Abram Morrison

A poem by John Greenleaf Whittier

’Midst the men and things which will
Haunt an old man’s memory still,
Drollest, quaintest of them all,
With a boy’s laugh I recall
Good old Abram Morrison.

When the Grist and Rolling Mill
Ground and rumbled by Po Hill,
And the old red school-house stood
Midway in the Powow’s flood,
Here dwelt Abram Morrison.

From the Beach to far beyond
Bear-Hill, Lion’s Mouth and Pond,
Marvellous to our tough old stock,
Chips o’ the Anglo-Saxon block,
Seemed the Celtic Morrison.

Mudknock, Balmawhistle, all
Only knew the Yankee drawl,
Never brogue was heard till when,
Foremost of his countrymen,
Hither came Friend Morrison;

Yankee born, of alien blood,
Kin of his had well withstood
Pope and King with pike and ball
Under Derry’s leaguered wall,
As became the Morrisons.

Wandering down from Nutfield woods
With his household and his goods,
Never was it clearly told
How within our quiet fold
Came to be a Morrison.

Once a soldier, blame him not
That the Quaker he forgot,
When, to think of battles won,
And the red-coats on the run,
Laughed aloud Friend Morrison.

From gray Lewis over sea
Bore his sires their family tree,
On the rugged boughs of it
Grafting Irish mirth and wit,
And the brogue of Morrison.

Half a genius, quick to plan,
Blundering like an Irishman,
But with canny shrewdness lent
By his far-off Scotch descent,
Such was Abram Morrison.

Back and forth to daily meals,
Rode his cherished pig on wheels,
And to all who came to see
“Aisier for the pig an’ me,
Sure it is,” said Morrison.

Simple-hearted, boy o’er-grown,
With a humor quite his own,
Of our sober-stepping ways,
Speech and look and cautious phrase,
Slow to learn was Morrison.

Much we loved his stories told
Of a country strange and old,
Where the fairies danced till dawn,
And the goblin Leprecaun
Looked, we thought, like Morrison.

Or wild tales of feud and fight,
Witch and troll and second sight
Whispered still where Stornoway
Looks across its stormy bay,
Once the home of Morrisons.

First was he to sing the praise
Of the Powow’s winding ways;
And our straggling village took
City grandeur to the look
Of its poet Morrison.

All his words have perished. Shame
On the saddle-bags of Fame,
That they bring not to our time
One poor couplet of the rhyme
Made by Abram Morrison!

When, on calm and fair First Days,
Rattled down our one-horse chaise,
Through the blossomed apple-boughs
To the old, brown meeting-house,
There was Abram Morrison.

Underneath his hat’s broad brim
Peered the queer old face of him;
And with Irish jauntiness
Swung the coat-tails of the dress
Worn by Abram Morrison.

Still, in memory, on his feet,
Leaning o’er the elders’ seat,
Mingling with a solemn drone,
Celtic accents all his own,
Rises Abram Morrison.

“Don’t,” he’s pleading, “don’t ye go,
Dear young friends, to sight and show,
Don’t run after elephants,
Learned pigs and presidents
And the likes!” said Morrison.

On his well-worn theme intent,
Simple, child-like, innocent,
Heaven forgive the half-checked smile
Of our careless boyhood, while
Listening to Friend Morrison!

We have learned in later days
Truth may speak in simplest phrase;
That the man is not the less
For quaint ways and home-spun dress,
Thanks to Abram Morrison!

Not to pander nor to please
Come the needed homilies,
With no lofty argument
Is the fitting message sent,
Through such lips as Morrison’s.

Dead and gone! But while its track
Powow keeps to Merrimac,
While Po Hill is still on guard,
Looking land and ocean ward,
They shall tell of Morrison!

After half a century’s lapse,
We are wiser now, perhaps,
But we miss our streets amid
Something which the past has hid,
Lost with Abram Morrison.

Gone forever with the queer
Characters of that old year
Now the many are as one;
Broken is the mould that run
Men like Abram Morrison.

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