Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
The Autumnal Flower
By John Shaw (1778–1809)
Written at Malta.

AH why, when all the scene around
  Has told approaching Winter nigh,
When dark November’s gloom has frown’d
  And sadden’d all the sickly sky;
Ah why, soft flow’ret, dost thou dare        5
  Upon this bleak ascent to bloom?
Thou com’st amid the dying year
  To waste, untimely, thy perfume.
Thou shouldst have hail’d the vernal tide,
  When first the green bud clothed the plain,        10
Or sought the breezy valley’s side
  When Summer held his golden reign.
Then many a morning’s sunny sheen
  Had waked thee with soft magic spells,
And many a dewy eve had seen        15
  Thee close, unhurt, thy tender bells.
Soft fostering gales had made their care
  To chase each nipping frost away,
And murmuring wild bees linger’d near
  Thy odors, all the joyful day.        20
But Summer’s golden reign is o’er,
  And genial Spring, long since, has flown;
The wild bees murmur here no more,
  And every tepid gale is gone.
Already, o’er the sea-girt hill,        25
  The blasts that lead the tempest blow;
And lo! the frighten’d billows swell,
  And whiten all the shore below.
Soft flower, thy fate the wanderer mourns,
  Who o’er these rocky summits strays,        30
While eve with chilling damps returns
  And dims the sun’s departing rays.
Poor flower! before those rays once more
  Shall kindle up the tardy day,
Thy life, thy fragrance shall be o’er,        35
  Thy simple beauties die away.
No sunny morn shall call thee forth,
  Nor evening smile on thy repose;
For dark and cold the coming North
  Bids all thy shrinking flow’rets close.
*      *      *      *      *
In vain the radiant step of Spring
  Awakes the year e’er Autumn close;
No vernal joys now spread the wing:—
  No—give me to my native snows!
To these I go.—Farewell, sweet flower!        45
  Thou rocky, sea-girt isle, farewell!
Where hostile strangers strive for power,
  And fear and superstition dwell.
Yon vessel in the bay below
  Tomorrow bears me o’er the foam;        50
And some returning morn shall show
  A land of freedom and a home.
He said, and from the lonely height
  He turn’d, and downward bent his way;
And sought, while darker grew the night,        55
  The ship at anchor in the bay.
But many a sun shall seek the sea,
  And many a long, long night be o’er,
Ere morn, returning, smile to see
  The wanderer on his native shore.        60

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