Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
Appendix I. Early and Uncollected Verses
The Vale of the Merrimac
THERE are streams which are famous in history’s story,
  Whose names are familiar to pen and to tongue,
Renowned in the records of love and of glory,
  Where knighthood has ridden and minstrels have sung:—
Fair streams thro’ more populous regions are gliding,        5
  Tower, temple, and palace their borders adorning,
With tall-masted ships on their broad bosoms riding,
  Their banners stretch’d out in the breezes of morning;
And their vales may be lovely and pleasant—but never
  Was skiff ever wafted, or wav’d a white sail        10
O’er a lovelier wave than my dear native river,
  Or brighter tides roll’d than in Merrimac’s vale!
And fair streams may glide where the climate is milder,
  Where winter ne’er gathers and spring ever blooms,
And others may roll where the region is wilder,        15
  Their dark waters hid in some forest’s deep gloom,
Where the thunder-scath’d peaks of Helvetia are frowning,
  And the Rhine’s rapid waters encircle their bases,
Where the snows of long years are the hoary Alps crowning,
  And the tempest-charg’d vapor their tall tops embraces:—        20
There sure might be fix’d, amid scenery so frightful,
  The region of romance and wild fairy-tale,—
But such scenes could not be to my heart so delightful
  As the home of my fathers,—fair Merrimac’s vale!
There are streams where the bounty of Providence musters        25
  The fairest of fruits by their warm sunny sides,
The vine bending low with the grape’s heavy clusters,
  And the orange-tree waving its fruit o’er their tides:—
But I envy not him whose lot has been cast there,
  For oppression is there—and the hand of the spoiler,        30
Regardless of justice or mercy, has past there,
  And made him a wretched and indigent toiler.
No—dearer to me are the scenes of my childhood,
  The moss-cover’d bank and the breeze-wafted sail,
The age-stinted oak and the green groves of wild-wood        35
  That wave round the borders of Merrimac’s vale!
Oh, lovely the scene, when the gray misty vapor
  Of morning is lifted from Merrimac’s shore;
When the fire-fly, lighting his wild gleaming taper,
  Thy dimly seen lowlands comes glimmering o’er;        40
When on thy calm surface the moonbeam falls brightly,
  And the dull bird of night is his covert forsaking,
When the whippoorwill’s notes from thy margin sound lightly,
  And break on the sound which thy small waves are making,
O brightest of visions! my heart shall forever,        45
  Till memory shall perish and reason shall fail,
Still preference give to my own native river,
  The home of my fathers, and Merrimac’s vale!


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