St. Martin’s Summer

A poem by John Greenleaf Whittier

Though flowers have perished at the touch
Of Frost, the early comer,
I hail the season loved so much,
The good St. Martin’s summer.

O gracious morn, with rose-red dawn,
And thin moon curving o’er it!
The old year’s darling, latest born,
More loved than all before it!

How flamed the sunrise through the pines!
How stretched the birchen shadows,
Braiding in long, wind-wavered lines
The westward sloping meadows!

The sweet day, opening as a flower
Unfolds its petals tender,
Renews for us at noontide’s hour
The summer’s tempered splendor.

The birds are hushed; alone the wind,
That through the woodland searches,
The red-oak’s lingering leaves can find,
And yellow plumes of larches.

But still the balsam-breathing pine
Invites no thought of sorrow,
No hint of loss from air like wine
The earth’s content can borrow.

The summer and the winter here
Midway a truce are holding,
A soft, consenting atmosphere
Their tents of peace enfolding.

The silent woods, the lonely hills,
Rise solemn in their gladness;
The quiet that the valley fills
Is scarcely joy or sadness.

How strange! The autumn yesterday
In winter’s grasp seemed dying;
On whirling winds from skies of gray
The early snow was flying.

And now, while over Nature’s mood
There steals a soft relenting,
I will not mar the present good,
Forecasting or lamenting.

My autumn time and Nature’s hold
A dreamy tryst together,
And, both grown old, about us fold
The golden-tissued weather.

I lean my heart against the day
To feel its bland caressing;
I will not let it pass away
Before it leaves its blessing.

God’s angels come not as of old
The Syrian shepherds knew them;
In reddening dawns, in sunset gold,
And warm noon lights I view them.

Nor need there is, in times like this
When heaven to earth draws nearer,
Of wing or song as witnesses
To make their presence clearer.

O stream of life, whose swifter flow
Is of the end forewarning,
Methinks thy sundown afterglow
Seems less of night than morning!

Old cares grow light; aside I lay
The doubts and fears that troubled;
The quiet of the happy day
Within my soul is doubled.

That clouds must veil this fair sunshine
Not less a joy I find it;
Nor less yon warm horizon line
That winter lurks behind it.

The mystery of the untried days
I close my eyes from reading;
His will be done whose darkest ways
To light and life are leading!

Less drear the winter night shall be,
If memory cheer and hearten
Its heavy hours with thoughts of thee,
Sweet summer of St. Martin!

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