Farm In The Valley — Sunset

Still the saintly City stands,
Wondrous work of busy hands;
Still the lonely City thrives,
Rich in worldly goods and wives,
And with thrust-out jaw and set
Teeth, the Yankee threatens yet —
Half admiring and half riled,
Oft by bigger schemes beguiled,
Turning off his curious stare
To communities elsewhere,
Always with unquiet eye
Watching Utah on the sly.

Long the City of the Plain
Left its image on my brain:
White kiosks and gardens bright
Rising in a golden light;
Busy figures everywhere
Bustling bee-like in the glare;
And from dovecotes in green places,
Peep'd out weary women's faces,
Flushing faint to a thin cry
From the nursery hard by.
And the City in my thought
Slept fantastically wrought,
Till the whole began to seem
Like a curious Eastern dream,
Like the pictures strange we scan
In the tales Arabian:
Tales of magic art and sleight,
Cities rising in a night,
And of women richly clad,
Dark-eyed, melancholy, sad,
Ever with a glance uncertain,
Trembling at the purple curtain,
Lest behind the black slave stand
With the bowstring in his hand; —
Happy tales, within whose heart
Founts of weeping eyes upstart,
Told, to save her pretty head,
By Scheherazad in bed!

All had faded and grown faint,
Save the figure of the Saint
Who that memorable night
Left the Children of the Light,
Flying o'er the lonely plain
From his lofty sphere of pain
Oft his gentle face would flit
O'er my mind and puzzle it,
Ever waking up meanwhile
Something of a merry smile,
Whose quick light illumined me
During many a reverie,
When I puffed my weed alone.

Faint and strange the face had grown,
Tho' for five long years or so
I had watched it come and go,
When, on busy thoughts intent,
I into New England went,
And one evening, riding slow
By a River that I know,
(Gentle stream! I hide thy name,
Far too modest thou for fame!)
I beheld the landscape swim
In the autumn hazes dim,
And from out the neighbouring dales
Heard the thumping of the flails.

All was hush'd; afar away
(As a novelist would say)
Sank the mighty orb of day,
Staring with a hazy glow
On the purple plain below,
Where (like burning embers shed
From the sunset's glowing bed,
Dying out or burning bright,
Every leaf a blaze of light)
Ran the maple swamps ablaze;
Everywhere amid the haze,
Floating strangely in the air,
Farms and homesteads gather'd fair;
And the River rippled slow,
Thro' the marshes green and low,
Spreading oft as smooth as glass
As it fringed the meadow grass,
Making 'mong the misty fields
Pools like golden gleaming shields.

Thus I walked my steed along,
Humming a low scrap of song,
Watching with an idle eye
White clouds in the dreamy sky
Sailing with me in slow pomp.
In the bright flush of the swamp,
While his dogs bark'd in the wood,
Gun in hand the sportsman stood;
And beside me, wading deep,
Stood the angler half asleep,
Figure black against the gleam
Of the bright pools of the stream;
Now and then a wherry brown
With the current drifted down
Sunset-ward, and as it went,
Made an oar-splash indolent;
While with solitary sound,
Deepening the silence round,
In a voice of mystery
Faintly cried the chickadee.

Suddenly the River's arm
Rounded, and a lonely Farm
Stood before me blazing red
To the bright blaze overhead;
In the homesteads at its side,
Cattle lowed and voices cried,
And from out the shadows dark
Came a mastiff's measured bark.
Fair and fat stood the abode
On the path by which I rode,
And a mighty orchard, strown
Still with apple-leaves wind-blown,
Raised its branches gnarl'd and bare
Black against the sunset air,
And with greensward deep and dim,
Wander'd to the River's brim.

Close beside the orchard walk
Linger'd one in quiet talk
With a man in workman's gear.
As my horse's feet drew near,
The labourer nodded rough " good-day,
Turned his back and loung'd away.
Then the first, a plump and fat
Yeoman in a broad straw hat,
Stood alone in thought intent,
Watching while the other went,
And amid the sunlight red
Paused, with hand held to his head.

In a moment, like a word
Long forgotten until heard,
Like a buried sentiment
Born again to some stray scent,
Like a sound to which the brain
Gives familiar refrain,
Something in the gesture brought
Things forgotten to my thought;
Memory, as I watched the sight,
Flashed from eager light to light.
Remember'd and remember'd not,
Half familiar, half forgot,
Stood the figure, till at last,
Bending eyes on his, I passed,
Gazed again, as loth to go,
Drew the rein, stopt short, and so
Rested, looking back; when he,
The object of my scrutiny,
Smiled and nodded, saying, " Yes!
Stare your fill, young man! I guess
You'll know me if we meet again!"

In a moment all my brain
Was illumined at the tone,
All was vivid that had grown
Faint and dim, and straight I knew him,
Holding out my hand unto him,
Smiled, and called him by his name.

Wondering, hearing me exclaim,
Abraham Clewson (for 'twas he)
Came more close and gazed at me.
As he gazed, a merry grin
Brighten'd down from eyes to chin:
In a moment he, too, knew me,
Reaching out his hand unto me,
Crying " Track'd, by all that's blue!
Who'd have thought of seeing you? "

Then, in double quicker time
Than it takes to make the rhyme,
Abe, with face of welcome bright,
Made me from my steed alight;
Call'd a boy, and bade him lead
The beast away to bed and feed;
And, with hand upon my arm,
Led me off into the Farm,
Where, amid a dwelling-place
Fresh and bright as her own face,
With a gleam of shining ware
For a background everywhere,
Free as any summer breeze,
With a bunch of huswife's keys
At her girdle, sweet and mild
Sister Annie blush'd and smiled, —
While two tiny laughing girls,
Peeping at me through their curls,
Hid their sweet shamefacidness
In the skirts of Annie's dress.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

That same night the Saint and I
Sat and talked of times gone by,
Smoked our pipes and drank our grog
By the slowly smouldering log,
While the clock's hand slowly crept
To midnight, and the household slept.
" Happy?" Abe said with a smile,
" Yes, in my inferior style,
Meek and humble, not like them
In the New Jerusalem."
Here his hand, as if astray,
For a moment found its way
To his forehead, as he said,
" Reckon they believe I'm dead!
Ah, that life of sanctity
Never was the life for me.
Couldn't stand it wet nor dry,
Hated to see women cry;
Couldn't bear to be the cause
Of tiffs and squalls and endless jaws;
Always felt amid the stir
Jest a whited sepulchre;
And I did the best I could
When I ran away for good.
Yet, for many a night, you know
(Annie, too, would tell you so),
Couldn't sleep a single wink,
Couldn't eat, and couldn't drink,
Being kind of conscience-cleft
For those poor creatures I had left.
Not till I got news from there,
And I found their fate was fair,
Could I set to work, or find
Any comfort in my mind.
Well (here Abe smiled quietly),
Guess they didn't groan for me!
Fanny and Amelia got
Sealed to Brigham on the spot;
Emmy soon consoled herself
In the arms of Brother Delf;
And poor Mary one fine day
Packed her traps and tript away
Down to Fresco with Fred Bates,
A young player from the States;
While Sarah, 'twas the wisest plan,
Pick'd herself a single man —
A young joiner fresh come down
Out of Texas to the town —
And he took her with her baby,
And they're doing well as maybe."

Here the Saint with quiet smile,
Sipping at his grog the while,
Paused as if his tale was o'er,
Held his tongue and said no more.
" Good," I said, " but have you done?
You have spoke of all save one —
All your Widows, so bereft,
Are most comfortably left,
But of one alone you said.
Nothing. Is the lady dead ?"

Then the good man's features broke
Into brightness as I spoke,
And with loud guffaw cried he,
" What, Tabitha? Dead! Not she,
All alone and doing splendid —
Jest you guess, now, how she's ended!
Give it up? This very week
I heard she's at Oneida Creek,
All alone and doing hearty,
Down with Brother Noyes's party
Tried the Shakers first, they say,
Tired of them and went away,
Testing with a deal of bother
This community and t'other,
Till she to Oneida flitted,
And with trouble got admitted.
Bless you, she's a shining lamp,
Tho' I used her like a scamp,
And she's great in exposition
Of the Free Love folk's condition,
Vowing, tho' she found it late,
'Tis the only happy state. . . .

" As for me," added the speaker,
" I'm lower in the scale, and weaker;
Polygamy's beyond my merits,
Shakerism wears the spirits,
And as for Free Love, why you see
(Here the Saint wink'd wickedly)
With my whim it might have hung
Once, when I was spry and young;
But poor Annie's love alone
Keeps my mind in proper tone,
And tho' my spirit mayn't be strong.
I'm lively — as the day is long."

As he spoke, with half a yawn,
Half a smile, I saw the dawn
Creeping faint into the gloom
Of the quickly-chilling room.
On the hearth the wood-log lay,
With one last expiring ray;
Draining off his glass of grog,
Clewson rose and kick'd the log;
As it tumbled into ashes,
Watched the last expiring flashes,
Gave another yawn and said,
" Well! I guess it's time for bed!"
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