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Poem by John Townsend Trowbridge

An Idyl of Harvest Time

SWIFT cloud, swift light, now dark, now bright, across the landscape played;
And, spotted as a leopard's side in chasing sun and shade,
To far dim heights and purple vales the upland rolled away,
Where the soft, warm haze of summer days on all the distance lay.

From shorn and hoary harvest-fields to barn and bristling stack,
The wagon bore its beetling loads, or clattered empty back;
The leaning oxen clashed their horns and swayed along the road,
And the old house-dog lolled beside, in the shadow of the load.

The children played among the sheaves, the hawk went sailing over,
The yellow-bird was on the bough, the bee was on the clover,
While at my easel by the oak I sketched, and sketched in vain:--
Could I but group those harvesters, paint sunshine on the grain!

While everywhere, in the golden air, the soul of beauty swims,
It will not guide my feeble touch, nor light the hand that limns.
(The load moves on--that cloud is gone! I must keep down the glare
Of sunshine on my stubble-land. Those boys are my despair!)

My fancies flit away at last, and wander like the gleams
Of shifting light along the hills, and drift away in dreams;
Till, coming round the farm-house porch and down the shady lane,
A form is seen, half hid, between the stooks of shaggy grain.

Beside my easel, at the oak, I wait to see her pass.
'T is luncheon-time: the harvesters are resting on the grass.
I watch her coming to the gap, and envy Master Ben
Who meets her there, and helps to bear her basket to the men.

In the flushed farmer's welcoming smile, there beams a father's pride.
More quiet grows, more redly glows, the shy youth by his side:
In the soft passion of his look, and in her kind, bright glance,
I read a little mystery, I read a sweet romance.

with pewter mug, and old brown jug, she laughing kneels: I hear
The liquid ripple of her lisp, with the gurgle of the beer.
That native grace, that charming face, those glances coy and sweet,
Ben, with the basket, grinning near--my grouping is complete!

The picture grows, the landscape flows, and heart and fancy burn,--
The figures start beneath my brush! (So you the rule may learn:
Let thought be thrilled with sympathy, right touch and tone to give,
And mix your colors with heart's blood, to make the canvas live.)

All this was half a year ago: I find the sketch to-day,--
Faulty and crude enough, no doubt, but it wafts my soul away!
I tack it to the wall, and lo! despite the winter's gloom,
It makes a little spot of sun and summer in my room.

Again the swift cloud-shadow sweeps across the stooks of rye;
The cricket trills, the locust shrills, the hawk goes sailing by;
The yellow-bird is on the bough, the bee is on the thistle,
The quail is near--"Ha hoyt!"--I hear his almost human whistle!

John Townsend Trowbridge

John Townsend Trowbridge's other poems:
  1. The Old Burying-Ground
  2. Menotomy Lake
  3. The Tragedy Queen
  4. Filling an Order
  5. Dorothy in the Garret

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