Mountain Pictures and Others

St. Martin’s Summer


John Greenleaf Whittier

This name in some parts of Europe is given to the season we call Indian Summer, in honor of the good St. Martin. The title of the poem was suggested by the fact that the day it refers to was the exact date of that set apart to the Saint, the 11th of November.

THOUGH flowers have perished at the touch
    Of Frost, the early comer,
I hail the season loved so much,
    The good St. Martin’s summer.

O gracious morn, with rose-red dawn,
    And thin moon curving o’er it!
The old year’s darling, latest born,
    More loved than all before it!

How flamed the sunrise through the pines!
    How stretched the birchen shadows,
Braiding in long, wind-wavered lines
    The westward sloping meadows!

The sweet day, opening as a flower
    Unfolds its petals tender,
Renews for us at noontide’s hour
    The summer’s tempered splendor.

The birds are hushed; alone the wind,
    That through the woodland searches,
The red-oak’s lingering leaves can find,
    And yellow plumes of larches.

But still the balsam-breathing pine
    Invites no thought of sorrow,
No hint of loss from air like wine
    The earth’s content can borrow.

The summer and the winter here
    Midway a truce are holding,
A soft, consenting atmosphere
    Their tents of peace enfolding.

The silent woods, the lonely hills,
    Rise solemn in their gladness;
The quiet that the valley fills
    Is scarcely joy or sadness.

How strange! The autumn yesterday
    In winter’s grasp seemed dying;
On whirling winds from skies of gray
    The early snow was flying.

And now, while over Nature’s mood
    There steals a soft relenting,
I will not mar the present good,
    Forecasting or lamenting.

My autumn time and Nature’s hold
    A dreamy tryst together,
And, both grown old, about us fold
    The golden-tissued weather.

I lean my heart against the day
    To feel its bland caressing;
I will not let it pass away
    Before it leaves its blessing.

God’s angels come not as of old
    The Syrian shepherds knew them;
In reddening dawns, in sunset gold,
    And warm noon lights I view them.

Nor need there is, in times like this
    When heaven to earth draws nearer,
Of wing or song as witnesses
    To make their presence clearer.

O stream of life, whose swifter flow
    Is of the end forewarning,
Methinks thy sundown afterglow
    Seems less of night than morning!

Old cares grow light; aside I lay
    The doubts and fears that troubled;
The quiet of the happy day
    Within my soul is doubled.

That clouds must veil this fair sunshine
    Not less a joy I find it;
Nor less yon warm horizon line
    That winter lurks behind it.

The mystery of the untried days
    I close my eyes from reading;
His will be done whose darkest ways
    To light and life are leading!

Less drear the winter night shall be,
    If memory cheer and hearten
Its heavy hours with thoughts of thee,
    Sweet summer of St. Martin!

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