This little collection of poems is a gathering of a few occasional compositions in verse, in which the writer, without effort at literary effect, gave expression to some heartfelt emotion or recorded some simple incident of his experience as a pastor. Speaking for themselves, in their Christian fervour and unaffected sympathy for young and old, they require but little in the way of note or explanation.
The lines "To an Aged Christian Lady," have something of an enduring biographical interest, the person to whom they were addressed being the venerable widow of Alexander Hamilton. In her residence at new York in her later years she had, we believe, become a parishioner of the Rev. Dr. Hawks, who was also brought into friendly relations with her as the editor of a portion of the "Hamilton Papers."
The narrative poems which follow were addressed by Dr. Hawks to the children of his Sunday School at St. Thomas' Church New York, at the New Year celebrations between the years 1836 and 1838; the series closing with a Christmas Carol dated 1841. These are printed from the original broadsides presented to the children. The verses which precede them are from a Collection of North Carolina Poetry of very limited circulation, entitled "Wood Notes," edited by Mary Bayard Clarke, and published during the lifetime of Dr. Hawks.
New York, March, 1873.
Thou gentle brook, by thy sweet side,
With lingering steps I love to stray,
And hear the ripple of thy tide
Make music on its joyous way.
Chafed by the pebbly bed below,
I see thee now in bubbles foam;
And now I mark thy wavelets flow,
In glassy smoothness gliding home.
Now thou art lost in yonder dell,
Whose matted foliage hides from sight,
In darkness there awhile to dwell,
Then laughing leap once more to light.
Now thy bright surface takes the beam,
To throw it back to yonder sun;
And now again thou hid'st thy stream,
And all unseen thy waters run.
Thus light and shade alternate play
Upon thy current flowing free;
And musing on thy changeful way,
A moral hast thou taught to me.
The brook is life. The pebbly bed,
The trials that keep pure the stream;
The bubbles, airy hopes that fled,
Like visions of a vanish'd dream.
The leafy darkness of the dell,
Is sorrow's cloud of faithless fears;
The sunny light,--the joys that swell,
When Heaven hath kissed away our tears.
But, gentle brook, the pebbly bed,
I see is not thy changeless lot,
Nor bubbling foam, nor darkness dread:
But many a sweet and sunny spot.
So trials sore, and hopes delayed,
And sorrow's cloud, are not the whole
That God on earth, for man, has made,
For there is sunlight for the soul.
Nor light, nor shade, we changeless see,
The stream runs dark, and now 'tis bright.
In light: then let me grateful be;
In darkness: patient, wait for light.
II. THE DEAD WIFE.
'Tis all too true! I saw thee die,
Upon this bosom bore thy head,
In love's last kiss caught thy last sigh;
And now I feel that thou art dead.
I linger yet around thy clay,
I utter here my bursting groan;
They have not borne thee yet away,
And left me with my grief alone.
Death sits on thee like gentle sleep,
The calm repose of breathing life;
But o'er that mockery I weep
For thee, my loved, my lost, my wife!
I weep o'er blighted hopes of youth,
Each fond endearment of the past,
Thy tenderness, thy trust, thy truth,
Thy love that lingered to the last.
For memory will that scene retain,
When bending o'er thy dying face
Thy feeble arm essay'd in vain
To fold me in a last embrace.
Yon sun is shining bright and high,
The summer winds are floating free,
All nature smiles; but I, but I:
Ah! nature wears no smile for me.
There's not a flower around me blows,
There's not a bird above me sings,
But sadness o'er my head it throws,
And bitter recollection brings.
The sunlit flower, the summer breeze,
And all this breathing world I see;
Oh, where is she who smil'd on these,
Then turned in love to smile on me?
Let my tired spirit answer where!
Let my crushed spirit trembling bow:
In Heaven, in Heaven! I'll find her there;
I know why I am smitten now.
And now I would not dare to break
The quiet of her tranquil rest;
Sleep on, till God shall bid thee wake,
Sleep on, my beautiful, my blest!
III. TO AN OLD AND VERY CHEERFUL CHRISTIAN LADY.
Lady! I may not think that thou
Hast travell'd o'er life's weary road,
And never felt thy spirit bow
Beneath affliction's heavy load.
I may not think those aged eyes
Have ne'er been wet with sorrow's tears;
Doubtless thy heart has told in sighs,
The tale of human hopes and fears.
And yet thy cheerful spirit breathes
The freshness of its golden prime,
Age decks thy brow with silver wreaths,
But thy young heart still laughs at Time.
Life's sympathies with thee are bright,
The current of thy love still flows,
And silvery clouds of living light,
Hang round thy sunset's golden close.
So have I seen in other lands,
Some ancient fane catch sweeter grace,
Of mellow'd richness from the hands
Of Time, which yet could not deface.
Ah, thou hast sought mid sorrow's tears,
Thy solace from the lips of truth;
And thus it is that four-score years
Crush not the cheerful heart of Youth.
So be it still! for bright and fair,
His love I read on thy life's page;
And Time! thy hand lay gently there,
Spoil not this beautiful old age.
IV. THE LITTLE SUNDAY SCHOOL GIRL.
Mother, dear Mother, pray make haste,
And wash my face, and come by hair;
'Twill soon be time for Sunday School,
And then you know I must be there.
I would not hear our dear church bell
Before I reach the school house gate;
It always make me feel so sad,
Dear mother when I go in late.
What makes my child (the mother said)
So glad the Sunday morn to see;
And hasten off with cheerful step,
Early at Sunday School to be?
Something I think there must be there
Which thus your little heart can move:
So tell me now before you go,
Have you aught there, my child, to love?
To love indeed! yes mother, yes;
For first we meet the Rector there,
And he and we kneel down and pray
Mother, I love to say that prayer.
And then the gospel for the day
He reads so loud that all is heard;
(For that the lesson always is)
Mother, I love that holy word.
And then our little voices all
In hymns to God their tribute bring:
So sweet the sound 'twould make you week,
Mother, I love that song to sing.
And then the collect for the day,
And catechism the time beguile;
And teacher says "you know them well:"
Mother, I love my teacher's smile.
The prayer book in the Rector's hand,
Next for its meaning we must look:
So phrase by phrase the collect's sad.
Mother, I love that old prayer book.
And then from holy writ we hear
Of God's dear love or righteous rod,
Shown by him to the Jews of old.
Mother, I love to hear of God.
But better still; again we hear
Of children taken to His breast,
Who died for them upon the cross:
Oh mother, I love Christ the best.
And after all, we go to church,
And see the people met for prayer;
And sitting on the chancel steps,
I love to think that God is there.
Go, go, my child; (that mother cried)
Thy guileless soul his spirit rules;
Then lifting up a tearful eye,
She thank'd her God for Sunday Schools.
V. THE LITTLE BOY WHO PRAYED.
I knew a widow very poor,
Who four small children had;
The eldest was but six years old,
A gentle, modest lad.
And very hard the widow toil'd
To feed her children four;
An honest pride the woman felt,
Though she was very poor.
To labour, she would leave her home,
For children must be fed:
And glad was she when she could buy
A shilling's worth of bred.
And this was all the children had
On any day to eat:
They drank their water, ate their bread
But never tasted meat.
One day when snow was falling fast,
And piercing in the air,
I thought that I would go and see
How those poor children were.
Ere long I reach'd their cheerless home,
'Twas searched by every breeze:
When, going in, the eldest child
I saw upon his knees.
I paud's to listen to the boy;
He never rais'd his head,
But still went on, and said: "give us
This day our daily bread."
I waited till the child was done,
Still listening as he prayed:
And when he rose I ask'd him, why
The LORD'S PRAYER he had said?
Why sir (said he) this morning soon,
When mother went away:
She wept, because, she said, she had
No bread for us to day.
She said we children now must starve,
Our father being dead:
And then I told her not to cry,
For I could get some bread.
"Our Father," sir the prayer begins;
That made me think that He,
As we have got no father here,
Would our kind father be.
And then, you know, the prayer sir, too,
Asks God for bread each day:
So in the corner, sir I went
And that's what made me pray.
I quickly left that wretched room,
And went with willing feet;
And very soon was back again
With food enough to eat.
"I thought God heard me," said the boy;
I answer'd with a nod,
I could not speak, but much I thought,
Of that child's faith in GOD.
VI. THE BLIND BOY. I.
It was a blessed summer day:
The flowers bloom'd, the air was mild,
The little birds pour'd forth their lay,
And ev'ry thing in nature smil'd.
In pleasant thought, I wander'd on
Beneath the deep wood's ample shade,
Till suddenly I came upon
Two children who had thither stray'd.
Just at an aged beech-tree's foot,
A little boy and girl reclin'd:
His hand in hers she kindly put,
And then I saw the boy was blind.
The children knew not I was near;
A tree conceal'd me from their view,
But all they said, I well could hear,
And I could see all they might do.
"Dear Mary," said the poor blind boy.
"That little bird sings very long:
Say, do you see him in his joy,
And is he pretty as his song?"
"Yes, Edward, yes;" replied the maid,
"I see the bird on yonder tree."
The poor boy sigh'd and gently said,
"Sister, I wish that I could see."
"The flowers you say, are very fair,
And bright green leaves are on the trees,
And pretty birds are singing there:
How beautiful, for one who sees!"
"Yet I, the fragrant flowers can smell,
And I can feel the green leaf's shade,
And I can hear the notes that swell
From these dear birds that God has made.
"So, Sister, God to me is kind.
Though sight, alas! He has not given:
But tell me: are there any blind,
Among the children up in Heaven?"
"No, dearest Edward; there all see:
But why ask me a thing so odd?"
"Oh Mary! He's so good to me,
I thought, I'd like to look at GOD.
Ere long, disease his hand had laid,
On that dear boy, so meek, so mild:
His widow'd mother wept and pray'd
That God would spare her sightless child.
He felt her warm tears on his face,
And said: "oh never weep for me:
I'm going to a bright, bright place,
Where, Mary says, I God shall see."
"And you'll come there: dear Mary too.
But mother! when you get up there,
Tell Edward, mother, that tis you,
You know I never saw you here."
He spake no more, but sweetly smil'd,
Until the final blow was given;
When God took up that poor blind child,
And open'd first his eyes in Heaven.
VII. THE COUNTRY CHURCH. CHRISTMAS MORNING.
Hark! hark how the old church bell
Throws its cheerful tones on the clear, cold air;
Sending its summons o'er hill, and thro' dell,
Calling young and old to the house of prayer.
Crisply the snow crackles under the feet,
Yonder old tower in wreaths is drest,
While the frozen diamonds, spread like a sheet,
Make a queenly mantle for Earth's old breast.
Hear the light laughter of children and men,
E'en the rooks wheel joyous around the old spire;
While the smoke from yon cottages down in the glen
Curls upward to tell of the warm Christmas fire.
Kindly the blessed sun shines on the scene,
Though frostily biteth the bracing air:
And look; from all quarters how many are seen,
All wending their way to the house of prayer.
And why to the house of prayer to-day?
Is it not better without, in the light
Of the glorious sun whose golden ray
Is making the beautiful picture so bright?
No, no; there's a brighter sun within
The frozen to warm, and the blind to bless;
A light for the penitent laden with sin,
And it comes from the Sun of Righteousness!
Shepherds of old, upon Palestine's plain,
Heard angel minstrelsy floating above;
"Glory to God," it was thus ran the strain;
"Comfort to man; our message is love."
To the house of prayer then: 'tis there to-day
The Church hath taught each on bended knee
Humbly to bow, and fervently say,
"Thanks be for Christ, Holy Father, to thee."
"Thanks be for Christ," let our children cry.
"Thanks be for Christ," from their parents fall;
"Thanks be for Christ," let the old reply.
"Thanks be for Christ," be the death word of all.