At School-Close

A poem by John Greenleaf Whittier

Bowdoin Street, Boston, 1877.

The end has come, as come it must
To all things; in these sweet June days
The teacher and the scholar trust
Their parting feet to separate ways.

They part: but in the years to be
Shall pleasant memories cling to each,
As shells bear inland from the sea
The murmur of the rhythmic beach.

One knew the joy the sculptor knows
When, plastic to his lightest touch,
His clay-wrought model slowly grows
To that fine grace desired so much.

So daily grew before her eyes
The living shapes whereon she wrought,
Strong, tender, innocently wise,
The child's heart with the woman's thought.

And one shall never quite forget
The voice that called from dream and play,
The firm but kindly hand that set
Her feet in learning's pleasant way,

The joy of Undine soul-possessed,
The wakening sense, the strange delight
That swelled the fabled statue's breast
And filled its clouded eyes with sight.

O Youth and Beauty, loved of all!
Ye pass from girlhood's gate of dreams;
In broader ways your footsteps fall,
Ye test the truth of all that seams.

Her little realm the teacher leaves,
She breaks her wand of power apart,
While, for your love and trust, she gives
The warm thanks of a grateful heart.

Hers is the sober summer noon
Contrasted with your morn of spring,
The waning with the waxing moon,
The folded with the outspread wing.

Across the distance of the years
She sends her God-speed back to you;
She has no thought of doubts or fears
Be but yourselves, be pure, be true,

And prompt in duty; heed the deep,
Low voice of conscience; through the ill
And discord round about you, keep
Your faith in human nature still.

Be gentle: unto griefs and needs,
Be pitiful as woman should,
And, spite of all the lies of creeds,
Hold fast the truth that God is good.

Give and receive; go forth and bless
The world that needs the hand and heart
Of Martha's helpful carefulness
No less than Mary's better part.

So shall the stream of time flow by
And leave each year a richer good,
And matron loveliness outvie
The nameless charm of maidenhood.

And, when the world shall link your names
With gracious lives and manners fine,
The teacher shall assert her claims,
And proudly whisper, "These were mine!

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