Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > America
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX.  1876–79.
Middle States: Trappe, The, Pa.
The Old Church
Isaac R. Pennypacker (1852–1935)
IN the heat of a day in September
  We came to the old church door,
We bared our heads, I remember,
  On the step that the moss covered o’er.
There the vines climbed over and under,        5
And we trod with a reverent wonder
  Through the dust of the years on the floor.
From the dampness and darkness and stillness
  No resonant chantings outrolled,
And the air with its vaporous chillness        10
  Covered altar and column with mould.
For the pulpit had lost its old glory,
And its greatness become but a story,
  By the aged still lovingly told.
O’er the graves ’neath the long waving grasses        15
  In summer the winds lightly blow,
And the phantoms come forth from the masses
  Of deep tangled ivy that grow.
Through the aisles at midnight they wander,—
At noon of the loft they are fonder,—        20
  Unhindered they come and they go.
And it seemed that a breath of a spirit,
  Like a zephyr at cool of the day,
Passed o’er us and then we could hear it
  In the loft through the organ-pipes play.        25
All the aisles and the chancel seemed haunted,
And weird anthems by voices were chanted
  Where dismantled the organ’s pipes lay.
Came the warrior who robed as a Colonel
  Led his men to the fight from the prayer,        30
And the pastor who tells in his journal
  What he saw in the sunlight’s bright glare,
How a band of wild troopers danced under
While the organ was pealing its thunder
  In gay tunes on the sanctified air.        35
And Gottlieb, colonial musician,
  Once more had come over the seas,
And sweet to the slave and patrician
  Were the sounds of his low melodies;
Once again came the tears, the petition,        40
Soul-longings and heart-felt contrition
  At his mystical touch on the keys.
There joined in the prayers of the yeomen
  For the rulers and high in command,
The statesman who prayed that the foemen        45
  Might perish by sea and by land;
And flowers from herbariums Elysian
Long pressed, yet still sweet, in the vision
  Were strewn by a spiritual hand.
There were saints,—there were souls heavy-laden        50
  With the burden of sins unconfessed.
In the shadow there lingered a maiden
  With a babe to her bosom close pressed,
And the peace that exceeds understanding
Borne on odors of blossoms expanding        55
  Forever abode in her breast.
Then hushed were the prayers and the chorus
  As we gazed through the gloom o’er the pews,
And the phantoms had gone from before us
  By invisible dark avenues,        60
And slowly we passed through the portals
In awe from the haunts of immortals
  Who had vanished like summer’s light dews.
O church! that of old proudly flourished,
  Upon thee decay gently falls,        65
And the founders by whom thou wert nourished
  Lie low in the shade of thy walls;
No stone need those pioneer sages
To tell their good works to the ages:
  Thy ruin their greatness recalls.        70

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