Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
Personal Poems
To Lydia Maria Child
On Reading Her Poem in “The Standard”
  Mrs. Child wrote her lines, beginning, “Again the trees are clothed in vernal green,” May 24, 1859, on the first anniversary of Ellis Gray Loring’s death, but did not publish them for some years afterward, when I first read them, or I could not have made the reference which I did to the extinction of slavery.

THE SWEET spring day is glad with music,
  But through it sounds a sadder strain;
The worthiest of our narrowing circle
  Sings Loring’s dirges o’er again.
O woman greatly loved! I join thee        5
  In tender memories of our friend;
With thee across the awful spaces
  The greeting of a soul I send!
What cheer hath he? How is it with him?
  Where lingers he this weary while?        10
Over what pleasant fields of Heaven
  Dawns the sweet sunrise of his smile?
Does he not know our feet are treading
  The earth hard down on Slavery’s grave?
That, in our crowning exultations,        15
  We miss the charm his presence gave?
Why on this spring air comes no whisper
  From him to tell us all is well?
Why to our flower-time comes no token
  Of lily and of asphodel?        20
I feel the unutterable longing,
  Thy hunger of the heart is mine;
I reach and grope for hands in darkness,
  My ear grows sharp for voice or sign.
Still on the lips of all we question        25
  The finger of God’s silence lies;
Will the lost hands in ours be folded?
  Will the shut eyelids ever rise?
O friend! no proof beyond this yearning,
  This outreach of our hearts, we need;        30
God will not mock the hope He giveth,
  No love He prompts shall vainly plead.
Then let us stretch our hands in darkness,
  And call our loved ones o’er and o’er;
Some day their arms shall close about us,        35
  And the old voices speak once more.
No dreary splendors wait our coming
  Where rapt ghost sits from ghost apart;
Homeward we go to Heaven’s thanksgiving,
  The harvest-gathering of the heart.


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