Bride Brook

A poem by George Parsons Lathrop

Wide as the sky Time spreads his hand,
And blindly over us there blows
A swarm of years that fill the land,
Then fade, and are as fallen snows.

Behold, the flakes rush thick and fast;
Or are they years, that come between, -
When, peering back into the past,
I search the legendary scene?

Nay. Marshaled down the open coast,
Fearless of that low rampart's frown,
The winter's white-winged, footless host
Beleaguers ancient Saybrook town.

And when the settlers wake they stare
On woods half-buried, white and green,
A smothered world, an empty air:
Never had such deep drifts been seen!

But "Snow lies light upon my heart!
An thou," said merry Jonathan Rudd,
"Wilt wed me, winter shall depart,
And love like spring for us shall bud."

"Nay, how," said Mary, "may that be?
No minister nor magistrate
Is here, to join us solemnly;
And snow-banks bar us, every gate."

"Winthrop at Pequot Harbor lies,"
He laughed. And with the morrow's sun
He faced the deputy's dark eyes:
"How soon, sir, may the rite be done?"

"At Saybrook? There the power's not mine,"
Said he. "But at the brook we'll meet,
That ripples down the boundary line;
There you may wed, and Heaven shall see't."

Forth went, next day, the bridal train
Through vistas dreamy with gray light.
The waiting woods, the open plain,
Arrayed in consecrated white,

Received and ushered them, along.
The very beasts before them fled,
Charmed by the spell of inward song
These lovers' hearts around them spread.

Four men with netted foot-gear shod
Bore the maid's carrying-chair aloft;
She swayed above, as roses nod
On the lithe stem their bloom-weight soft.

At last beside the brook they stood,
With Winthrop and his followers;
The maid in flake-embroidered hood,
The magistrate well cloaked in furs,

That, parting, showed a glimpse beneath
Of ample, throat-encircling ruff
As white as some wind-gathered wreath
Of snow quilled into plait and puff.

A few grave words, a question asked;
Eyelids that with the answer fell
Like falling petals; - form that tasked
Brief time; - and so was wrought the spell!

Then "Brooklet," Winthrop smiled and said,
"Frost's finger on thy lip makes dumb
The voice wherewith thou shouldst have sped
These lovers on their way. But, come,

"Henceforth forever be thou known
By memory of this day's fair bride:
So shall thy slender music's moan
Sweeter into the ocean glide!"

Then laughed they all, and sudden beams
Of sunshine quivered through the sky.
Below the ice, the unheard stream's
Clear heart thrilled on in ecstasy;

And lo, a visionary blush
Stole warmly o'er the voiceless wild;
And in her rapt and wintry hush
The lonely face of Nature smiled.

Ah, Time, what wilt thou? Vanished quite
Is all that tender vision now;
And, like lost snow-flakes in the night,
Mute are the lovers as their vow.

And O thou little, careless brook,
Hast thou thy tender trust forgot?
Her modest memory forsook,
Whose name, known once, thou utterest not?

Spring wakes the rill's blithe minstrelsy;
In willow bough or alder bush
Birds sing, o'er golden filigree
Of pebbles 'neath the flood's clear gush;

But none can tell us of that name
More than the "Mary." Men still say
"Bride Brook" in honor of her fame;
But all the rest has passed away.

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