The Ranger

A poem by John Greenleaf Whittier

Robert Rawlin! Frosts were falling
When the ranger's horn was calling
Through the woods to Canada.

Gone the winter's sleet and snowing,
Gone the spring-time's bud and blowing,
Gone the summer's harvest mowing,
And again the fields are gray.
Yet away, he's away!
Faint and fainter hope is growing
In the hearts that mourn his stay.

Where the lion, crouching high on
Abraham's rock with teeth of iron,
Glares o'er wood and wave away,
Faintly thence, as pines far sighing,
Or as thunder spent and dying,
Come the challenge and replying,
Come the sounds of flight and fray.
Well-a-day! Hope and pray!
Some are living, some are lying
In their red graves far away.

Straggling rangers, worn with dangers,
Homeward faring, weary strangers
Pass the farm-gate on their way;
Tidings of the dead and living,
Forest march and ambush, giving,
Till the maidens leave their weaving,
And the lads forget their play.
"Still away, still away!"
Sighs a sad one, sick with grieving,
"Why does Robert still delay!"

Nowhere fairer, sweeter, rarer,
Does the golden-locked fruit bearer
Through his painted woodlands stray,
Than where hillside oaks and beeches
Overlook the long, blue reaches,
Silver coves and pebbled beaches,
And green isles of Casco Bay;
Nowhere day, for delay,
With a tenderer look beseeches,
"Let me with my charmed earth stay."

On the grain-lands of the mainlands
Stands the serried corn like train-bands,
Plume and pennon rustling gay;
Out at sea, the islands wooded,
Silver birches, golden-hooded,
Set with maples, crimson-blooded,
White sea-foam and sand-hills gray,
Stretch away, far away.
Dim and dreamy, over-brooded
By the hazy autumn day.

Gayly chattering to the clattering
Of the brown nuts downward pattering,
Leap the squirrels, red and gray.
On the grass-land, on the fallow,
Drop the apples, red and yellow;
Drop the russet pears and mellow,
Drop the red leaves all the day.
And away, swift away,
Sun and cloud, o'er hill and hollow
Chasing, weave their web of play.

"Martha Mason, Martha Mason,
Prithee tell us of the reason
Why you mope at home to-day
Surely smiling is not sinning;
Leave, your quilling, leave your spinning;
What is all your store of linen,
If your heart is never gay?
Come away, come away!
Never yet did sad beginning
Make the task of life a play."

Overbending, till she's blending
With the flaxen skein she's tending
Pale brown tresses smoothed away
From her face of patient sorrow,
Sits she, seeking but to borrow,
From the trembling hope of morrow,
Solace for the weary day.
"Go your way, laugh and play;
Unto Him who heeds the sparrow
And the lily, let me pray."

"With our rally, rings the valley,
Join us!" cried the blue-eyed Nelly;
"Join us!" cried the laughing May,
"To the beach we all are going,
And, to save the task of rowing,
West by north the wind is blowing,
Blowing briskly down the bay
Come away, come away!
Time and tide are swiftly flowing,
Let us take them while we may!

"Never tell us that you'll fail us,
Where the purple beach-plum mellows
On the bluffs so wild and gray.
Hasten, for the oars are falling;
Hark, our merry mates are calling;
Time it is that we were all in,
Singing tideward down the bay!"
"Nay, nay, let me stay;
Sore and sad for Robert Rawlin
Is my heart," she said, "to-day."

"Vain your calling for Rob Rawlin
Some red squaw his moose-meat's broiling,
Or some French lass, singing gay;
Just forget as he's forgetting;
What avails a life of fretting?
If some stars must needs be setting,
Others rise as good as they."
"Cease, I pray; go your way!"
Martha cries, her eyelids wetting;
"Foul and false the words you say!"

"Martha Mason, hear to reason!
Prithee, put a kinder face on!"
"Cease to vex me," did she say;
"Better at his side be lying,
With the mournful pine-trees sighing,
And the wild birds o'er us crying,
Than to doubt like mine a prey;
While away, far away,
Turns my heart, forever trying
Some new hope for each new day.

"When the shadows veil the meadows,
And the sunset's golden ladders
Sink from twilight's walls of gray,
From the window of my dreaming,
I can see his sickle gleaming,
Cheery-voiced, can hear him teaming
Down the locust-shaded way;
But away, swift away,
Fades the fond, delusive seeming,
And I kneel again to pray.

"When the growing dawn is showing,
And the barn-yard cock is crowing,
And the horned moon pales away
From a dream of him awaking,
Every sound my heart is making
Seems a footstep of his taking;
Then I hush the thought, and say,
'Nay, nay, he's away!'
Ah! my heart, my heart is breaking
For the dear one far away."

Look up, Martha! worn and swarthy,
Glows a face of manhood worthy
"Robert!" "Martha!" all they say.
O'er went wheel and reel together,
Little cared the owner whither;
Heart of lead is heart of feather,
Noon of night is noon of day!
Come away, come away!
When such lovers meet each other,
Why should prying idlers stay?

Quench the timber's fallen embers,
Quench the recd leaves in December's
Hoary rime and chilly spray.

But the hearth shall kindle clearer,
Household welcomes sound sincerer,
Heart to loving heart draw nearer,
When the bridal bells shall say:
"Hope and pray, trust alway;
Life is sweeter, love is dearer,
For the trial and delay!

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'The Ranger' by John Greenleaf Whittier

comments powered by Disqus

Home | Search | About this website | Contact | Privacy Policy