Originally published as Martha Mason; a Song of the Old French War.
ROBERT RAWLIN!–Frosts were falling
When the ranger’s horn was calling
Through the woods to Canada.
Gone the winter’s sleet and snowing,
Gone the spring-time’s bud and blowing,
Gone the summer’s harvest mowing,
And again the fields are gray.
Yet away, he’s away!
Faint and fainter hope is growing
In the hearts that mourn his stay.
Where the lion, crouching high on
Abraham’s rock with teeth of iron,
Glares o’er wood and wave away,
Faintly thence, as pines far sighing,
Or as thunder spent and dying,
Come the challenge and replying,
Come the sounds of flight and fray.
Well-a-day! Hope and pray!
Some are living, some are lying
In their red graves far away.
Straggling rangers, worn with dangers,
Homeward faring, weary strangers
Pass the farm-gate on their way;
Tidings of the dead and living,
Forest march and ambush, giving,
Till the maidens leave their weaving,
And the lads forget their play.
“Still away, still away!”
Sighs a sad one, sick with grieving,
“Why does Robert still delay!”
Nowhere fairer, sweeter, rarer,
Does the golden-locked fruit bearer
Through his painted woodlands stray,
Than where hillside oaks and beeches
Overlook the long, blue reaches,
Silver coves and pebbled beaches,
And green isles of Casco Bay;
Nowhere day, for delay,
With a tenderer look beseeches,
“Let me with my charmed earth stay.”
On the grain-lands of the mainlands
Stands the serried corn like train-bands,
Plume and pennon rustling gay;
Out at sea, the islands wooded,
Silver birches, golden-hooded,
Set with maples, crimson-blooded,
White sea-foam and sand-hills gray,
Stretch away, far away.
Dim and dreamy, over-brooded
By the hazy autumn day.
Gayly chattering to the clattering
Of the brown nuts downward pattering,
Leap the squirrels, red and gray.
On the grass-land, on the fallow,
Drop the apples, red and yellow;
Drop the russet pears and mellow,
Drop the red leaves all the day.
And away, swift away,
Sun and cloud, o’er hill and hollow
Chasing, weave their web of play.
“Martha Mason, Martha Mason,
Prithee tell us of the reason
Why you mope at home to-day
Surely smiling is not sinning;
Leave, your quilling, leave your spinning;
What is all your store of linen,
If your heart is never gay?
Come away, come away!
Never yet did sad beginning
Make the task of life a play.”
Overbending, till she’s blending
With the flaxen skein she’s tending
Pale brown tresses smoothed away
From her face of patient sorrow,
Sits she, seeking but to borrow,
From the trembling hope of morrow,
Solace for the weary day.
“Go your way, laugh and play;
Unto Him who heeds the sparrow
And the lily, let me pray.”
“With our rally, rings the valley,–
Join us!” cried the blue-eyed Nelly;
“Join us!” cried the laughing May,
“To the beach we all are going,
And, to save the task of rowing,
West by north the wind is blowing,
Blowing briskly down the bay
Come away, come away!
Time and tide are swiftly flowing,
Let us take them while we may!
“Never tell us that you’ll fail us,
Where the purple beach-plum mellows
On the bluffs so wild and gray.
Hasten, for the oars are falling;
Hark, our merry mates are calling;
Time it is that we were all in,
Singing tideward down the bay!”
“Nay, nay, let me stay;
Sore and sad for Robert Rawlin
Is my heart,” she said, “to-day.”