From: A Poem Delivered in The First Congregational Church in the Town of Quincy, May 25, 1840, The Two Hundredth Anniversary of the Incorporation of the Town.
Author: Christopher Pearse Cranch
Published: James Munroe and Company Boston



THE spell of Beauty is upon the hills,
The fields, the forest, and the leaping rills,
For Spring hath breathed upon us, and the hours
Move to the dial of the budding flowers.
Joy to ye, hills and fountains! once again
Ye have flung off the tyrant winter’s chain:
Joy to ye, leaves and blossoms—ye are springing
Fast to the melodies around you ringing:
Joy, joy to all for whom the sunshine brings
New life, new thought, midst tame and common things.

How shall I paint thee, gentle May! how dare
To speak in feeble verse thy glories rare?
The soul that truly would commune with thee,
Like thee forever born again must be.
Yet if we may not praise with lips profane
Thy new created beauty, yet O deign
To lift our spirits and to purify,
That we may feel thy influences nigh.
Hail then, most genial season—blessed May!
Joy be with all who feel thy smile this day:
Hail to yon cedar hills, to crag and tree!
Hail to yon meadows, and yon sparkling sea!
Who needs that borrowed dress, historic truth,
To gild with more romance your May-born youth?
Who, with these skies so blue and fields so green,
Would disenchant the life of all the scene,
And with quaint memories of things that were
Add a remoter charm to what is now so fair?*

Yet we cannot forget, the while we gaze
On what this morn hath gilded with its rays,
Though ‘all is new, and even the verdant soil
Seems made to day, not crowned with ancient toil,
That four times fifty years have passed away,
Since, in the sunlight of another May,
The hardy settler gave this spot a name
Culled from the English home from which he came.
We scarce can feel the years that time hath told,
While leaves and flowers their breathing life unfold.
Yet so it is, with all we see and know:
The shadow of the Past, where’er we go,
Spreads over all its strange and dreamy hue:
Nought but the Soul, which feels it all, is new.

TIME calls to us to-day. He bids us look
O’er the dim leaves of that recorded book
Which mortals call the Past. The days of old
Come thronging on us fast, as we unfold
The mystic pages—while unseen flit o’er us
Those venerable forms who went before us.
Perchance e’en now their consecrated shades
Are gazing through the silence that pervades
This festive hour: they come with smiles serene,
Beaming like holy moonlight o’er the scene:—
They come, with high and peaceful brows all bright,
And crowned with wreaths of amaranthine light:
They have no sorrows now: they’ve won at last
A home whose peace no shadow can o’ercast,
Where far beyond the cold wave, and the tomb,
They dwell in bowers of eternal bloom.

We tread on hallowed soil. Where now we stand,
Two hundred years ago, a feeble band
Safe from the tyrant’s chains, the ocean’s foam,
Came to these shores to find another home:
A home—not such as that they left behind—
A home—not such as we their children find.
Like the old patriarch of the Orient
They roamed, unknowing whither ‘t was they went.
No smiling fields with walls and elm trees lined,
No harvests waving in the summer wind,
No smiling cottages—no tall white spires
Sprang to the gaze of those old Pilgrim sires.
Wild and unbroken in their long repose
Forests and rocks in endless prospect rose:
All grim and silent slept each granite hill,
Where now the clanking chisel and the drill
Loosen and shape to symmetry the block,
Hewn from the heart of the deep-bedded rock.
Around them dashed the waves;—the moaning breeze
Swept the untrodden depths of the forest trees;
Then rang the woodman’s axe with steady stroke,
Till crashing fell the tall centennial oak:
Or leaping out with yell and arrow-twang,
The ambushed savage sudden on them sprang,
Till frightened by the startling musket’s crack,
He vanished to his wildernesses back:—
Few sounds, few sights but these,—where now the bell
Rings out its Sabbath chime o’er hill and dell,
And Art hath nestled upon Nature’s breast,
Like the young infant in its evening rest.

Hard was their lot. What boots it now to tell
The stern and various trials which befell?
They trod no flowery walks to wealth and fame,
They toiled, endured, and died—with scarce a name.
Famine and cold and sickness and distress,
A ruthless foe, peril and nakedness;—
Such was their life—and o’er their frozen graves
Swept the wild winter snow, or beat the surging waves!

A stalwart band they were—those settlers grave:—
‘T was not for power and wealth they crossed the wave;
‘Twas not to hide like wood-flowers in the shade,
That they amid these forests toiled and prayed.
They were stanch hands that tilled that rocky sod,
Bold, iron hearts that feared no power but God;
A band of daring, much-enduring men,
Awed by no warrior’s sword, or statesman’s pen;
Bold and resistless as the billows’ dash,
But firm and patient as the shore they lash.

No mines of gold, no power, no office fat,
No boyish sighings for a general’s hat,
No vision of wild lands and mushroom wealth,
No whims dyspeptic about air and health,
No Eldorado shining o’er the seas
Tempted their barks to steer for shores like these.
It seems reserved for our enlightened days,
To see the folly of our fathers’ ways;
Those tedious modes of settling we’ve outran,
We modern pilgrims know a simpler plan.
We emigrate to wildernesses dreary,
For what? Because of staying still we’re weary;

Or sojourn in some land of milk and honey,
With this one noble purpose—to make money.
We go to speculate—not till the sod;
We go to worship Mammon and not God.
Some of us migrate, lest the law should vex us,
And go by night— to Iowa or Texas;
While some, with silent scorn for jails and halters,
March proudly off, before they’re found defaulters.
I’ve seen all sorts of pilgrims in the west,
The oddest, wildest, laziest, and the best;
From those who go to raise the wind, or work,
To those who roam with Bowie knife and dirk;
Thus none can prophesy the coming weather—
For wheat and tares seem growing there together.

Not so those Pilgrims of the olden time;
No lust of sudden wealth—no haunting crime
Pursued them from their home; they came to seek
A safe asylum, where to think and speak
The deep convictions of their minds was deemed
No sin— and where a purer spirit streamed
Brightening the souls of men, than they had found
In the corrupted courts on English ground.

Dishonored be the attempt, in later days,
To rob the Pilgrim of that well-earned praise,
He bought from those before us, and to trace
The genius that inspired him to a base
And grasping thirst for power. O tell it not,
When speaking of the sternness of their lot
In future times, that our forefathers sought
These cold, inhospitable coasts for aught
But Truth and Freedom! What if they abused
At times this sacred treasure, nor refused
To look on difference of faith as crime?
‘T was but the general error of the time;
Few saw above it— few had reached the creed,
That all good men are Christ’s, in truth and deed.
‘Twas no ambitious spirit that inspired
Those ocean-drifted exiles;—they desired
No other ends than to possess in peace
A quiet home, just laws, and a release
From the oppressions of their mother-clime.
They knew no meaner hope. A faith sublime
In the deep might of Truth— a patient trust
In God, though he should bow them to the dust,
And above all, the thought that they were free,—
Such was the spirit strong which winged them o’er the sea.

And meet it is that we their sons should bring
Unto our thoughts to day that budding spring,
When the first woodman’s axe resounded wide
Upon yon hill down by the water’s side.—§
Wild was the scene— unknown the lonely spot,
Where first they reared the rude and humble cot.
Behind them sparkling in the morning, lay,
Blue as the sky, yon calmly heaving bay,
On whose broad breast yon capes and isles were seen,
Just tinted with the hue of earliest green.
No freighted ships with swift and snowy wings
Drifted across that solitude of things.
Only at times across the water blue
Darted the Indian in his bark canoe,
Or on the pebbled beach with stealthy tread
Glared on the white man as his labor sped.
Before them rose the forest wild—the pines,
The oaks, the cedars hung with trailing vines.
They crushed with heedless step the pale wood-flowers,
With toil and fast they marked the lonely hours,
They watched the savage foe—they felled their trees,
And sang their rude chant in the evening breeze;
Then kindled they their watchfires, while the howl
Of the wild wolf, the shrieking of the owl
Rang on their broken slumbers, till the day
Called them again to labor and to pray.
Methinks I hear them in the shadows dim
Singing amid the woods their twilight hymn;—
The words seem borne away from that old time,
And weave themselves amid my humble rhyme.


* — — “a love
That had no need of a remoter charm
By thought supplied, or any interest
Unborrowed from the eye.”
                                             WORDSWORTH’S Tintern Abbey.

† Braintree was the original name of the settlement. The township was afterwards divided into Braintree, Randolph, and Quincy.
‡ The New York Review (of Jan. 1840, I think,) contains an article on the Politics of the Pilgrims, the leading idea in which is, that the sole end of the Puritan emigration and settlement in this country was to gain political power, and not to enjoy religious liberty.
§ Mount Wollaston, where the first settlement was made in the year 1625.

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