Project Canterbury


By Walter Mitchell.

Stamford, Connecticut: "Stamford Advocate" Printing, 1860.


The following Poems were written at different times, and for different occasions. Some have been already printed; others see the light now for the first time. The object for which they are now printed is, to aid the Fair for the purpose of furnishing St. Andrew’s Free Mission Chapel, in the town of Stamford; and the excellence of the cause must be the excuse for all defects in metre, rhythm, or sentiment, which critical eyes may find in the verses.

Stamford, July 19th, 1860.




On the Duomo tower of Milan I stood at early morn,
As the mists before the mountains like a curtain were withdrawn.
Like an army ranged in leaguer, who their snowy tents uprear,
Far to northward, o’er the plain land, I saw the Alps appear.
Many a giant-like pavilion, from whose lofty peak unroll’d,
Cloudy banners on the dawning flushed to oriflammes of gold.

High in front was Monte Rosa—towering on the western flank,
Like a king amid his comrades, shone the hoar head of Mount Blanc.
[4] The Jungfrau, Monch, and Eiger, with the Schreckhorn close the rear,
With the peak of the Black Eagle, sharp and shining as a spear;
And between the massy shadows, far extended mile on mile,
The gorges of the Simplon clove their terrible defile.

Then I thought of all the pagents which had pass’d across that stage,
Since th’Etruscan first beheld them in his dim Pelasgic age;
Saw the Roman northward marching, as his Empire rose and spread,
Willing all the land from Tier to the Adriatic’s head—
Saw the Carthaginian phalanx o’er the snow of St. Bernard
Winding down to Thrasymene, to the battle long and hard.

Then o’er the ancient pavement rang the measured martial tread,
Of the famous Julian Legions, Labienus at their head;
With the captive Gauls before them, as before the wave its foam,
So moved the eldest Cæsar on the Rubicon and Rome.

Then, as sweeps across the landscape a cloud between the sun,
Like the avalanche descending, roll’d the Visigoth and Hun.
[5] Then the Lombard in his turn, with the sword for sceptre, sways,
For the crown he bears is iron, which the pliant gold obeys;
Till anew the swords of strangers reap the harvests of the plain,
And the people are united ‘neath the yoke of Charlemagne.

Then the goodly city prosper’d; while from church and cloister dim
Came the music sweet and solemn of the old Ambrosian hymn;
Then to many a field of glory went the warrior craftsmen forth,
And the gonfalon of Milan met the eagles of the North.

Yet the fates of battle waver’d, and then close on every side,
The leaguer lines of Frederic hem the city far and wide;
And the sheath was flung away, as the blade in hate was bared,
And the Barbarossa trampled all that Attila had spared;
Saw the city smoke with ruin, till amid the waste alone
Stood the ancient Church of Ambrose—other relic stands there none.

Then once more it grew to beauty, from the ashes of its fall,
And the din of busy hammers rings within the city wall;
[6] Forging steel of proof—the strongest where’er battle’s press is hurl’d,
Till the sculptur’d mail of Milan clad the knighthood of the world.
The while within the convent Leonardo calmly paints,
For a name in all the ages—the Last Supper of the Saints.

Yet, once more the noise of battle!—Lo! upon the mountains high
The blaze of nightly watch-fires reddens all the northern sky:
Till spent with desperate spurring rides a trooper of the guard,
Who the tri-color has seen on the Hospice of Bernard.

And ere grew cold the tidings, once again the drums are beat,
Pale faces line the rampart, paler faces throng the street;
For a fearful whisper circles that the fortunes of the day
Have been turned upon Marengo by the life-blood of Dessaix.

[7] And the mountains are before me, whose unchanging snowy pall,
Unlifted and eternal, saw each empire rise and fall;
And that snowy sheet shall waver, and those silent hills shall quake,
Ere the spells of time be loosened, or ere Italy awake.


Nay, a brighter day comes stealing o’er those peaks of purest snow,
And the flash of hope will redden in the murky mists below;
And a firmer faith shall throb in the hopeless hearts that swell,
‘Neath the heel of Austria’s legions, ‘gainst the Papal gates of hell.
Still once more shall roll the war-drums, and once more the flag float free,
Blazoned green and red and argent with the people’s colors three;
And the Italy of old rise to trample on the rod,
Chanting loud her pealing anthem for Freedom and for God.


Once more upon the Duomo in thought I seem to stand,
Looking o’er the stirring city, looking o’er the lovely land;

[8] Far away among the vineyards, peering through them here and there,
White-walled campaniles quiver in the heated summer air.

Red-tile roofed campaniles, with the green boughs at their base,
Flaunt their free Italian colors in the tyrant Fermans’ face.

There’s a swell of martial music, there’s a hum of chanting choirs,
And the bells are wildly clashing in the city’s rocking spires

In the streets beneath the troopers ride, with stateley step and slow;
From the many-windowed houses, gaze the people on the show.

Flowers are raining from the house-tops, flags are drooping o’er the way,
And old Milan’s heart is beating as ne’er yet until to-day.

For there rides among the foremost one Italians know full well,
“Viva Re il Galantuomo, nostre Re Emanuel!”

And beside, the Liberator; the Napoleon, mon brave!
Leading on his files of heroes, Chasseur, Turco, and Zouave.

[9] They the men of red Magenta, Solferino’s victors they,
Who have swept the hated Austrians from our fire-sides far away.

We were trampled, we were beaten, none had dared to speak a word,
But the silent prayer of anguish hath the God of battles heard.

France was generous, France was ready, as the strong should aid the weak,
Now a smile lights every eye and a tear wets every cheek.

And our loudest cheers are given, and we heap our fairest flowers
On the path of brave Napoleon and that Hero-King of ours.

Trail the double-headed eagle in the hoof-imprinted mire,
Wave the red cross of Sardinia from the Duomo’s marble spire,

And from Genoa to Venice, shout the news from sea to sea,
That Napoleon has come, and that Italy is free.


Ten thousand gather’d in the mighty space
Before St. Peter’s front of Travertine!
The fountains flung their diamonds to the sun,
Which rayed hot sparkles from the myriad points
Of France’s tried and trusty bayonets.
Rank upon rank they stood, and all around,
As sheep that watch the watchful dogs that guard,
Rome’s citizens, Alban’s peasants throng’d.
The Contadina show’d her best attire,
Dark bodice, scarlet skirt, and snowy cap,
Folded Madonna-wise above the braids
Of jetty locks the silver arrow pierced.
Natives of many lands, the outward ring,
We gazed upon the central balcony—
Before us was St. Peter’s.
                                    On the right
The mighty masses of the Vatican,
[11] Whose galleries hold the quintessence of art.
The gods of Greece; the martyr’s rude-wrought slab,
Bearing the palm, the cross, the cup, the lamb;
The tapestries, with Raphael’s soul inworked;
Egyptian monarchs, lean-limb’d, quaint, and vast;
The one Apollo and the Laocoon.
            To let, upon the hill-side, one might see
A ruin’d villa’s crumbled walls and roof,
Plough’d by the shot and shell of Oudinot.
Tall in the centre towered the obelisk
Writ with strange sculpture.
                        Over all the cross!
The Old, the New—the kingdoms of the Nile,
The evil myths of idol worshippers,
All bowed beneath the scepter of the Christ.
            Tomb of St. Peter, Galilean serf,
And fisher of Lake Gennesareth,
Was that huge pile, upon whose front the keys
And triple crown were carved, to be the signs
And trophies of the Christian victory.

We gazed upon the central balcony,
While over us, one sapphire, spread the sky,
Marking high-noon in Rome.
                                    There peal’d a burst
Of music, brazen-tongued and jubilant,
And then came forth the peacock fans of white,
The lofty throne upheld by acolytes,
Whereon stood the Ninth Pius.
[12]                             Then a hush
Fell on the vast assembly, as a cloud
Stays on an Alpine peak its whirling course,
And like a tongue of lighting flash’d a sword,
Quick follow’d by a crash of grounded arms,
And all the serried ranks fell breathlessly
Upon their knees, ten thousand bowed as one.
Then all again was still, as with wide hands
Uplifted, blessing us the old man stood.
No voice but his. In the most Highest’s name
He bless’d the people.
We, too, bared our heads,
Although we owned no monstrous chain of his,
Yet loth to miss an old man’s blessing—his
Who, by a spotless life and better will
Than power, would gladly bless. Rome’s Bishop he,
Though not the world’s—and on the Roman soil
We, too, might take his blessing.
When he ceased
The cannon thunder’d from St. Angelo,
And every bell within the city woke.


I came before St. Peter’s just at eve.
The colonnade was throng’d, the fountains’ rims,
Beset with watchers. By the obelisk,
Whose sculptured granite holds mysterious lore
Long vanish’d from men’s knowledge, were the guard,
The Third Napoleon’s legions.
                                                Far away,
E’en to St. Angelo, and on the bridge
The streets swarmed gazers. Up the Pincian Mount
Stood eager watchers, and no roof or tower
But had its crown of curious climbers on.
The sun went down, and fiery shadows filled
The deep, ineffable Italian sky,
Then darken’d into twilight, while there crept
Adown the vast façade one thread of light,
And then another, till from eaves to base,
[14] Each column, architrave, and balcony,
Was pencilled into silver shapeliness.
            Up to the topmost cross the lights ascend,
Like pilgrim tapers toiling up a mount,
The domes were ribb’d with star-streams, and the front
One vast inscription traversed, writ in fire.
When quite the dark had gather’d there it stood,
A huge cathedral built of threaded stars.
Eight strokes were echo’d from St. Angelo,
And to the cross aloft there soar’d a star
That seemed to break, like meteors, in flame.
Up to the cross it soar’d, that dizzy height
The brain would totter scaling e’en in thought—
Treading the track its desperate bearer climbed—
For he who bore the brand, a guilty life,
To the law forfeit, by that deed redeemed.
The Pontiff’s self had bless’d him ere he went,
And set the absolving seal upon his brow:
So great the peril.
                                    Everywhere there blazed
A storm of torches, up and down the roof,
Huge crescets flare, and on each “jutty, frieze,
And coign of vantage” hung new orbs of fire.
The central dome no longer kept its shape,
But to the eye display’d a burning crown
The triple tiar which the pontiffs wear,
Who sit in Peter’s chair, and claim the keys,
And power to loose and bind in earth and heaven.

[15]     The silver lights were there, but seen no more
So vast the new illumination burst,
And night was day where that red radiance fell.
            The shepherd on Albano, far away,
Or herdsman by the ruin’d aqueduct,
Driving his goats belated through the dusk
Upon the waste Campagna; on the sea
The boatman from Sardinia, bearing up
For Citta Vecchia, caught the wondrous gleam,
And cross’d themselves, and mutter’d Aves fast,
Knowing its meaning.
                                    Such was Easter night.



Red gleams on Monreale’s height,
Arm’d men in cloister cells,
Palermo through the live-long night
Rings out her hundred bells.
Hope gathers in her winding streets,
For life or death betides
In what the whispered word repeats,
That Garibaldi rides.

There’s fear within the citadel,
And doubt upon the bay;
And sharply peers the sentinel
Across the rampart gray.
The Bourbon bands of hireling hordes
Scour all the mountain sides,
Yet cowering shrink from crossing swords
Where Garibaldi rides.

[17] Why in the city of the South
Such gladness and dismay?
Such watching o’er the harbor’s mouth
The flushing of the day?
Why but to hear his bugle blow,
Who never foe abides:
For tyrant now, and victim know
That Garibaldi rides.

A thousand men ‘gainst thousands ten
Are foremost in the race.
The hunters of the Alps through glen
And pass urge on the chase.
Yet not at chamois fleet they aim
The rifles by their sides—
There’ sterner sport and nobler game
Where Garibaldi rides.

And hark the cry! “They come! they come!”
And hark, the Tuscan cheer!
Lips at the lash so lately dumb
Are shouting in the rear.
Though blinding smoke and grape-shot hail
Pour on the conquering tides’
Bold hearts must win, and right prevail,
Where Garibaldi rides.


Red spur and loose snaffle,
Black Cardigan rides
Roan Rupert, his charge—
White foam flecks his sides.

Behind, the Six Hundred
Come galloping fast;
The peal of the bugle
Swells out on the blast.

Before, the red lightnings
Flash ceaselessly forth
From thy death-dealing cannon—
O Czar of the North!

Yet faster and faster,
With sabers swing high,
Sweep on the Six Hundred,
To conquer and die.

[19] One crash, as the headmost
The battery gain;
One cheer, from the rearmost
Wheeled swiftly again.

A long line of corpses
Lies heaped on their track,
The many went fearless—
Few sadly came back.


The South Sea whalemen used to have certain uninhabited islands, where letters were deposited by outward-bound ships for those already in those seas. The place of deposit was a well-known rock, or other conspicuous landmark on the beach. Of course letters may remain there for years.

The cocoa palms rise silently
From out the tangled underwood,
Where just a strip of silver sand
Divides it from the mirror’d flood.

Far off against the coral wall
The great waves thund’ring plunge and roar;
No ripple from the still lagoon
Mimics their murmur on this shore.

Without, unrest and tireless strife;
Within, there broods perpetual calm;
No step unquiet of human life
Disturbs the waste of vine and palm.

[21] Half-hidding by the clust’ring leaves
A rock, storm-fretted into rude
Half-semblance of a couchant beast,
Juts from the verdant solitude.

Within its crevice glimmering white,
Or yellow with the stains of age,
Fall many a seal’d and folded sheet:
Last year’s was this, last weeks’ that page.

There come and go the gliding barks,
A moment pause with balanced sails;
Leave here their treasures to their fate,
Then onward follow far the gales.

There come and go the gliding barks,
And pause with eager fluttering sails;
They search amid the precious hoards,
And take or leave, as chance prevails.

The letters slumber on the moss,
Unconscious of their words of wealth;
Tidings of Love, of Care, of Joy,
Of Death, or Birth; Disease or Health.

Long rays of light from distant stars,
Through cycles speed from sphere to sphere,
Shot to their goal perchance when dead
The fading orbs which wing’d them there.

[22] So these dear rays of hope and home,
As years elapse may find their mark,
When he is changed to whom they come,
And all his fireside lights are dark.

Here lies the timid sentence penn’d
By her, the hour he sailed, a bride;
Here wisdom from the gray-haired sire;
Here childhood’s scrawl, uncouth and wide;

For him, who ‘mid the polar seas
Went down where high the ice waves ran;
For him, who exiled walks the shores
Of summer-scented, still Japan.

Yet here, by better fortunes sped,
Lie pages left but yester morn,
Whose bearer’s sails into the west
Melted with this departing dawn.

While there, across the ruddy shield
Of yonder full-orbed rising moon,
The outline of a gliding ship
Darkens a moment, fades as soon.

Upon her deck expectant pace
The eager watchers, following far
The column’d rack of moonlight wave
That streams to yonder sinking star.

[23] They meet not, touching hand to hand,
With asking eyes and answering lips;
They meet not, though the bird that flies
To-day shall circle both their ships.

Yet each to each is dear by spells
Unconscious wrought by kindly deeds;
Entwined in the mysterious chain
From one who wires to one who reads.

So, oft, we, sailing on life’s sea,
Let fall at many a lonely isle
The potent spells of destiny,
The casual word, or passing smile,

Which, caught by unseen eyes or ears,
Bear blessings where we little heed,
Nor, save in Heaven’s haven, we
Know of what flowers we sow’d the seed.


The weather leech of the topsail shivers,
The bowlines strain, and the lee-shrouds slacken;
The braces are taught, the lithe boom quivers,
And the waves with the coming squall-cloud blacken.

Open one point on the weather bow
Is the light-house tall on Fire Island head;
There’s a shade of doubt on the captain’s brow,
And the pilot watches the heaving lead.

I stand at the wheel, and with eager eye
To sea and to sky and to shore I gaze,
Till the muttered order of “Full and by!”
Is suddenly changed to “Full for Stays!”

The ship bends lower before the breeze
As her broadside fair to the blast she lays;
And she swifter springs to the rising seas,
As the pilot calls, “Stand by for Stays!”

[25] It is silence all, as each in his place
With the gathered coils in his harden’d hands,
By tack and bowline, by sheet and brace,
Waiting the watchword, impatient stands.

And the light on Fire Island head draws near,
As trumpet-wing’d, the pilot’s shout,
From his post on the bowsprit’s heel I hear,
With the welcome call of “Ready! About!”

No time to spare! It is touch and go.
And the captain growls, “Down Helm! Hard down!”
As my weight on he whirling spokes I throw,
While heaven grows black with the storm-cloud’s frown.

High o’er the knight-heads flies the spray,
As we meet the shock of the plunging sea;
And my shoulder stiff to the wheel I lay,
As I answer “Aye, aye Sir! H-a-a-r-d a-lee!”

With the swerving leap of a startled steed
The ship flies fast in the eye of the wind,
The dangerous shoals on the lee recede
And the headland white we have left behind.

The topsails flutter, the jibs collapse,
And belly and tug at the groaning cleets,
The spanker slats, and the mainsail flaps,
And thunders the order, “Tacks and Sheets!”

[26] Mid the rattle of blocks, and the tramp of the crew,
Hisses the rain of the rushing squall;
The sails are aback from clew to clew,
And now is the moment for “Mainsail Haul!”

And the heavy yards, like a baby’s toy,
By fifty strong arms are swiftly swung;
She holds her way, and I look with joy
For the first white spray o’er the bulwarks flung.

“Let Go and Haul!” ‘Tis the last command,
And the head-sails fill to the blast once more;
Astern and to leeward lies the land,
With its breakers white on the shingly shore.

What matters the reef, or the rain, or the squall,
I steady the helm for the open sea;
The first mate clamors—“Belay there, all!”
And the captain’s breath once more comes free.

And so off shore let the good ship fly;
Little care I how the gusts may blow,
In my fo’castle bunk in a jacket dry,
Eight bells have struck, and my watch is below.


Against the south-west breezes
We struggled out to sea;
All day the long, low headland
Lay white upon our lee.

But when the sun was setting,
And we saw to landward far
The light of the distant light-house,
Kindling like a star,

No more the good ship struggled,
She had weather’d the reef at last,
And boldly plunging seaward,
Drove with the rushing blast.

But we in the pilot’s darling,
We ran before the gale,
Homeward, cheerfully homeward,
With the moonlight on our sail.


White clouds on the dim horizon!
Blue mists on the shoreward side!
Close reefed the pilot schooner
Rocks on the billows wide.

One is the fog of ocean
That is wandering free and far;
One is the homestead headland,
Fixed as the compass star.

His deck the pilot paces,
And his glass from time to time
Sweeps o’er the flashing white-caps,
As he mutters and ancient rhyme.

He waits for a well-known signal,
“White wings on a ground of blue;”
‘Tis the flag of the good ship “Seabird,”
And his first-born heads her crew.

[29] He looks to the fading headland,
And he thinks of the bonny bride,
Who weeps for her sailor husband—
Weeps by his own fire side.

A spar from the ocean drifting
Catches the pilot’s view,
Twined with a tattered signal,
“White wings on a ground of blue.”




One long, low reach of river shore,
The black tide sweeping in headlong race,
The swathing fog, and the stifled roar
Of waves ‘gainst the outmost headland’s base.
The full moon just a little waning,
Like an islet when the seas run high,
Threat’ning to whelm it—yet maintaining
Its place midway in the southern sky.
Behind, before, the bridge extends,
Under it moans and frets the tide;
The mist veil shrouding both its ends,
The footways narrow, the wheel-tracks wide!
Northward I look, and from bank to bank,
A silvery archway spans the stream,
That angels might traverse rank on rank,
As the ladder beheld in the Patriarch’s dream.
[31] Low and devious, crazy and old,
To the worn way on which I tread,
Simple and beautiful, clear and bold
Springeth the archway overhead.
Such is the dusty way of life,
Under it moaning the warning tide,
Devious, weary, worn with strife;
The footways narrow, the wheel-tracks wide,
Yet as we cross it pace by pace,
Bridging the stream at one bold span
Overhead in the heavens we trace,
Our life-ideal’s majestic plan.
One is the way wherein we walk,
With restless heart, and with yearning glance;
One is the theme of our dreams and talk,
Fleeing onward as we advance.
One in the midnight calm is seen,
When the voice is hush’d and the soul is still;
And we ponder and sigh at the space between
The evil we do and the good we will.
One to the sunlight hot reveals
The dints of our trampling hopes and fears;
The splinter’d scars of time’s hurrying wheels,
Its plans are moments, its arches years.
Mist is behind us and cloud before,
Moaning around us the tide of care—
One day we cross from shore to shore,
On the radiant arch, through Heaven’s own air.



Lone on the Moorland,
Fearless and gay;
Little Red Riding-Hood
Trips on her way.

Crouched in the copse-wood,
Dreary and dim,
Watches the gray wolf,
Greedy and grim.

Overhead Jenny Wren
Twittereth clear—
“Little Red Riding-Hood,
            Danger is near.”

[33] II.

A tiny well whose droplets dance,
Beneath a rude stone arch,
The noontide sunbeams greenly glance,
Through boughs of elm and larch.

She sets her brimming pitcher down,
As merrily she sings,
Clad in her simple russet gown,
The maid of sixteen springs.

She sets her brimming pitcher down,
Yet knows herself too late,
To ‘scape her step-dame’s angry frown,
Who watches at her gate.

The withered crone who craves to drink,
She gives with sweet good will,
The pitcher from the fountain’s brink,
That drop by drop must fille.

The aged crone regards her well,
As dallyingly she sips,
And frames for thanks a fairy spell,
To lay upon her lips.

She nears her home, her airy song
Is hushed in sudden fear,
The chiding word for absence long
Thrills her expectant ear.

[34] The chiding words that promise blows,
The threat’ning tongue shrills high;
Yet, as upon her lips of rose,
Trembles the soft reply.

Pure pearls, like fountain droplets white,
Slide in her footprints small,
And diamonds, like the rainbow light,
Flung from the water-fall.


Dark is the arching chancel,
Darker the nave and aisles,
Ghostly gleams of the moonlight
Checker the pavement tiles.

Dim is the painted east window;
The midnight is deathly still;
The marble knights and ladies
On the tombs are damp and chill.

The little head laid on a hassock,
The little feet cold and bare,
The little eyes closed in slumber,
The little hands folded for prayer,

A tear on the silken eyelash
From the blue-veined eyelid peeps,
As dear little Goody Two Shoes,
Waiting for morning, sleeps.


The print of a boyish foot on the beach,
With a torn straw hat are the ripples at play,
The sand is heaped in a mimic fort,
Surely our Eddie has passed this way!

Yet just beyond do the cliffs come down,
Where the tide boils in through the ragged stones.
Path there is none, and no reply
To his father’s shouts and his mother’s moans.

The breast of the breaker is veiled in foam,
A sheet of foam like a tiny shroud,
The mother’s face is too white for tears,
And the father’s passionate grief is loud.

Out on the deck of yon gliding craft,
Bearing up for the harbor pier,
Little Eddie dances and laughs,
While we are weeping desolate here.

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