Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
Poems of Nature
The Mayflowers
          The trailing arbutus, or mayflower, grows abundantly in the vicinity of Plymouth, and was the first flower that greeted the Pilgrims after their fearful winter. The name mayflower was familiar in England, as the application of it to the historic vessel shows, but it was applied by the English, and still is, to the hawthorn. Its use in New England in connection with Epigæa repens dates from a very early day, some claiming that the first Pilgrims so used it, in affectionate memory of the vessel and its English flower association.

SAD Mayflower! watched by winter stars,
  And nursed by winter gales,
With petals of the sleeted spars,
  And leaves of frozen sails!
What had she in those dreary hours,        5
  Within her ice-rimmed bay,
In common with the wild-wood flowers,
  The first sweet smiles of May?
Yet, “God be praised!” the Pilgrim said,
  Who saw the blossoms peer        10
Above the brown leaves, dry and dead,
  “Behold our Mayflower here!”
“God wills it: here our rest shall be,
  Our years of wandering o’er;
For us the Mayflower of the sea        15
  Shall spread her sails no more.”
O sacred flowers of faith and hope,
  As sweetly now as then
Ye bloom on many a birchen slope,
  In many a pine-dark glen.        20
Behind the sea-wall’s rugged length,
  Unchanged, your leaves unfold,
Like love behind the manly strength
  Of the brave hearts of old.
So live the fathers in their sons,        25
  Their sturdy faith be ours,
And ours the love that overruns
  Its rocky strength with flowers.
The Pilgrim’s wild and wintry day
  Its shadow round us draws;        30
The Mayflower of his stormy bay,
  Our Freedom’s struggling cause.
But warmer suns erelong shall bring
  To life the frozen sod;
And through dead leaves of hope shall spring        35
  Afresh the flowers of God!


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