Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
The Tent on the Beach
The Worship of Nature
THE HARP at Nature’s advent strung
  Has never ceased to play;
The song the stars of morning sung
  Has never died away.
And prayer is made, and praise is given,        5
  By all things near and far;
The ocean looketh up to heaven,
  And mirrors every star.
Its waves are kneeling on the strand,
  As kneels the human knee,        10
Their white locks bowing to the sand,
  The priesthood of the sea!
They pour their glittering treasures forth,
  Their gifts of pearl they bring,
And all the listening hills of earth        15
  Take up the song they sing.
The green earth sends her incense up
  From many a mountain shrine;
From folded leaf and dewy cup
  She pours her sacred wine.        20
The mists above the morning rills
  Rise white as wings of prayer;
The altar-curtains of the hills
  Are sunset’s purple air.
The winds with hymns of praise are loud,        25
  Or low with sobs of pain,—
The thunder-organ of the cloud,
  The dropping tears of rain.
With drooping head and branches crossed
  The twilight forest grieves,        30
Or speaks with tongues of Pentecost
  From all its sunlit leaves.
The blue sky is the temple’s arch,
  Its transept earth and air,
The music of its starry march        35
  The chorus of a prayer.
So Nature keeps the reverent frame
  With which her years began,
And all her signs and voices shame
  The prayerless heart of man.
*        *        *        *        *
  The singer ceased. The moon’s white rays
    Fell on the rapt, still face of her.
  “Allah il Allah! He hath praise
    From all things,” said the Traveller.
  “Oft from the desert’s silent nights,        45
And mountain hymns of sunset lights,
My heart has felt rebuke, as in his tent
The Moslem’s prayer has shamed my Christian knee unbent.”
  He paused, and lo! far, faint, and slow
    The bells in Newbury’s steeples tolled        50
  The twelve dead hours; the lamp burned low;
    The singer sought her canvas fold.
  One sadly said, “At break of day
  We strike our tent and go our way.”
But one made answer cheerily, “Never fear,        55
We ’ll pitch this tent of ours in type another year.”

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