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With ice and snow the window-panes were bound,
Nor through their dimness could the earth appear, And still in gusts the wind a passage found Down the rude chimney with a roaring sound.
A voice divine it did to Williams seem ;
He sat awhile within himself retired,
Just as the lamp's last flickering ray expired;
Cast from the brands that on the hearth are fired; The tempest lulls apace, until he seems To hear from neighboring woods the panther's screams.
6. But what is that? a knocking ? — and once more?
Some way-lost wanderer seeks a shelter here ; Ah, wretched man, amid the boisterous roar
Of snow and wind, thy sufferings are severe!” He raised the bar that kept the outer door,
And with the snow-gust from the darkness drear, A stranger entered, whose large garments bore Proof of the storm in clinging snowflakes hoar.
Aged he seemed, and staff of length had he,
Which well would holy pilgrim have become,
And easy step, the centre of the room ;
His flowing beard, white as the lily's bloom;
His eyes beamed youth; and such a solemn mien,
Joined with such majesty and graceful air, Our Founder thought he ne'er before had seen
In mortal form ; and at the offered chair
And by the act revealed his long white hair,
And when he spake his voice was low and clear,
But yet so deeply thrilling in its tone,
Where angels speak in music of their own.
Of mighty moment to this age unknown,
“ Thou art to voyage an unexploréd flood;
No chart is there thy lonely bark to steer; Beneath her, rocks — around her, tempests rude,
And persecution's billows in her rear, Shall shake thy soul till it is near subdued :
But when the welcome of What cheer! What cheer!' Shall greet thine ears from Indian multitude, Cast thou thine Anchor there, and trust in God."
The stranger ceased, and gently past away,
Though Williams to retain him still was fain; “ The night was dark, and wild the tempest's sway,
And lone the desert,” but 'twas all in vain ;
He only in soft accents seemed to say,
“Perchance I may behold thee yet again, What time thy day shall more auspicious be, And hope shall turn to joy in victory."
The stranger past, and Williams, by the fire,
Long mused on this mysterious event: Was it some seraph, robed in man's attire,
Come down to urge and hallow his intent? To counsel — kindle and his breast inspire
With words of high prophetic sentiment ? Or had he dreamed and in his mind, as clear As if in corporal presence, seen the seer?
'Twas strange - mysterious ! Yet, if dream it were,
'Twas such as chosen men of old had known, When Jacob saw the heaven-ascending stair,
And Joseph hoarded for the dearth foreshown. Ah! did the Omniscient hear his earnest prayer,
And did e'en Heaven the glorious project own! Then would he, by the morrow's earliest ray, Unto the distant forest make his way.
He sought for rest, but feverous was his plight
For peaceful and refreshing sleep, I trow; Still mused he on the morrow's toilsome fight,
Through unknown wilds and trackless wastes of snow; How to elude the persecutor's sight,
Or shun the eager quest of following foe,
And if by fits came intervening sleep,
Through deserts wild and rugged roved his soul, Here rose the rock there sunk the headlong steep,
And fiercely round him seemed the storm to howl; The while from sheltered glen his foes would peep
With taunts and jeers, and with revilings foul Scoff at his efforts; and their clamors deep Came mingled with that awful tempest's sweep.
Morn came at last; and by the dawning day,
Our Founder rose his secret flight to take; His wife and infant still in slumber lay;
And shall he now that blissful slumber break ? Oh, yes, for he believes that trials may,
Within the mind, its mightier powers awake, And that the storms, which gloom the pilgrim's way, Prepare the soul for her eternal day.
“ Mary!” (she woke) “prepare the meet attire,
My pocket-compass and my mantle strong, My flint and steel to yield the needful fire,
Food for a week, if that be not too long;
To clip my fuel desert wilds among ;
“What! goest thou, Roger, in this chilling storm ?
Wait! wait at least until its rage is o’er; Its wrath will bar e'en persecution's arm
From thee and me until it fails to roar.
Oh, what protecting hand from lurking harm
Will be thy shield by night ? — What friendly door Will give thee refuge at the dire alarm Of hungry wolves, and beasts in human form ?”
“Oh cease, my Mary, cease! — Thou dost complain
That Heaven itself doth interpose to save, Doth wing this tempest's fury to restrain
The quest of foes, and prompt my soul to brave The desert's perils, that I may maintain
The conscience free against who would enslave; Wait till the storm shall cease to sweep the plain, And we are doomed to cross yon heaving main.”
No more he said, for she in silence went
From place to place until her task was o'er ; Williams, the while, the fleeting moments spent
To scrawl a message to delay the more
Till he could safely reach far wood or shore ;
Then he to Heaven his weeping spouse commends,
And craves its blessing on his purpose bold; Still Salem lies in sleep, and forth he wends
To breast the driving storm and chilling cold ; While the lone mother from the window sends
A look where all her aching heart is told ; Dimly she marks him as his course he bends Across the fields, and toward the forest tends.