Twenty Years Ago

A poem by Hanford Lennox Gordon

I am growing old and weary
Ere yet my locks are gray;
Before me lies eternity,
Behind me but a day.
How fast the years are vanishing!
They melt like April snow:
It seems to me but yesterday
Twenty years ago.

There's the school-house on the hill-side,
And the romping scholars all;
Where we used to con our daily tasks,
And play our games of ball.
They rise to me in visions
In sunny dreams and ho'
I sport among the boys and girls
Twenty years ago.

We played at ball in summer time
We boys with hearty will;
With merry shouts in winter time
We coasted on the hill.
We would choose our chiefs, divide in bands,
And build our forts of snow,
And storm those forts right gallantly
Twenty years ago.

Last year in June I visited
That dear old sacred spot,
But the school-house on the hill-side
And the merry shouts were not.
A church was standing where it stood;
I looked around, but no
I could not see the boys and girls
Of twenty years ago.

There was sister dear, and brother,
Around the old home-hearth;
And a tender, Christian mother,
Too angel-like for earth.
She used to warn me from the paths
Where thorns and brambles grow,
And lead me in the "narrow way"
Twenty years ago.

I loved her and I honored her
Through all my boyhood years;
I knew her joys I knew her cares
I knew her hopes and fears.
But alas, one autumn morning
She left her home below,
And she left us there a-weeping
Twenty years ago.

They bore her to the church-yard,
With slow and solemn pace;
And there I took my last fond look
On her dear, peaceful face.
They lowered her in her silent grave,
While we bowed our heads in woe,
And they heaped the sods above her head
Twenty years ago.

That low, sweet voice my mother's voice
I never can forget;
And in those loving eyes I see
The big tears trembling yet.
I try to tread the "narrow way;"
I stumble oft I know:
I miss how much! the helping hand
Of twenty years ago.

Mary (Mary I will call you
'Tis not the old-time name)
Sainted Mary blue-eyed Mary
Are you in heaven the same?
Are your eyes as bright and beautiful,
Your cheeks as full of glow,
As when the school-boy kissed you, May,
Twenty years ago?

How we swung upon the grape-vine
Down by the Genesee;
And I caught the speckled trout for you,
While you gathered flowers for me:
How we rambled o'er the meadows
With brows and cheeks aglow,
And hearts like God's own angels
Twenty years ago.

How our young hearts grew together
Until they beat as one;
Distrust it could not enter;
Cares and fears were none.
All my love was yours, dear Mary,
'Twas boyish love, I know;
But I ne'er have loved as then I loved
Twenty years ago.

How we pictured out the future
The golden coming years,
And saw no cloud in all our sky,
No gloomy mist of tears;
But ah how vain are human hopes!
The angels came and O
They bore my darling up to heaven
Twenty years ago.

I will not tell I cannot tell
What anguish wrung my soul;
But a silent grief is on my heart
Though the years so swiftly roll;
And I cannot shake it off, May,
This lingering sense of woe,
Though I try to drown the memory
Of twenty years ago.

I am fighting life's stern battle, May,
With all my might and main;
But a seat by you and mother there
Is the dearest prize to gain;
And I know you both are near me,
Whatever winds may blow,
For I feel your spirits cheer me
Like twenty years ago.

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