Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
Poems Subjective and Reminiscent
A Name
          Addressed to my grand-nephew, Greenleaf Whittier Pickard Jonathan Greenleaf, in A Genealogy of the Greenleaf Family, says briefly: “From all that can be gathered, it is believed that the ancestors of the Greenleaf family were Huguenots, who left France on account of their religious principles some time in the course of the sixteenth century, and settled in England. The name was probably translated from the French Feuillevert.”

THE NAME the Gallic exile bore,
  St. Malo! from thy ancient mart,
Became upon our Western shore
  Greenleaf for Feuillevert.
A name to hear in soft accord        5
  Of leaves by light winds overrun,
Or read, upon the greening sward
  Of May, in shade and sun.
The name my infant ear first heard
  Breathed softly with a mother’s kiss;        10
His mother’s own, no tenderer word
  My father spake than this.
No child have I to bear it on;
  Be thou its keeper; let it take
From gifts well used and duty done        15
  New beauty for thy sake.
The fair ideals that outran
  My halting footsteps seek and find—
The flawless symmetry of man,
  The poise of heart and mind.        20
Stand firmly where I felt the sway
  Of every wing that fancy flew,
See clearly where I groped my way,
  Nor real from seeming knew.
And wisely choose, and bravely hold        25
  Thy faith unswerved by cross or crown,
Like the stout Huguenot of old
  Whose name to thee comes down.
As Marot’s songs made glad the heart
  Of that lone exile, haply mine        30
May in life’s heavy hours impart
  Some strength and hope to thine.
Yet when did Age transfer to Youth
  The hard-gained lessons of its day?
Each lip must learn the taste of truth,        35
  Each foot must feel its way.
We cannot hold the hands of choice
  That touch or shun life’s fateful keys;
The whisper of the inward voice
  Is more than homilies.        40
Dear boy! for whom the flowers are born,
  Stars shine, and happy song-birds sing,
What can my evening give to morn,
  My winter to thy spring!
A life not void of pure intent,        45
  With small desert of praise or blame,
The love I felt, the good I meant,
  I leave thee with my name.


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