Already had the strife begun;
Already blood on Concord’s plain
Along the springing grass had run,
And blood had flowed at Lexington,
Like brooks of April rain.
That death-stain on the vernal sward
Hallowed to freedom all the shore;
In fragments fell the yoke abhorred—
The footstep of a foreign lord
Profaned the soil no more.
Matron! the children of whose love,
Each to his grave, in youth hath passed,
And now the mould is heaped above
The dearest and the last!
Bride! who dost wear the widow’s veil
Before the wedding flowers are pale!
Ye deem the human heart endures
No deeper, bitterer grief than yours.
Yet there are pangs of keener wo,
Of which the sufferers never speak,
Nor to the world’s cold pity show
The tears that scald the cheek,
Wrung from their eyelids by the shame
And guilt of those they shrink to name,
Whom once they loved with cheerful will,
And love, though fallen and branded, still.
Weep, ye who sorrow for the dead,
Thus breaking hearts their pain relieve;
And reverenced are the tears ye shed,
And honoured ye who grieve.
The praise of those who sleep in earth,
The pleasant memory of their worth,
The hope to meet when life is past,
Shall heal the tortured mind at last.
But ye, who for the living lost
That agony in secret bear,
Who shall with soothing words accost
The strength of your despair?
Grief for your sake is scorn for them
Whom ye lament and all condemn;
And o’er the world of spirits lies
A gloom from which ye turn your eyes.
Midst greens and shades the Catterskill leaps,
From cliffs where the wood-flower clings;
All summer he moistens his verdant steeps
With the sweet light spray of the mountain springs;
And he shakes the woods on the mountain side,
When they drip with the rains of autumn-tide.
But when, in the forest bare and old,
The blast of December calls,
He builds, in the starlight clear and cold,
A palace of ice where his torrent falls,
With turret, and arch, and fretwork fair,
And pillars blue as the summer air.
For whom are those glorious chambers wrought,
In the cold and cloudless night?
Is there neither spirit nor motion of thought
In forms so lovely, and hues so bright?
Hear what the gray-haired woodmen tell
Of this wild stream and its rocky dell.
’Twas hither a youth of dreamy mood,
A hundred winters ago,
Had wandered over the mighty wood,
When the panther’s track was fresh on the snow,
And keen were the winds that came to stir
The long dark boughs of the hemlock fir.
Too gentle of mien he seemed and fair,
For a child of those rugged steeps;
His home lay low in the valley where
The kingly Hudson rolls to the deeps;
But he wore the hunter’s frock that day,
And a slender gun on his shoulder lay.