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II. The Husking

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892). The Poetical Works in Four Volumes. 1892.

Narrative and Legendary Poems

Mabel Martin
II. The Husking

IT was the pleasant harvest-time,

When cellar-bins are closely stowed,

And garrets bend beneath their load,

And the old swallow-haunted barns,—

Brown-gabled, long, and full of seams

Through which the moted sunlight streams,

And winds blow freshly in, to shake

The red plumes of the roosted cocks,

And the loose hay-mow’s scented locks,—

Are filled with summer’s ripened stores,

Its odorous grass and barley sheaves,

From their low scaffolds to their eaves.

On Esek Harden’s oaken floor,

With many an autumn threshing worn,

Lay the heaped ears of unhusked corn.

And thither came young men and maids,

Beneath a moon that, large and low,

Lit that sweet eve of long ago.

They took their places; some by chance,

And others by a merry voice

Or sweet smile guided to their choice.

How pleasantly the rising moon,

Between the shadow of the mows,

Looked on them through the great elm-boughs!

On sturdy boyhood, sun-embrowned,

On girlhood with its solid curves

Of healthful strength and painless nerves!

And jests went round, and laughs that made

The house-dog answer with his howl,

And kept astir the barn-yard fowl;

And quaint old songs their fathers sung

In Derby dales and Yorkshire moors,

Ere Norman William trod their shores;

And tales, whose merry license shook

The fat sides of the Saxon thane,

Forgetful of the hovering Dane,—

Rude plays to Celt and Cimbri known,

The charms and riddles that beguiled

On Oxus’ banks the young world’s child,—

That primal picture-speech wherein

Have youth and maid the story told,

So new in each, so dateless old,

Recalling pastoral Ruth in her

Who waited, blushing and demure,

The red-ear’s kiss of forfeiture.