Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Winter In-Doors
By John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)
From ‘Snow-Bound

AT last the great logs, crumbling low,
Sent out a dull and duller glow;
The bull’s-eye watch that hung in view,
Ticking its weary circuit through,
Pointed with mutely warning sign        5
Its black hand to the hour of nine.
That sign the pleasant circle broke:
My uncle ceased his pipe to smoke,
Knocked from its bowl the refuse gray
And laid it tenderly away;        10
Then roused himself to safely cover
The dull red brands with ashes over.
And while, with care, our mother laid
The work aside, her steps she stayed
One moment, seeking to express        15
Her grateful sense of happiness
For food and shelter, warmth and health,
And love’s contentment more than wealth;
With simple wishes (not the weak
Vain prayers which no fulfillment seek,        20
But such as warm the generous heart,
O’er-prompt to do with Heaven its part)
That none might lack, that bitter night,
For bread and clothing, warmth and light.
Within our beds awhile we heard        25
The wind that round the gables roared,
With now and then a ruder shock,
Which made our very bedsteads rock.
We heard the loosened clapboards tost,
The board-nails snapping in the frost;        30
And on us, through the unplastered wall,
Felt the light sifted snow-flakes fall.
But sleep stole on, as sleep will do
When hearts are light and life is new;
Faint and more faint the murmurs grew,        35
Till in the summer-land of dreams
They softened to the sound of streams,
Low stir of leaves and dip of oars,
And lapsing waves on quiet shores.
Next morn we wakened with the shout        40
  Of merry voices high and clear;
  And saw the teamsters drawing near
To break the drifted highways out.
Down the long hillside treading slow
We saw the half-buried oxen go,        45
Shaking the snow from heads uptost,
Their straining nostrils white with frost.
Before our door the straggling train
Drew up, an added team to gain.
The elders threshed their hands a-cold,        50
  Passed with the cider mug their jokes
  From lip to lip; the younger folks
Down the loose snow-banks wrestling rolled:
Then toiled again the cavalcade
  O’er windy hill, through clogged ravine,        55
  And woodland paths that wound between
Low drooping pine-boughs winter-weighed
From every barn a team afoot,
At every house a new recruit,
Where, drawn by Nature’s subtlest law,        60
Haply the watchful young men saw
Sweet doorway pictures of the curls
And curious eyes of merry girls,
Lifting their hands in mock defense
Against the snow-ball’s compliments,        65
And reading in each missive tost
The charm with Eden never lost.
We heard once more the sleigh-bells sound;
  And following where the teamsters led,
The wise old doctor went his round,        70
Just pausing at our door to say—
In the brief autocratic way
Of one who, prompt at duty’s call,
Was free to urge her claim on all—
  That some poor neighbor sick abed        75
At night our mother’s aid would need.
For, one in generous thought and deed,
  What mattered in the sufferer’s sight
  The Quaker matron’s inward light,
The doctor’s mail of Calvin’s creed?        80
All hearts confess the saints elect
  Who, twain in faith, in love agree,
And melt not in an acid sect
  The Christian pearl of charity!
So days went on: a week had passed        85
Since the great world was heard from last.
The almanac we studied o’er,
Read and reread our little store
Of books and pamphlets, scarce a score:
One harmless novel, mostly hid        90
From younger eyes, a book forbid;
And poetry—or good or bad,
A single book was all we had,
Where Ellwood’s meek, drab-skirted Muse,
  A stranger to the heathen Nine,        95
  Sang, with a somewhat nasal whine,
The wars of David and the Jews.
At last the floundering carrier bore
The village paper to our door.
Lo! broadening outward as we read,        100
To warmer zones the horizon spread;
In panoramic length unrolled
We saw the marvels that it told.
Before us passed the painted Creeks,
  And daft McGregor on his raids        105
  In Costa Rica’s everglades.
    And up Taygetos winding slow
Rode Ypsilanti’s Mainote Greeks,
    A Turk’s head at each saddle-bow!
Welcome to us its week-old news,        110
Its corner for the rustic Muse,
  Its monthly gauge of snow and rain,
Its record, mingling in a breath
The wedding-bell and dirge of death;
Jest, anecdote, and lovelorn tale,        115
The latest culprit sent to jail;
Its hue and cry of stolen and lost,
Its vendue sales and goods at cost,
  And traffic calling loud for gain.
We felt the stir of hall and street,        120
The pulse of life that round us beat;
The chill embargo of the snow
Was melted in the genial glow;
Wide swung again our ice-locked door,
And all the world was ours once more!        125

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