When I began “The Song of the Stone Wall,” Dr. Edward Everett Hale was still among us, and it was my intention to dedicate the poem to him if it should be deemed worthy of publication. I fancied that he would like it; for he loved the old walls and the traditions that cling about them.
As I tried to image the men who had built the walls long ago, it seemed to me that Dr. Hale was the living embodiment of whatever was heroic in the founders of New England. He was a great American. He was also a great Puritan. Was not the zeal of his ancestors upon his lips, and their courage in his heart? Had they not bequeathed to him their torch-like faith, their patient fervor of toil and their creed of equality?
But his bright spirit had inherited no trace of their harshness and gloom. The windows of his soul opened to the sunlight of a joyous faith. His optimism and genial humor inspired gladness and good sense in others. With an old story he prepared their minds to receive new ideas, and with a parable he opened their hearts to generous feelings. All men loved him because he loved them. They knew that his heart was in their happiness, and that his humanity embraced their sorrows. In him the weak found a friend, the unprotected, a champion. Though a herald and proclaimer of peace, he could fight stubbornly and passionately on the side of justice. His was a lovable, uplifting greatness which drew all men near and ever nearer to God and to each other. Like his ancestors, he dreamed of a land of freedom founded on the love of God and the brotherhood of man, a land where each man shall achieve his share of happiness and learn the work of manhood—to rule himself and “lend a hand.”
Thoughts like these were often in my mind as the poem grew and took form. It is fitting, therefore, that I should dedicate it to him, and in so doing I give expression to the love and reverence which I have felt for him ever since he called me his little cousin, more than twenty years ago.
Come walk with me, and I will tell
What I have read in this scroll of stone;
I will spell out this writing on hill and meadow.
It is a chronicle wrought by praying workmen,
The forefathers of our nation—
Leagues upon leagues of sealed history awaiting an interpreter.
This is New England’s tapestry of stone
Alive with memories that throb and quiver
At the core of the ages
As the prophecies of old at the heart of God’s Word.
The walls have many things to tell me,
And the days are long. I come and listen:
My hand is upon the stones, and the tale I fain would hear
Is of the men who built the walls,
And of the God who made the stones and the workers.