01 August 2013

The Closing Scene - A Poem from 1852

By T. Buchanan Read.
Within the sober realm of leafless trees
The russet year inhaled the dreamy air;
Like some tainted reaper in his hour or case,
When all the field are lying brown and bare.
The gray barns, looking from their hazy hills
O'er the dim wates, widening in the vales,
Sent down the air a greeting to the mills,
On the dull thunder of alternate flails.
All sights were mellowed, and all sounds subdued,
The hills seemed farther, and the streams sang low;
As in a dream, the distant woodman hewed
His winter log with many a muffled blow.
The embattled forests, erewhile, armed in gold,
Their banners bright with every martial hue,
Now stood, like some sad beaten host of old,
Withdrawn afar in Time's remotest blue.
On slumberous wings the vulture tried his flight;
The dove scarce heard his sighing mate's complaint;
And like a star, slow drowning in the light,
The village church vane seemed to pale and faint.
The sentinel cock upon the hillside crew —
Crew thrice, and all was stiller than before —
Silent till some replying warder blew
His alien born, and then was heard no more.
Where, erst, the jay within the elm's tall crest
Made garrulous trouble routed her unfledged young;
And where the oriole hung her swaying nest,
By every light wind censer swung.
Where sang the noisy masons of the eaves,
The busy swallows circling ever near,
Foreboding, as the rustic mind believes,
An early harvest, and a plenteous year;—
Where every bird which charmed the vernal feast
Shook the sweet slumber from its wings at morn,
To warn the reapers of the rosy east,—
All now was songless, empty and forlorn.
Alone, from out the stubble, piped the quail,
And croaked he crow, through all he dreamy gloom;
Alone the pheasant, drumming in the vale,
Made echo to the distant cottage loom.
There was no bud, no bloom upon the bowers,
The spiders wove their thin shrouds night by night;
The thistle-down, the only ghost of flowers,
Sailed slowly by — passed noiseless out of sight.
Amid all this — in this most cheerless air,
And where the woodbine shed upon the porch
Its crimson leaves, as if the year stood there,
Firing the floor with his inverted torch; —
Amid all this, the centre of the scene,
The white haired matron, with monotonous tread,
Plied the swift wheel, and with her joyous mien,
Sat like a Fate, and watched the flying thread.
She had known sorrow. he had walked with her,
Oft supped, and broke with her the ashen crust;
And, in the dead leaves, still she heard the stir
Of his black mantle trailing in the dust.
While her cheek was bright with summer bloom
Her country summoned, and she gave her all,
And twice, warbowed to her his sable plume —
Re-gave the swords, to rust upon the wall.
Re-gave the swords — but not the hand that drew.
And struck for liberty the dying blow;
Nor him, who to his sire and country true,
Fell amid the ranks of the invading foe.
Long, but not loud, the droning wheel went on,
Like the low murmurs of a hive at noon;
Long, but not loud, the memory of the game,
Breathed through her lips, a sad and tremulous tone.
At last the thread was snapped — her head was bowed —
Life dropped the distaff through his hands serene,
And loving neighbors smoothed her careful surround,
While Death and Winter closed the autumn scene.
October 7, 1852. Bardstown Herald 2(38): 4. Issued at Nelson County, Kentucky.