From: The Bird and the Bell with Other Poems (1875)
Author: Christopher Pearse Cranch
Published: Osgood and Company 1875 Boston


WE read in classic legends old
Of one who, fair and overbold,
Distanced all runners, till outrun by gold.

Supple in limb, and fair in face,
She passed the swiftest in the race,
Till on one luckless day she lost her place.

There came to her a cunning fellow,
His pockets stuffed with apples mellow,
Pure gold they were, of Californian yellow.

Doffing his hat, “Fair dame,” said he,
“They say thou art the fastest she
That ever ran a rig. Wilt run with me?

“I know the law prescribed,” he said:
“If you should beat, I lose my head;
But if you are beaten, you and I must wed.”

Away his hat he swiftly twirls.
The fleetest of all swift-limbed girls
Tosses her head with all its sunny curls.

Then, One—two—three! Away they fly.
Together for a while they ply
Their agile feet. Then soon she passes by.

But will she win? A ball of gold
Hippomenes has deftly rolled
Along the course. She stoops. Her apron’s fold

Contains the prize. Another ball
Of dazzling value he lets fall,
And yet a third. She stops to gather all.

So Atalanta lost her race
And single blessedness, to chase
Three rolling lumps of metal, bright but base.

Now list, Columbia, to my moral.
Thou runnest well. Don’t stop to quarrel
About thy baser wealth. Prefer a laurel.

The fleetest in the race are lost,
If in their gold alone they boast.
Be wiser thou, and count the entire cost.

The nations feel thee great. All eyes
Watch thy swift motions with surprise,
And hail thee herald of unclouded skies.

Be great in soul, as great in power;
Be rich in minds, Heaven’s richest dower;
So of all nations thou shalt be the flower.

All Sub-Works of The Bird and the Bell with Other Poems (1875):
PDF Sub-Works open in a new tab. Close the tab when done viewing to return here.