Ode Read at the Concord Centennial


WHO cometh over the hills,
Her garments with morning sweet,
The dance of a thousand rills
Making music before her feet?
Her presence freshens the air,
Sunshine steals light from her face,
The leaden footstep of Care
Leaps to the tune of her pace,
Fairness of all that is fair,
Grace at the heart of all grace!
Sweetener of hut and of hall,
Bringer of life out of naught,
Freedom, oh, fairest of all
The daughters of Time and Thought!


She cometh, cometh to-day;
Hark! hear ye not her tread,
Sending a thrill through your clay,
Under the sod there, ye dead,
Her champions and chosen ones?
Do ye not hear, as she comes,
The bay of the deep-mouthed guns?
The gathering buzz of the drums ?
The bells that called ye to prayer,
How wildly they clamor on her,
Crying, “ She cometh! prepare
Her to praise and her to honor,
That a hundred years ago
Scattered here in blood and tears
Potent seeds wherefrom should grow
Gladness for a hundred years " ?


Tell me, young men, have ye seen
Creature of diviner mien,
For true hearts to long and cry for,
Manly hearts to live and die for?
What hath she that others want?
Brows that all endearments haunt,
Eyes that make it sweet to dare,
Smiles that glad untimely death,
Looks that fortify despair,
Tones more brave than trumpet’s breath:
Tell me, maidens, have ye known
Household charm more sweetly rare?
Grace of woman ampler blown?
Modesty more debonair?
Younger heart with wit full-grown?
Oh, for an hour of my prime,
The pulse of my hotter years,
That I might praise her in rhyme
Would tingle your eyelids to tears,
Our sweetness, our strength, and our star,
Our hope, our joy, and our trust,
Who lifted us out of the dust
And made us whatever we are!


Whiter than moonshine upon snow
Her raiment is: but round the hem
Crimson-stained; and, as to and fro
Her sandals flash, we see on them,
And on her instep veined with blue,
Flecks of crimson, — on those fair feet,
High-arched, Diana-like, and fleet,
Fit for no grosser stain than dew:
Oh, call them rather chrisms than stains,
Sacred and from heroic veins!
For, in the glory-guarded pass,
Her haughty and far-shining head
She bowed to shrive Leonidas
With his imperishable dead;
Her, too, Morgarten saw,
Where the Swiss lion fleshed his icy paw;
She followed Cromwell’s quenchless star
Where the grim puritan tread
Shook Marston, Naseby, and Dunbar;
Yea, on her feet are dearer dyes
Yet fresh, nor looked on with untearful eyes.


Our fathers found her in the woods
Where Nature meditates and broods
The seeds of unexampled things
Which Time to consummation brings
Through life and death and man’s unstable moods;
They met her here, not recognized,
A sylvan huntress clothed in furs,
To whose chaste wants her bow sufficed,
Nor dreamed what destinies were hers:
She taught them beelike to create
Their simpler forms of Church and State;
She taught them to endue
The Past with other functions than it knew,
And turn in channels strange the uncertain stream of Fate;
Better than all, she fenced them in their need
With iron-handed Duty’s sternest creed,
’Gainst Self’s lean wolf that ravens word and deed.


Why cometh she hither to-day
To this low village of the plain
Far from the Present’s loud highway,
From Trade’s cool heart and seething brain?
Why cometh she? she was not far away;
Since the soul touched it, not in vain,
With pathos of immortal gain,
’T is here her fondest memories stay;
She loves yon pine-bemurmured ridge
Where now our broad-browed poet sleeps,
Dear to both Englands; near him he
Who wore the ring of Canacë;
But most her heart to rapture leaps
Where stood that era-parting bridge,
O’er which, with footfall still as dew,
The Old Time passed into the New;
Where as your stealthy river creeps
He whispers to his listening weeds
Tales of sublimest homespun deeds;
Here English law and English thought
Against the might of England fought,
And here were men (co-equal with their fate)
Who did great things unconscious they were great.
They dreamed not what a die was cast
With that first answering shot: what then?
There was their duty; they were men
Long schooled the inward gospel to obey
Though leading to the lions’ den;
They felt the habit-hallowed world give way
Beneath their lives, and on went they,
Unhappy who was last:
When Buttrick gave the word,
That awful idol of the hallowed Past,
Strong in their love and in their lineage strong,
Fell crashing; if they heard it not,
Yet the earth heard,
Nor ever hath forgot,
As on from startled throne to throne,
Where Superstition sate or conscious Wrong,
A shudder ran of some dread birth, unknown.
Thrice-venerable spot!
River more fateful than the Rubicon!
O'er those red planks, to snatch her diadem,
Man’s Hope, star-girdled, sprang with them,
And over ways untried the feet of Doom strode on.


Think you these felt no charms
In their gray homesteads and embowered farms?
In household faces waiting at the door
Their evening step should lighten up no more?
In fields their boyish steps had known?
In trees their fathers’ hands had set
And which with them had grown
Widening each year their leafy coronet?
Felt they no pang of passionate regret
For those unsolid goods that seem so much our own?
These things are dear to every man that lives,
And life prized more for what it lends than gives;
Yea, many a tie, by iteration sweet,
Strove to detain their fatal feet:
And yet the enduring half they chose,
Whose choice decides a man life’s slave or king, —
The invisible things of God before the seen and known:
Therefore their memory inspiration blows
With echoes gathering on from zone to zone,
For manhood is the one immortal thing
Beneath Time’s changeful sky,
And, where it lightened once, from age to age
Men come to learn, in grateful pilgrimage,
That length of days is knowing when to die.


What marvellous change of things and men!
She, a world-wandering orphan then,
So mighty now! Those are her streams
That whirl the myriad, myriad wheels
Of all that does and all that dreams,
Of all that thinks and all that feels
Through spaces stretched from sea to sea:
By idle tongues and busy brains,
By who doth right and who refrains,
Hers are our losses and our gains,
Our maker and our victim she.


Maiden half mortal, half divine,
We triumphed in thy coming; to the brinks
Our hearts were filled with pride’s tumultuous wine;
Better to-day who rather feels than thinks:
Yet will some graver thoughts intrude
And cares of nobler mood:
They won thee: who shall keep thee? From the deeps
Where discrowned empires o’er their ruins brood,
And many a thwarted hope wrings its weak hands and weeps,
I hear the voice as of a mighty wind
From all heaven’s caverns rushing unconfined,—
“ I, Freedom, dwell with Knowledge: I abide
With men whom dust of faction cannot blind
To the slow tracings of the Eternal Mind;
With men, by culture trained and fortified,
Who bitter duty to sweet lusts prefer,
Fearless to counsel and obey:
Conscience my sceptre is, and law my sword,
Not to be drawn in passion or in play,
But terrible to punish and deter,
Implacable as God’s word,
Like it a shepherd’s crook to them that blindly err.
Your firm-pulsed sires, my martyrs and my saints,
Shoots of that only race whose patient sense
Hath known to mingle flux with permanence,
Rated my chaste denials and restraints
Above the moment’s dear-paid paradise:
Beware lest, shifting with Time’s gradual creep,
The light that guided shine into your eyes:
The envious Powers of ill nor wink nor sleep;
Be therefore timely wise,
Nor laugh when this one steals and that one lies,
As if your luck could cheat those sleepless spies,
Till the deaf fury come your house to sweep!”
I hear the voice and unaffrighted bow:
Ye shall not be prophetic now,
Heralds of ill, that darkening fly
Between my vision and the rainbowed sky,
Or on the left your hoarse forebodings croak
From many a blasted bough
On Igdrasil’s storm-sinewed oak,
That once was green, Hope of the West, as thou.
Yet pardon if I tremble while I boast,
For thee I love as those who pardon most.


Away, ungrateful doubt, away!
At least she is our own to-day;
Break into rapture, my song,
Verses, leap forth in the sun,
Bearing the joyance along
Like a train of fire as ye run!
Pause not for choosing of words,
Let them but blossom and sing
Blithe as the orchards and birds
With the new coming of spring!
Dance in your jollity, bells,
Shout, cannon, cease not, ye drums,
Answer, ye hill-sides and dells,
Bow, all ye people, she comes,
Radiant, calm-fronted as when
She hallowed that April day:
Stay with us! Yes, thou shalt stay.
Softener and strengthener of men,
Freedom, not won by the vain,
Not to be courted in play,
Not to be kept without pain!
Stay with us! Yes, thou wilt stay,
Handmaid and mistress of all,
Kindler of deed and of thought,
Thou, that to hut and to hall
Equal deliverance brought!
Souls of her martyrs, draw near,
Touch our dull lips with your fire,
That we may praise without fear
Her, our delight, our desire,
Our faith’s inextinguishable star,
Our hope, our remembrance, our trust,
Our present, our past, our to be,
Who will mingle her life with our dust
And make us deserve to be free!
James Russell Lowell.