Bayard Taylor

A poem by John Greenleaf Whittier


"And where now, Bayard, will thy footsteps tend?"
My sister asked our guest one winter's day.
Smiling he answered in the Friends' sweet way
Common to both: "Wherever thou shall send!
What wouldst thou have me see for thee?" She laughed,
Her dark eyes dancing in the wood-fire's glow
"Loffoden isles, the Kilpis, and the low,
Unsetting sun on Finmark's fishing-craft."
"All these and more I soon shall see for thee!"
He answered cheerily: and he kept his pledge
On Lapland snows, the North Cape's windy wedge,
And Tromso freezing in its winter sea.
He went and came. But no man knows the track
Of his last journey, and he comes not back!


He brought us wonders of the new and old;
We shared all climes with him. The Arab's tent
To him its story-telling secret lent.
And, pleased, we listened to the tales he told.
His task, beguiled with songs that shall endure,
In manly, honest thoroughness he wrought;
From humble home-lays to the heights of thought
Slowly he climbed, but every step was sure.
How, with the generous pride that friendship hath,
We, who so loved him, saw at last the crown
Of civic honor on his brows pressed down,
Rejoiced, and knew not that the gift was death.
And now for him, whose praise in deafened ears
Two nations speak, we answer but with tears!


O Vale of Chester! trod by him so oft,
Green as thy June turf keep his memory. Let
Nor wood, nor dell, nor storied stream forget,
Nor winds that blow round lonely Cedarcroft;
Let the home voices greet him in the far,
Strange land that holds him; let the messages
Of love pursue him o'er the chartless seas
And unmapped vastness of his unknown star
Love's language, heard beyond the loud discourse
Of perishable fame, in every sphere
Itself interprets; and its utterance here
Somewhere in God's unfolding universe
Shall reach our traveller, softening the surprise
Of his rapt gaze on unfamiliar skies!

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