WITHIN the sober realm of leafless trees, The russet year inhaled the dreamy air; Like some tanned reaper, in his hour of ease, When all the fields are lying brown and bare.

The gray barns looking from their hazy hills, O'er the dun waters widening in the vales,

Sent down the air a greeting to the mills, On the dull thunder of alternate flails.

All sights were mellowed, and all sounds subdued, The hills seemed further, and the stream sang low,

As in a dream the distant woodman hewed His winter log with many a muffled blow.

The embattled forest, erewhile armed with gold, Their banners bright with every martial hue,

Now stood like some sad, beaten host of old, Withdrawn afar in time's remotest blue.

On sombre wings the vulture tried his flight;

The dove scarce heard his sighing mate's complaint; And, like a star slow drowning in the light,

The village church vane seemed to pale and faint.

The sentinel cock upon the hill-side crew - Crew thrice - and all was stiller than before;

Silent till some replying warden blew His alien horn, and then was heard no more.

Where erst the jay, within the elm's tall crest,

Made garrulous trouble round her unfledged young;

And where the oriole hung her swaying nest. By every light wind, like a censer, swung.

Where sang the noisy martins of the eaves The busy swallows circling ever near -

Foreboding, as the rustic mind believes, An early harvest and a plenteous year;

Where every bird, that waked the vernal feast, Shook the sweet slumber from its wings at morn,

To warn the reaper of the rosy east;

All now was sunless, empty, and forlorn.

Alone, from out the stubble, piped the quail;

And croaked the crow through all the dreary gloom; Alone the pheasant, drumming in the vale,

Made echo in the distance to the cottage loom.

There was no bud, no bloom upon the bowers;

The spiders wove their thin shrouds night by night, The thistle-down, the only ghost of flowers,

Sailed slowly by - passed noiseless out of sight.

Amid all this - in this most dreary air, And where the woodbine shed upon the porch

Its crimson leaves, as if the year stood there, Firing the floor with its inverted torch;

Amid all this, the center of the scene,

The white-haired matron, with monotonous tread. Plied the swift wheel, and, with her joyless mien,

Sate like a fate, and watched the flying thread.

She had known sorrow. He had walked with her. Oft supped, and broke with her the ashen crust,

And in the dead leaves still, she heard the stir Of his thick mantle trailing in the dust.

While yet her cheek was bright with summer bloom, Her country summoned and she gave her all;

And twice war bowed to her his sable plume - Re-gave the sword to rust upon the wall.

Re-gave the sword but not the hand that drew,

And struck for liberty the dying blow; Nor him who, to his sire and country true,

Fell 'mid the ranks of the invading foe.

Long, but not loud, the droning wheel went on, Like the low murmur of a hive at noon;

Long, but not loud, the memory of the gone Breathed through her lips a sad and tremulous tune.

At last the thread was snapped - her head was bowed;

Life dropped the distaff through her hands serene. And loving neighbors smoothed her careful shroud,

While death and winter closed the autumn scene.


The Closing Scene 776