The First Flowers

A poem by John Greenleaf Whittier

For ages on our river borders,
These tassels in their tawny bloom,
And willowy studs of downy silver,
Have prophesied of Spring to come.

For ages have the unbound waters
Smiled on them from their pebbly hem,
And the clear carol of the robin
And song of bluebird welcomed them.

But never yet from smiling river,
Or song of early bird, have they
Been greeted with a gladder welcome
Than whispers from my heart to-day.

They break the spell of cold and darkness,
The weary watch of sleepless pain;
And from my heart, as from the river,
The ice of winter melts again.

Thanks, Mary! for this wild-wood token
Of Freya’s footsteps drawing near;
Almost, as in the rune of Asgard,
The growing of the grass I hear.

It is as if the pine-trees called me
From ceiled room and silent books,
To see the dance of woodland shadows,
And hear the song of April brooks!

As in the old Teutonic ballad
Of Odenwald live bird and tree,
Together live in bloom and music,
I blend in song thy flowers and thee.

Earth’s rocky tablets bear forever
The dint of rain and small bird’s track
Who knows but that my idle verses
May leave some trace by Merrimac!

The bird that trod the mellow layers
Of the young earth is sought in vain;
The cloud is gone that wove the sandstone,
From God’s design, with threads of rain!

So, when this fluid age we live in
Shall stiffen round my careless rhyme,
Who made the vagrant tracks may puzzle
The savants of the coming time;

And, following out their dim suggestions,
Some idly-curious hand may draw
My doubtful portraiture, as Cuvier
Drew fish and bird from fin and claw.

And maidens in the far-off twilights,
Singing my words to breeze and stream,
Shall wonder if the old-time Mary
Were real, or the rhymer’s dream!

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