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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 May-flowers blooming around him,

Fragrant, filling the air with a strange and wonderful sweetness,

Children lost in the woods, and covered with leaves in their slumber.

“Puritan flowers," he said, "and the type of Puritan maidens,

Modest and simple and sweet, the very type of Priscilla !

So I will take them to her; to Priscilla the May-flower of Plymouth,

Modest and simple and sweet, as a parting gift will I take them;

Breathing their silent farewells, as they fade and wither and perish,

Soon to be thrown away, as is the heart of the giver.”

So through the Plymouth woods John Alden went on his errand;

Came to an open space, and saw the disk of the ocean,

Sailless, somber and cold with the comfortless breath of the east wind;

Saw the new-built house, and people at work in a meadow;

Heard, as he drew near the door, the musical voice of Priscilla

Singing the hundredth Psalm, the grand old Puritan anthem,
Music that Luther sang to the sacred words of the Psalmist,

Full of the breath of the Lord, consoling and comforting many.

Then, as he opened the door, he beheld the form of the maiden

Scated beside her wheel, and the carded wool like a snow-drift

Piled at her knee, her white hands feeding the ravenous spindle,

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,

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 homespun

Beautiful with her beauty, and rich with the wealth of her being !

Over him rushed, like a wind that is keen and cold and relentless,

Thoughts of what might have been, and the weight and woe of his errand;

All the dreams that had faded, and all the hopes that had vanished,

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 plow look backward;

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