

As red and gold flush all the eastern skies.

Up comes the sun! Through the dense leaves a spot

Of splendid light drinks up the dew; the breeze

Which late made leafy music dies; the day grows hot,

And slumbrous sounds come from marauding bees:

The burnished river like a sword-blade shines,

Save where ’t is shadowed by the solemn pines.

Over the farm is brooding silence now,—

No reaper’s song, no raven’s clangor harsh,

No bleat of sheep, no distant low of cow,

No croak of frogs within the spreading marsh,

No bragging cock from littered farmyard crows,—

The scene is steeped in silence and repose.

A trembling haze hangs over all the fields,—

The panting cattle in the river stand,

Seeking the coolness which its wave scarce yields.

It seems a Sabbath through the drowsy land;

So hushed is all beneath the Summer’s spell,

I pause and listen for some faint church bell.

The leaves are motionless, the song-birds mute;

The very air seems somnolent and sick:

The spreading branches with o’er-ripened fruit

Show in the sunshine all their clusters thick,

While now and then a mellow apple falls

With a dull thud within the orchard’s walls.

The sky has but one solitary cloud,

Like a dark island in a sea of light;

The parching furrows ’twixt the corn-rows ploughed

Seem fairly dancing in my dazzled sight,

While over yonder road a dusty haze

Grows luminous beneath the sun’s fierce blaze.

That solitary cloud grows dark and wide,

While distant thunder rumbles in the air,—

A fitful ripple breaks the river’s tide,—

The lazy cattle are no longer there,

But homeward come, in long procession slow,

With many a bleat and many a plaintive low.

Darker and wider spreading o’er the west

Advancing clouds, each in fantastic form,

And mirrored turrets on the river’s breast,

Tell in advance the coming of a storm,—

Closer and brighter glares the lightning’s flash,

And louder, nearer sounds the thunder’s crash.

The air of evening is intensely hot,

The breeze feels heated as it fans my brows,—

Now sullen rain-drops patter down like shot,

Strike in the grass, or rattle mid the boughs.

A sultry lull, and then a gust again,—

And now I see the thick advancing rain!

It fairly hisses as it drives along,

And where it strikes breaks up in silvery spray

As if ’t were dancing to the fitful song

Made by the trees, which twist themselves and sway

In contest with the wind, that rises fast

Until the breeze becomes a furious blast.

And now, the sudden, fitful storm has fled,

The clouds lie piled up in the splendid West,

In massive shadow tipped with purplish red,

Crimson, or gold. The scene is one of rest;

And on the bosom of yon still lagoon

I see the crescent of the pallid moon.