The Frost Spirit and Others

The First Flowers

1st 3d mo., 1857.

John Greenleaf Whittier

FOR AGES on our river borders,
    These tassels in their tawny bloom,
And willowy studs of downy silver,
    Have prophesied of Spring to come.

For ages have the unbound waters
    Smiled on them from their pebbly hem,
And the clear carol of the robin
    And song of bluebird welcomed them.

But never yet from smiling river,
    Or song of early bird, have they
Been greeted with a gladder welcome
    Than whispers from my heart to-day.

They break the spell of cold and darkness,
    The weary watch of sleepless pain;
And from my heart, as from the river,
    The ice of winter melts again.

Thanks, Mary! for this wild-wood token
    Of Freya’s footsteps drawing near;
Almost, as in the rune of Asgard,
    The growing of the grass I hear.

It is as if the pine-trees called me
    From ceiled room and silent books,
To see the dance of woodland shadows,
    And hear the song of April brooks!

As in the old Teutonic ballad
    Of Odenwald live bird and tree,
Together live in bloom and music,
    I blend in song thy flowers and thee.

Earth’s rocky tablets bear forever
    The dint of rain and small bird’s track
Who knows but that my idle verses
    May leave some trace by Merrimac!

The bird that trod the mellow layers
    Of the young earth is sought in vain;
The cloud is gone that wove the sandstone,
    From God’s design, with threads of rain!

So, when this fluid age we live in
    Shall stiffen round my careless rhyme,
Who made the vagrant tracks may puzzle
    The savants of the coming time;

And, following out their dim suggestions,
    Some idly-curious hand may draw
My doubtful portraiture, as Cuvier
    Drew fish and bird from fin and claw.

And maidens in the far-off twilights,
    Singing my words to breeze and stream,
Shall wonder if the old-time Mary
    Were real, or the rhymer’s dream!

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