Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
From the Power of Solitude
By Joseph Story (1772–1820)
  FAR from the world, its pleasures and its strife,
The good St. Aubin passed his tranquil life;
Deep in a glen the rural mansion rose,
And half an acre spann’d its modest close;
Just by the door a living streamlet roll’d,        5
Whose pebbly bottom gleam’d with sandy gold,
There first the woodlark hail’d propitious spring,
The humming insect dipp’d his glossy wing,
The branching elms in ancient grandeur spread,
Inweaved with myrtles near its babbling head.        10
Behind, vast mountains closed the wondrous view,
Hung o’er the horizon veil’d in hazy blue,
Save when the shutting eve mid vapors hoar
Roll’d its last gleams their woody summits o’er;
And, seen at distance, through some opening brake        15
Transparent brightness lit the neighboring lake.
—Scenes, where Salvator’s soul had joy’d to climb
Mid wilds abrupt, and images sublime,
Or caught with kindling glance the bold designs,
Where horror’s form on beauty’s lap reclines.        20
  Meek was St. Aubin’s soul, his gentle air,
Spoke to the searching glance the man of care;
Unlike the giant oak, which propp’d on high,
Looks o’er the storm, and dares its bolts defy,
But as the humbler reed, whose pliant train        25
Bend to the breeze, and rise to bloom again.
His ready smile relieved the welcome poor,
Who throng’d with daily joy his opening door;
Unskill’d by worldly arts the soul to scan,
His social nature loved the race of man;        30
Nor sought by godly rites religious praise,
More pleased to pay obeisance, than to raise;
Nor wish’d the book-taught lore, whose schemes confined
To one small spot the charities of mind.
Let the vain Levite pass the other side        35
In courtly pomp, in dull, official pride,
His proffer’d alms the wandering stranger found,
Wine for his heart, and ointment for his wound;
The cheer reply, the scholar’s modest jest,
In want a shelter, and a home for rest.        40
  One darling daughter claim’d the good man’s care,
Gay, as the lark, but scarce more gay than fair;
Light were the sportive locks, whose curls profuse
Hung o’er her neck in native wildness loose;
Blue were the speaking eyes, whose bended lash        45
Half hid and half betray’d a fluttering flash;
Health’s glowing rose, in shadow’d lustre sleek,
Diffused its virgin blush o’er either cheek;
Love in her form the bright perfection traced,
Yet dress’d the model, still to nature chaste;        50
No sober tricks, no mawkish whims confined
Her lively ease, her innocence of mind;
A parent’s taste, each pure refinement taught,
And fix’d the polish, when it form’d the thought,
To fancy’s lustre lent the touch of art,        55
And gave the judgment force to guide the heart.
  Up with the morn the hermit skimm’d the dew,
And through the echoing woods his shrill horn blew;
At noon well pleased beside some rippling stream
Wove blameless fiction’s legendary dream,        60
Or, lull’d to peace, with curious love pursued
The courteous muse through every changing mood,
Wept at her woes, of many a tear beguiled,
And felt her joys, and acted o’er the child.
But when the curfew toll’d the hour of rest,        65
And eve’s fine blush imbued the glowing west,
Beneath a shadowy bower, with myrtles crown’d,
His moral lectures constant audience found.
Charm’d to his knees his cheerful infant came
To lisp with trembling voice a father’s name,        70
Rehearsed her early task, and pleased awhile
With earnest sweetness drew his anxious smile.
There too in riper age the artless Jane
Pour’d in wild tones her melancholy strain,
Or touch’d the lute with many a pensive air,        75
Or breath’d her grateful soul in thanks and prayer;
Such holy rites the good man loved to keep,
Till praise and blessing brought the hour of sleep.
Well may remembrance love the favor’d day
My truant footsteps chance to pass that way,        80
When on his door-stone sat the sage and told,
How mind and sense their gradual powers unfold;
Then higher raised the moral pleasures traced,
Whose touch harmonious charms the nascent taste,
With love and rapture warms the poet’s page,        85
Or moulds to deeds divine a slothful age;
And thence, as holier purpose fired his soul,
Sung the First Cause, whose wisdom form’d the whole.
The while he spoke, methought his spirit shed
Some heavenly dew of mingled hope and dread;        90
Mysterious influence seem’d to haunt the shade,
And round his face transfiguring brightness play’d.
But all is past, and scarce the eye can trace
One ruin’d monument of former grace.
Short is the tale, nor power, nor harsh disdain,        95
With lordly triumph grasp’d his small domain,
Nor base seduction lured by syren charms
His rifled treasure from a father’s arms:
Heaven frown’d severe, its awful mandate sent,
And claim’d the darling hope its bounty lent.        100
Beside the couch, where Jane expiring lay,
The hermit knelt, and prayed, or seem’d to pray,
Dim were his eyes, with anxious vigils worn,
Yet spoke a soul with no harsh tumults torn;
E’en in the agonies of dumb despair,        105
Devotion’s smile was seen and cherish’d there:
And, as the lingering powers of life decayed,
Faith beam’d her radiance through the deepening shade,
With firm reliance drank the parting breath,
Kiss’d the pale lips, and closed the eyes in death.        110
Through brighter realms the unbodied cherub sought,
Realms pure in bliss beyond the soar of thought.
Slow through the narrow path, by misery worn,
Pass’d the veil’d corpse, in shrouded silence borne;
No vain parade, no courtly pageant spread        115
Their sickly honors round the virgin dead;
Strew’d o’er the bier some vernal flowers were seen,
And here and there a sweet briar fell between.
The father came in sorrow’s holiest gloom,
His raised eye fix’d on hopes beyond the tomb,        120
Still, as the tempest, hush’d in dread suspense,
Yet mild, as twilight greets the wakening sense;
No mutter’d groans, no stifled anguish shook
His meek repose, his calm, unalter’d look,
Save, when the ritual closed its sainted strain,        125
And o’er the coffin roll’d the earth again,
One lingering tear, that seem’d the man to speak,
With briny lustre trickled down his cheek,
One lingering tear was all his spirit gave,
Then bow’d a last farewell, and left the grave!        130
Yet had not memory lost her soothing art,
Nor fancy closed her empire in the heart:
When up the groves unclouded moonlight stream’d
At the lone hour, to goblins sacred deem’d,
When sober day, mid vapory glooms descried,        135
Shot its faint crimson round at eventide,
Oft would he rove some mountain’s brow along,
And pour in shatter’d tones his plaintive song;
Kiss the stray flowers, which dress’d the streamlet’s marge,
Or row athwart the lake his aged barge;        140
And when some spot, where Jane was wont to roam
Some favorite pastime call’d his spirit home,
If once a sigh his heaving bosom press’d,
His trust in heaven was all that sigh express’d.
Oft would he trim his wintry hearth, and court        145
Remember’d scenes of pleasantry and sport,
Mark, where the lute secured its dusty place,
The needled landscape on the wainscot trace,
The quaint remark, the evening task review,
And chase the fleeting shades, and dream anew.        150
Nor smile, ye proud, if thoughts, like these, engage
The friendless soul in melancholy age,
More sweet, than all the hymns of active joy,
One moment sacred to this chaste employ,
One pious hour, to moral musing given,        155
Its relish truth, its harmonies from heaven!
And, as the hapless wretch, by storms o’ercast,
Clings, shuddering clings him, to the fatal mast,
So hope and love, yet buoyant on the wave,
Shall snatch their relics from the ravenous grave,        160
And most, as life recedes, with fond alarms
Fold the dear types immortal in their arms.
Near where a cypress shades the lonely heath,
Long has St. Aubin slept the sleep of death;
O’er the rude hillock waves the rank grass high,        165
And moans the wild blast, as it hurtles by:
One simple stone, with village rhymes bedight,
Just tells the tale to every passing wight,
And bids his drooping soul aspire to raise
Such love in life, in death such honest praise.        170

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