close close2 chevron-circle-left chevron-circle-right twitter bookmark4 facebook3 twitter3 pinterest3 feed4 envelope star quill

Poems About the Past

Table of Contents

  1. The Past by Emily Dickinson
  2. Farewell by Ruby Archer
  3. To the Past by William Cullen Bryant
  4. Tear Stains by John Charles McNeill
  5. My Treasure by Arthur Weir
  6. The Water Mill by Sarah Doudney
  7. The Old Home Barn by Edward Henry Elwell
  8. The Present by Adelaide Anne Procter
  9. The Place Where I Was Born by James W. Whilt
  10. The Kansas That Was by Albert Stroud
  11. Quest by Winifred Webb
  12. Forth From Your Past! by Amos Russel Wells
  13. The Deserted Cabin by Ruby Archer
  14. The Antiquary by Ruby Archer
  15. To Yesterday by Ruby Archer

  1. The Past

    The past is such a curious creature,
    To look her in the face
    A transport may reward us,
    Or a disgrace.

    - Emily Dickinson
    The Past
    by Emily Dickinson

    The past is such a curious creature,
    To look her in the face
    A transport may reward us,
    Or a disgrace.

    Unarmed if any meet her,
    I charge him, fly!
    Her rusty ammunition
    Might yet reply!

  2. Farewell

    by Ruby Archer

    Farewell, dear fallen petals of past days.
    Your bloom is perished, and ye lie
    Along the windings of once trodden ways,
    Nor stir as memory's breeze flits by.

  3. To the Past

    Thou unrelenting Past!
    Strong are the barriers round thy dark domain,
    And fetters, sure and fast,
    Hold all that enter thy unbreathing reign.

    - William Cullen Bryant
    To the Past
    by William Cullen Bryant

    Thou unrelenting Past!
    Strong are the barriers round thy dark domain,
    And fetters, sure and fast,
    Hold all that enter thy unbreathing reign.

    Far in thy realm withdrawn
    Old empires sit in sullenness and gloom,
    And glorious ages gone
    Lie deep within the shadow of thy womb.

    Childhood, with all its mirth,
    Youth, Manhood, Age, that draws us to the ground,
    And last, Man's Life on earth,
    Glide to thy dim dominions, and are bound.

    Thou hast my better years,
    Thou hast my earlier friends—the good—the kind,
    Yielded to thee with tears—
    The venerable form—the exalted mind.

    My spirit yearns to bring
    The lost ones back—yearns with desire intense,
    And struggles hard to wring
    Thy bolts apart, and pluck thy captives thence.

    In vain—thy gates deny
    All passage save to those who hence depart;
    Nor to the streaming eye
    Thou giv'st them back—nor to the broken heart.

    In thy abysses hide
    Beauty and excellence unknown—to thee
    Earth's wonder and her pride
    Are gathered, as the waters to the sea;

    Labours of good to man,
    Unpublished charity, unbroken faith,—
    Love, that midst grief began,
    And grew with years, and faltered not in death.

    Full many a mighty name
    Lurks in thy depths, unuttered, unrevered;
    With thee are silent fame,
    Forgotten arts, and wisdom disappeared.

    Thine for a space are they—
    Yet shalt thou yield thy treasures up at last;
    Thy gates shall yet give way,
    Thy bolts shall fall, inexorable Past!

    All that of good and fair
    Has gone into thy womb from earliest time,
    Shall then come forth, to wear
    The glory and the beauty of its prime.

    They have not perished—no!
    Kind words, remembered voices once so sweet,
    Smiles, radiant long ago,
    And features, the great soul's apparent seat;

    All shall come back, each tie
    Of pure affection shall be knit again;
    Alone shall Evil die,
    And Sorrow dwell a prisoner in thy reign.

    And then shall I behold
    Him, by whose kind paternal side I sprung,
    And her, who, still and cold,
    Fills the next grave—the beautiful and young.

  4. Tear Stains

    by John Charles McNeill

    Tear-marks stain from page to page
    This book my fathers left to me,—
    So dull that nothing but its age
    Were worth its freight across the sea.

    But tear stains! When, by whom, and why?
    Thus takes my fancy to its wings;
    For grief is old, and one may cry
    About so many things!

  5. My Treasure

    "The past is my treasure, friends," I said,
    "Time but adds to my treasury,

    – Arthur Weir
    My Treasure
    by Arthur Weir

    "What do you gather?" the maiden said,
    Shaking her sunlit curls at me—
    "See, these flowers I plucked are dead,
    Ah! misery."

    "What do you gather?" the miser said,
    Clinking his gold, as he spoke to me—
    "I cannot sleep at night for dread
    Of thieves," said he.

    "What do you gather?" the dreamer said,
    "I dream dreams of what is to be;
    Daylight comes, and my dreams are fled,
    Ah! woe is me."

    "What do you gather?" the young man said—
    "I seek fame for eternity,
    Toiling on while the world's abed,
    Alone," said he.

    "What do I gather?" I laughing said,
    "Nothing at all save memory,
    Sweet as flowers, but never dead,
    Like thine, Rosie."

    "I have no fear of thieves," I said,
    "Daylight kills not my reverie,
    Fame will find I am snug abed,
    That comes to me."

    "The past is my treasure, friends," I said,
    "Time but adds to my treasury,
    Happy moments are never fled
    Away from me."

    "All one needs to be rich," I said,
    "Is to live that his past shall be
    Sweet in his thoughts, as a wild rose red,
    Eternally."

  6. The Water Mill

    The mill will never grind again with water that is past.

    – Sarah Doudney
    The Water Mill
    by Sarah Doudney

    Oh! listen to the water mill, through all the livelong day,
    As the clicking of the wheels wears hour by hour away;
    How languidly the autumn wind does stir the withered leaves
    As in the fields the reapers sing, while binding up their sheaves!
    A solemn proverb strikes my mind, and as a spell is cast,
    "The mill will never grind again with water that is past."

    The summer winds revive no more leaves strewn o'er earth and main,
    The sickle nevermore will reap the yellow garnered grain;
    The rippling stream flows on—aye, tranquil, deep and still,
    But never glideth back again to busy water mill;
    The solemn proverb speaks to all with meaning deep and vast,
    "The mill will never grind again with water that is past."

    Ah! clasp the proverb to thy soul, dear loving heart and true,
    For golden years are fleeting by and youth is passing too;
    Ah! learn to make the most of life, nor lose one happy day,
    For time will ne'er return sweet joys neglected, thrown away;
    Nor leave one tender word unsaid, thy kindness sow broadcast—
    "The mill will never grind again with water that is past."

    Oh! the wasted hours of life, that have swiftly drifted by,
    Alas! the good we might have done, all gone without a sigh;
    Love that we might once have saved by a single kindly word,
    Thoughts conceived, but ne'er expressed, perishing unpenned, unheard.
    Oh! take the lesson to thy soul, forever clasp it fast—
    "The mill will never grind again with water that is past."

    Work on while yet the sun doth shine, thou man of strength and will,
    The streamlet ne'er doth useless glide by clicking water mill;
    Nor wait until to-morrow's light beams brightly on thy way,
    For all that thou canst call thine own lies in the phrase "to-day."
    Possession, power and blooming health must all be lost at last—
    "The mill will never grind again with water that is past."

    Oh! love thy God and fellowman, thyself consider last,
    For come it will when thou must scan dark errors of the past;
    Soon will this fight of life be o'er and earth recede from view,
    And heaven in all its glory shine, where all is pure and true.
    Ah! then thou'lt see more clearly still the proverb deep and vast,
    "The mill will never grind again with water that is past."

  7. The Old Home Barn

    by Edward Henry Elwell

    On a Painting by Harry Brown

    Yes, 'tis the same! The old home barn!
    Scene of my boyhood plays;
    How many memories, sweet and sad,
    Rise up from those old days.

    Through the open door again I ride
    On hayrack heaped full high,
    And toss to the mow the fragrant store,
    Born of the summer sky.

    I leap from the beam, and, buried deep,
    Emerge with laugh and shout;
    Hunt in the hay the stolen nest,
    The hidden eggs seek out.

    Old Dobbin neighs from behind his crib,
    I hear the oxen's tread,
    The breath of the kine comes sweet to me—
    But where is the colt I fed?

    On the floor the hens are scratching still;
    The stout farm-wagon, too, is there;
    The carryall that carried all
    In state to the county fair.

    How rung the barn with merry glee
    When the husking-bee came round,
    And cheeks were aglow with blushes deep,
    When the bright red ears were found.

    Through the open door, across the road,
    A picture framed I see,
    The fields, the wood, the hills afar,
    That hid the world from me.

    What lay beyond I pondered deep,
    A realm most fair it seemed;
    And much I wished to tread its ways
    Of which I long had dreamed.

    I've wandered far; the world so wide,
    That still has lured me on,
    Ne'er gave to me a scene so fair
    As that I gaze upon.

    The old home barn, in boyhood's days,
    A pleasure palace reared;
    To-day it stands a temple filled
    With memories e'er endeared.

    O Artist of the magic wand
    Which thus recalls the past,
    Your work shall hang in memory's hall
    So long as life shall last.

  8. The Present

    Do not crouch to-day, and worship
    The dead Past, whose life is fled
    Hush your voice in tender reverence;
    Crowned he lies, but cold and dead:

    – Adelaide Anne Procter
    The Present
    by Adelaide Anne Procter

    Do not crouch to-day, and worship
    The dead Past, whose life is fled
    Hush your voice in tender reverence;
    Crowned he lies, but cold and dead:
    For the Present reigns, our monarch,
    With an added weight of hours;
    Honor her, for she is mighty!
    Honor her, for she is ours!

    See the shadows of his heroes
    Girt around her cloudy throne;
    Every day the ranks are strengthened
    By great hearts to him unknown;
    Noble things the great Past promised,
    Holy dreams, both strange and new;
    But the Present shall fulfill them;
    What he promised, she shall do.

    She inherits all his treasures,
    She is heir to all his fame,
    And the light that lightens round her
    Is the luster of his name;
    She is wise with all his wisdom,
    Living on his grave she stands,
    On her brow she bears his laurels,
    And his harvest in her hands.

    Coward, can she reign and conquer
    If we thus her glory dim?
    Let us fight for her as nobly
    As our fathers fought for him.
    God, who crowns the dying ages,
    Bids her rule, and us obey,
    Bids us cast our lives before her,
    Bids us serve the great To-day.

  9. The Place Where I Was Born

    by James W. Whilt

    There's a little old log cabin,
    And its walls have fallen down,
    Snow has broken down its rafters,
    Not one log that's left is sound.

    The brush obscures the doorway,
    Everything looks so forlorn,
    'Tis the little old log cabin,
    The place where I was born—

    Briers o'errun the pathway
    Which leads to the crystal spring,
    That cradled the tiny brooklet
    Where the oriole used to sing.

    The hills are fields and pastures
    Where I roamed when but a child;
    It was all unbroken forest,
    And it stretched out far and wild.

    The meadows ran in wavelets,
    When the wind so wild and free
    Blew o'er their level surface
    Like a green and billowy sea.

    There was childhood's shout and laughter
    Within that cabin small;
    But to me it was a palace,
    With wide and stately hall.

    Our pleasures there were sweeter
    Than a rose without a thorn,
    In that little old log cabin,—
    The place where I was born.

    Oh! the little old log cabin!
    Where the air was sweet and cool,
    Where our school-house was the forest,
    And we went to Nature's school;

    Could I but re-trace my footsteps
    Over life's uncertain road,
    Could I go back to that cabin,
    Lighter far would be my load.

  10. Quest

    by Winifred Webb

    Ho all you eager travelers!
    Have you some place to go
    Where you forget the many things
    You wish you did not know?
    Forget your own insistent past
    And feel just fit and free?
    If you have found it, won't you tell
    Its happy name to me?

  11. Forth From Your Past!

    by Amos Russel Wells

    Forth from your lowly Past! In humble wise
    Up to the highest heaven lift your eyes.
    No glories that the heroes ever knew
    But God has placed them waiting there for you.

    Forth from your evil Past! The shame and sin—
    Dare now to live as they had never been.
    In Jesus cleansed and in His sureness sure,
    Know that the years to come are sweet und pure.

    Forth from your troubled Past! How dark the days.
    How dreary and perplexed your wandering waya!
    Forget those fears and tears and scenes abhorred.
    And enter all the joyance of your Lord.

    Forth from your lonely Past! No comrade knew
    Your inner warfare for the good and true;
    But in the time to come till time shall end
    You shall not lack a comrade and a friend.

    Forth from your Past! 'Twas given you to build
    A Future from it all with blessings filled.
    Enter its open gate its liberal door,
    And live its happy lord for evermore.

  12. The Deserted Cabin

    by Ruby Archer

    Lone, it lingers on the mountain
    With no sign or sound of life;
    No sweet, happy, household cadence,
    Laugh of child or song of wife.
    How it stares adown the valley
    With those hard and hollow eyes,
    As if waiting, empty-hearted,
    Hopeless, for some sweet surprise.
    All the doors have broken hinges,
    Rails have fallen from the fence;
    High the dove-cote leans, abandoned,
    Lonely birds have wandered hence.
    Mosses creep through every crevice,
    Sunshine bars the vacant floor,
    And a yellow ox-eyed daisy
    Peeps in wonder through the door.
    Yonder windmill turning, turning,
    In the old accustomed way,
    Feels a sympathy in moving
    With the winds that sigh alway:
    "We have lost the waving tresses
    Of a little golden head.
    We can find no touch responsive.—
    All but memory is dead."

  13. The Antiquary

    by Ruby Archer

    The Muse of Poetry loves all things quaint
    And rare and old,—that faded, mellow paint
    That only time-worn use on words bestows.
    Conservative she is, far more than those
    Who say, "Whatever is, is right," for she
    Declares, "Whatever was, is right for me."

  14. To Yesterday

    by Ruby Archer

    O Yesterday, you saw him. In your warm
    Sweet light we wandered idly, happily.
    Unto your deep of blue his eyes were lent,
    And through your moments lingered yet his voice.
    Bide near me, Yesterday. You know of him;
    And I may turn to you—now he is gone—
    Remind you of a glance, a word, a touch,
    A thousand glints of soul revealed to soul
    And thus defer the thought of poor To-day.

Related Poems