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The Old Church Choir
by [?]

I am slowly treading the mazy track
That leadeth, through sunshine and shadows, back–
Through freshest meads where the dews yet cling
As erst they did to each lowly thing,
Where flowers bloom and where streamlets flow
With the tender music of long ago–
To the far-off past that, through mists of tears,
In its spring time loveliness still appears,
And wooes me back to the gleaming shore
Of sunny years that return no more.

And to night, all weary, and sad, and lone,
I return in thought to those bright years flown,
Whose lingering sweetness, e’en yet, I feel
Like the breath of flower-scents over me steal
I am treading o’er mounds where the dead repose,–
I am stirring the dust of life’s perished rose,–
I am rustling the withered leaves that lie
Thick in the pathway of Memory,–
And calling out from each lonely hill
Echoes of voices forever still.

And I pause again where I stood of yore
In the Sabbath light at an old church door,
And, ling’ring a moment, I turn to view
The green hills leaning against the blue
As erewhile they stood in the golden calm
Of morning’s sunlight and breath of balm,
With clustering verdure, and blossoming trees,
And gush of bird song and hum of bees,
And glancing shadows that came and went
Of soft clouds high in the firmament,
Floating away in their robes of white
On snowy pinions through realms of light.

And I see again through the azure sky
The same white cloudlets still floating by;
And a greener line through the meadow shows
Where a little streamlet still, singing, flows;
And out from a woodland there floats again
Of joyous warblers the old, sweet strain;
While still, with serious, reverent air,
Aged and young seek the house of prayer.

And with them I enter the narrow door
That open stands as it stood of yore;
And look up again at the windows tall,–
At the narrow aisles and the naked wall,–
At the high, straight pulpit with cushion red,
And its worn, old Bible still open spread,–
At the pews where, unhindered, the slant rays fall,–
At the long, plain gallery over all
Where maid and matron, and son and sire,
Together sang in the old church-choir.

And again, as I listen, I seem to hear
The strains of old, half-forgotten Mear,
And solemn China, and grave Dundee,
And stately Rockingham, calm and free,
And rare Old-Hundred’s majestic swell,
And tender Hebron we loved so well,
And tuneful Stonefield’s melodies sweet,
Bridgewater, Windham, and Silver-street,
And rich St. Martin, and yet again
Old Coronation’s exultant strain,
And sweet Devizes’ slow, warbled tone,
Resounding Lenox and Arlington,
And gentle Boyleston, and many more
Which Memory holds in her treasured store,
That rise and fall on the tranquil air,
As they did of old, in this house of prayer;
Where, Sabbath by Sabbath, for many a year,
Often and often we sang them here.

For many a year–but they all are flown,
The band is broken, and hushed each tone,
And voices that mingled in tuneful breath,
Are silent now in the hush of death!
Scattered like Autumn-leaves far and near
Are those who clustered together here,–
Gone, like flowers in the swift stream cast,
Like wandering birds when the summer’s past,
Like perfume shed in the tempest’s track,
Never again to be gathered back!

I am thinking now of a young, fair face,
A brow of beauty, a form of grace,
The tender tones of whose sweet voice long
Swelled richly forth in our Sabbath-song;
But she laid her own, in a loved one’s hand,
And he led her forth to a distant land,
Where a home, all radiant with love’s pure beam,
Fulfilled her girlhood’s enraptured dream;–
Yet she only pined ‘neath the stranger’s sky,
And he brought her back to her own–to die!