May-Day, 1862. An Ode

It is the morn of May!
The flowery holiday
Of Shakespeare’s England—with its golden hours
As bright as ever passed,
In glitt’ring waters glassed,
And threading labyrinths of leaves and flowers.

The tress fresh-clad and cool,
Of mumur’d bliss are full,
A deep content is poured on nature’s needs;
And joy is in the flow
Of each pulsation low,
Which send the lakelet rippling to its reeds.

Fair princess! Woodland queen!
The slender birch is seen,
With silken tresses to the sunshine spread;
With gleams, like dazzling smiles,
And gay coquettish wiles,
The light laburnum shakes her golden head.

Like bride on bridal morn,
There stands the snowy thorn,
White, fragment, flowery; and the lilac there,
From every peachy plume,
Shakes out a rich perfume,
In waves of incense on the happy air.

So glad a day and fair,
Why do they not prepare
The May-pole gay, the dance upon the green?
The wooing in the glade
Would want no serenade,
The nightingales would greet the young May Queen.

There is a jubilee!
With sound as of the sea
Wind-stirred—not angrily,
But with each foamy crest
Sunlit and laughing—to the west
The people flow—flow on and do not cease
Toward the wide-domed hall, the palace Hall of peace.

The golden noon is high,
And still the crowds draw nigh,
And flow within and surge the walls about;
With chorus and acclaim,
Their meeting they proclaim,
Each shout within is echoed from without.

Again the nations bring
Their peaceful spoils, and sing
Of earth restored, inherited, subdued;
The primal blessing through the curse renewed,
All the gifts of God
Again pronouncèd good.

Her jubilee half-sad;
Her pageant grave, not glad;
Care at her heart, and sorrow on her brow,
The England of to-day
Sits neither glad nor gay;
Mother of many nations is she now.

And darker are the days
Than when she first did raise
The first fair Hall of Peace:–upon her breast
Children with hunger rave;
While sounds across the wave
The strife her sons are warring in the West.

Nor want and war alone.
Death’s shadow on her throne
Has fallen; and yet she builds to Peace again;
Broader and deeper the foundation lays;
Higher and louder peals the song of praise.
She builds in faith, in faith renews the stain;
Dark though the days; though distant peace may be,
Her second Temple may the advent see.

Source: Good Words Vol. 3 (1862): 328. Print.


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