Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
Narrative and Legendary Poems
Mabel Martin
I. The River Valley
ACROSS the level tableland,
  A grassy, rarely trodden way,
  With thinnest skirt of birchen spray
And stunted growth of cedar, leads
  To where you see the dull plain fall        5
  Sheer off, steep-slanted, ploughed by all
The seasons’ rainfalls. On its brink
  The over-leaning harebells swing,
  With roots half bare the pine-trees cling;
And, through the shadow looking west,        10
  You see the wavering river flow
  Along a vale, that far below
Holds to the sun, the sheltering hills
  And glimmering water-line between,
  Broad fields of corn and meadows green,        15
And fruit-bent orchards grouped around
  The low brown roofs and painted eaves,
  And chimney-tops half hid in leaves.
No warmer valley hides behind
  Yon wind-scourged sand-dunes, cold and bleak;        20
  No fairer river comes to seek
The wave-sung welcome of the sea,
  Or mark the northmost border line
  Of sun-loved growths of nut and vine.
Here, ground-fast in their native fields,        25
  Untempted by the city’s gain,
  The quiet farmer folk remain
Who bear the pleasant name of Friends,
  And keep their fathers’ gentle ways
  And simple speech of Bible days;        30
In whose neat homesteads woman holds
  With modest ease her equal place,
  And wears upon her tranquil face
The look of one who, merging not
  Her self-hood in another’s will,        35
  Is love’s and duty’s handmaid still.
Pass with me down the path that winds
  Through birches to the open land,
  Where, close upon the river strand
You mark a cellar, vine o’errun,        40
  Above whose wall of loosened stones
  The sumach lifts its reddening cones,
And the black nightshade’s berries shine,
  And broad, unsightly burdocks fold
  The household ruin, century-old.        45
Here, in the dim colonial time
  Of sterner lives and gloomier faith,
  A woman lived, tradition saith,
Who wrought her neighbors foul annoy,
  And witched and plagued the country-side,        50
  Till at the hangman’s hand she died.
Sit with me while the westering day
  Falls slantwise down the quiet vale,
  And, haply ere yon loitering sail,
That rounds the upper headland, falls        55
  Below Deer Island’s pines, or sees
  Behind it Hawkswood’s belt of trees
Rise black against the sinking sun,
  My idyl of its days of old,
  The valley’s legend, shall be told.        60

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