Echoes from Vagabondia

by Bliss Carman


 

ON BURIAL HILL


 

WHILE the slow-filtered sorcery
Of Indian summer lay
Upon the golden-shadowed streets
Of Concord yesterday,
We climbed the rocky path that led
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Through hallowed air all still,
Where Concord men first laid their dead
To rest on Burial Hill.

Her sages and her poets lie
In Sleepy Hollow ground;

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But here, unvisited, apart,
Her good men unrenowned, —
Those vanished folk who greatly did,
Because they greatly planned.
Here in the slanting mellow sun
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Their sinking headstones stand.

Close to the stone-walled village street
It rises in deep shade, —
This cherished place about whose base
Their first homesteads were made.

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Here the first smoke rose from the hearth
To cheer them, great of soul;
And here for all the world to see
They set their Liberty Pole.

O little, blessed, lonely plot

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Of our ancestral earth,
What dreams are here as we draw near
The dust that gave us birth!
Out of the ancient mighty dark
These Pilgrims not in vain
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Proclaimed the good they saw, then turned
To dust and dreams again.

O never say their dreams are dead,
Since West and South and North
They sent their breed to prove their creed

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In verity and worth.
Across the conquered leagues that lie
Beneath their dauntless will,
From tent and shack the trails run back
To the foot of Burial Hill.
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Slowly we mount the wooded crest,
And there in golden gloom
Stands simple, square, and unadorned,
Our grandsire’s altar tomb.
Upon its dark gray slated top
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The long inscription reads,
In stately phrase his townsmen’s praise
Of his deserts and deeds.

Their “pastor of the Church of Christ,”
They wish the world to feel

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The “luster” of his ministry,
His “meekness” and his “zeal.”
I doubt not he deserved it all,
And not a word of ill;
For they were just, these men whose dust
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Lies here on Burial Hill.

Perhaps we wear the very guise
And features that he wore,
And with the look of his own eyes
Behold his world once more.

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Would that his spirit too might live
While lives his goodly name,
To move among the sons of men,
“A minister of flame.”

So might his magic gift of words,

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Not wholly passed away,
Survive to be a sorcery
In all men’s hearts to-day,
To plead no less for loveliness
Than truth and goodness still.
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God rest you, sir, his minister,
Asleep on Burial Hill!