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Into the tranquil woods, where bluebirds and robins were
Towns in the populous trees, with hanging gardens of
Peaceful, aerial cities of joy and affection and freedom.
Love contending with friendship, and self with each generous
To and fro in his breast his thoughts were heaving and
As in a foundering ship, with every roll of the vessel, Washes the bitter sea, the merciless surge of the ocean! "Must I relinquish it all," he cried with a wild lamenta
"Must I relinquish it all, the joy, the hope, the illusion? Was it for this I have loved, and waited, and worshipped in
Was it for this I have followed the flying feet and the
Over the wintry sea, to the desolate shores of New Eng
Truly the heart is deceitful, and out of its depths of corruption
Rise, like an exhalation, the misty phantoms of passion;
Worshipping Astaroth blindly, and impious idols of Baal.1 This is the cross I must bear; the sin and the swift retribution."
1 Astaroth was a goddess, and Baal, a god of the Phoenicians.
So through the Plymouth woods John Alden went on his errand;
Crossing the brook at the ford, where it brawled over pebble and shallow,
Gathering still, as he went, the Mayflowers blooming around
Fragrant, filling the air with a strange and wonderful sweet
Children lost in the woods, and covered with leaves in their slumber.1
"Puritan flowers," he said, “and the type of Puritan maidens, Modest and simple and sweet,2 the very type of Priscilla! So I will take them to her; to Priscilla the Mayflower of
Modest and simple and sweet, as a parting gift will I take
Breathing their silent farewells, as they fade and wither and
Soon to be thrown away as is the heart of the giver."
So through the Plymouth woods John Alden went on his
Came to an open space, and saw the disk of the ocean, Sailless, sombre and cold with the comfortless breath of the
Saw the new-built house, and people at work in a meadow; Heard, as he drew near the door, the musical voice of Priscilla
1 The Ballad of the Babes in the Wood tells of a cruel uncle, who, to obtain the money of his little niece and nephew, hired two ruffians to take the children to a neighboring wood and there murder them. The innocence of the babes touched the heart of one of the men, who thereupon induced the other to leave them. The children died of starvation, and the robins covered them with leaves.
2 This is a pretty comparison. The Mayflower, or trailing arbutus, grows close to the ground as if to hide beneath the leaves; it is tinted with pink and is delicately fragrant.
Singing the hundredth Psalm, the grand old Puritan anthem, Music that Luther sang to the sacred words of the Psalm
Full of the breath of the Lord, consoling and comforting
Then, as he opened the door, he beheld the form of the
Seated beside her wheel, and the carded wool like a snow
Piled at her knee, her white hands feeding the ravenous
While with her foot on the treadle she guided the wheel in its motion.
Open wide on her lap lay the well-worn psalm-book of Ainsworth,1
Printed in Amsterdam, the words and the music together, Rough-hewn, angular notes, like stones in the wall of a churchyard,
Darkened and overhung by the running vine of the verses.
Such was the book from whose pages she sang the old Puritan anthem,
She, the Puritan girl, in the solitude of the forest,
Making the humble house and the modest apparel of home
Beautiful with her beauty, and rich with the wealth of her being!
Over him rushed, like a wind that is keen and cold and
Thoughts of what might have been, and the weight and woe
of his errand;
1 Ainsworth was a follower of the teachings of Robert Browne, an English theologian, who was the founder of a religious sect. Ainsworth made a translation of the Psalms.
All the dreams that had faded, and all the hopes that had
All his life henceforth a dreary and tenantless mansion, Haunted by vain regrets, and pallid, sorrowful faces. Still he said to himself, and almost fiercely he said it, "Let not him that putteth his hand to the plough look backwards;1
Though the plougshare cut through the flowers of life to its
Though it pass o'er the graves of the dead and the hearths of the living,
It is the will of the Lord; and his mercy endureth forever!"
So he entered the house; and the hum of the wheel and
Suddenly ceased; for Priscilla, aroused by his step on the
Rose as he entered and gave him her hand, in signal of
Saying, "I knew it was you, when I heard your step in the passage;
For I was thinking of you, as I sat there singing and spin
Awkward and dumb with delight, that a thought of him had been mingled
Thus in the sacred psalm, that came from the heart of the
Silent before her he stood, and gave her the flowers for an
Finding no words for his thought. He remembered that day in the winter,
After the first great snow, when he broke a path from the village,
1 Compare Luke, ix. 62.
Reeling and plunging along through the drifts that encumbered the doorway,
Stamping the snow from his feet as he entered the house,
Laughed at his snowy locks, and gave him a seat by the
Grateful and pleased to know he had thought of her in the snow-storm.
Had he but spoken then! perhaps not in vain had he spoken;
Now it was all too late; the golden moment had vanished! So he stood there abashed, and gave her the flowers for an
Then they sat down and talked of the birds and the beau
Talked of their friends at home, and the Mayflower that sailed on the morrow.
"I have been thinking all day," said gently the Puritan maiden,
"Dreaming all night, and thinking all day, of the hedgerows of England,
They are in blossom now, and the country is all like a
Thinking of lanes and fields, and the song of the lark and
Seeing the village street, and familiar faces of neighbors
Climbing the old gray tower, and the quiet graves in the churchyard.
Kind are the people I live with, and dear to me my reli