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



By William Blake Atkinson

WHEN I climb to the top of some neighboring height

Where the walls of old Wallingford break on the sight,

My fancy the scenes of the past will renew

Till the forms of my forefathers rise to my view.

The fur-coated savage, the armor-clad knight,

Issue forth from its portals to join in the fight;

And past generations repeople the town,

As o’er it the castle’s high battlements frown.

I see the bold Briton contend for his home

In battle forlorn with the legions of Rome;

And the flaxen-haired Saxon defending the plain

Against the wild rush of the death-dealing Dane.

Then the Norman invader appears on the scene,

On whose brow are the laurels of Hastings still green;

And onward resistless his followers sweep

Till the proud flag of Normandy floats from the keep.

Next, when civil contentions the country divide,

By the river an army is seen on each side;

But the high-swollen torrent bids bloodshed to cease,

And the factions of England are blended in peace.

Yet again and again are the ranks in array

Of Briton with Briton in mortal affray;

And the air rings aloud with a Puritan cheer

Or the answering shout of the gay cavalier.

But the vision has vanished, and faded away

Like the dreams of the night at the dawning of day;

And the feuds of old Wallingford rest and are still

As the ivy-crowned ruin that sleeps on its hill.

All hushed are the din and the tumult of war,

And the banners of battle are unfurléd no more;

While the husbandman ploughs and the meadow-grass waves,

Where forgotten the warriors lie in their graves.

Calm, quiet, contented, the little town stands,

Surrounded by fertile and prosperous lands;

And, crowned with antiquity, dwells at its ease,

Encircled by hills and embosomed in trees.

What though restless spirits may murmur and say

That its glories have with former times fled away;

And o’er its decay heave a pitying sigh

That the busy world passes it heedlessly by?

So rest thee, fair Wallingford, just as thou art;

Yet still to thy country fulfilling thy part,

And rearing thy children, though humble they be,

To stand in the ranks of the land of the free:

So live, though obscure and unhonored thy name,

Content in thy duty to seek for thy fame;

And so thy old age uneventfully fleet,

As calm as the river that flows at thy feet.