The Fruit-Gift

A poem by John Greenleaf Whittier

Last night, just as the tints of autumn’s sky
Of sunset faded from our hills and streams,
I sat, vague listening, lapped in twilight dreams,
To the leaf’s rustle, and the cricket’s cry.

Then, like that basket, flush with summer fruit,
Dropped by the angels at the Prophet’s foot,
Came, unannounced, a gift of clustered sweetness,
Full-orbed, and glowing with the prisoned beams
Of summery suns, and rounded to completeness
By kisses of the south-wind and the dew.
Thrilled with a glad surprise, methought I knew
The pleasure of the homeward-turning Jew,
When Eshcol’s clusters on his shoulders lay,
Dropping their sweetness on his desert way.

I said, “This fruit beseems no world of sin.
Its parent vine, rooted in Paradise,
O’ercrept the wall, and never paid the price
Of the great mischief, an ambrosial tree,
Eden’s exotic, somehow smuggled in,
To keep the thorns and thistles company.”
Perchance our frail, sad mother plucked in haste
A single vine-slip as she passed the gate,
Where the dread sword alternate paled and burned,
And the stern angel, pitying her fate,
Forgave the lovely trespasser, and turned
Aside his face of fire; and thus the waste
And fallen world hath yet its annual taste
Of primal good, to prove of sin the cost,
And show by one gleaned ear the mighty harvest lost.

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