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The Good Old Days

31 Poems About a Simpler Time

Table of Contents

  1. The Old Country Store by Ed Blair
  2. The Old Oaken Bucket by Samuel Woodworth
  3. The Family Doctor by Edgar A. Guest
  4. Old-Fashioned Letters by Edgar A. Guest
  5. A Time to Talk by Robert Frost
  6. The Milkman by Christopher Morley
  7. The Furnace by Christopher Morley
  8. Song of the School Bell by John Edward Everett
  9. Bringing Home the Cows by Sir Charles George Douglas Roberts
  10. Living on a Farm by Anonymous
  11. Winters on the Farm by Freeman E. Miller
  12. The Old Farm by O. Henry
  13. The Old Barn by Madison Cawein
  14. The Stack Behind the Barn by Sir Charles George Douglas Roberts
  15. The Old Homestead by William Henry Venable
  16. The Old Fire-Place by John S. Mohler
  17. The Old-Time Fire by Samuel Harden
  18. The Old Hickory Wood by Evander A. Crewson
  19. The Old Cane Mill by Nellie Gregg Tomlinson
  20. The Old Grist-Mill by Richard Henry Stoddard
  21. The Old Mill by the River by Isaac McLellan
  22. The Saw-mill on the Connecticut by Grace Hazard Conkling
  23. Keepsake Mill by Robert Louis Stevenson
  24. The Stake and Rider Fence by W. E. Hutchinson
  25. Sleighing by Helen Lee Carey
  26. "Sugaring Off" by Hattie Howard
  27. The Old Sugar Camp by Helen M. Johnson
  28. Sugaring by Raymond Holden
  29. Spinning Tow by Ellen P. Allerton
  30. My Mother's Wheel by Ellen P. Allerton
  31. The Old Flax-Wheel by Virgil Viraldini Twitchell
  32. Knitting by Ellen P. Allerton
  33. The Sewing Circle by Evander A. Crewson
  34. The Cabin Days of Kansas by Ed Blair
  35. The Kansas That Was by Albert Stroud
  36. The Man With the Axe by Horace Dumont Herr

Poems About Life in the Good Old Days

  1. The Old Country Store

    by Ed Blair

    Oh, the old country store with the candy jars in it,
    And the bag of green coffee that sat by the door;
    The barrel of sorghum with plug driven in it,
    That leaked every hour a few drops on the floor.
    The barrel of crackers with cover beside it,
    The cheese, where a patron could pilfer a bite.
    The jugs and the jars with the straw in between them,
    When I was a boy 'twas a source of delight.

    Piled up on the counter, the "hickory shirting"—
    A stripe and a plaid for the patrons to choose.
    Some featherproof ticking, some ducking for "breeches,"
    Some calicos, ginghams, a few pairs of shoes,
    A barrel of kraut never spoiled in the making,
    How good it did taste when I tiptoed a wee,
    And the "gingersnap cookies" that came in the boxes,
    What a treat to have one of them given to me.

    The old country store, what a charm to the youngster
    The hogshead of sugar (sometimes mixed with sand),
    And if I was there when the "store man" was opening,
    A lump of its sweetness was placed in my hand.
    The coffee pots stood in a row on the shelving,
    The old iron boilers and tubs down below,
    A can of gunpowder and shot for the hunters
    And the "waterproof" caps that ofttimes wouldn't go.

    Oh, the old country store, what a joy there to visit
    With postoffice boxes, 'mong cobwebs galore,
    That gave us the letters and papers on Monday,
    That rode in the mails for a fortnight or more.
    Oh, never a city with street cars and bridges
    And viaducts, factories—yea, all of these,
    Can e'er beat the store at the cross roads on Cow creek
    Where first I bought candy and crackers and cheese.

  2. The Old Oaken Bucket

    by Samuel Woodworth

    How dear to this heart are the scenes of my childhood,
    When fond recollection presents them to view!
    The orchard, the meadow, the deep-tangled wild-wood,
    And every loved spot which my infancy knew!
    The wide-spreading pond, and the mill that stood by it,
    The bridge, and the rock where the cataract fell,
    The cot of my father, the dairy-house nigh it,
    And e'en the rude bucket that hung in the well―
    The old oaken bucket, the iron-bound bucket,
    The moss-covered bucket which hung in the well.

    That moss-covered vessel I hailed as a treasure,
    For often at noon, when returned from the field,
    I found it the source of an exquisite pleasure,
    The purest and sweetest that nature can yield.
    How ardent I seized it, with hands that were glowing,
    And quick to the white-pebbled bottom it fell;
    Then soon, with the emblem of truth overflowing,
    And dripping with coolness, it rose from the well―
    The old oaken bucket, the iron-bound bucket,
    The moss-covered bucket arose from the well.

    How sweet from the green mossy brim to receive it
    As poised on the curb it inclined to my lips!
    Not a full blushing goblet could tempt me to leave it,
    The brightest that beauty or revelry sips.
    And now, far removed from the loved habitation,
    The tear of regret will intrusively swell.
    As fancy reverts to my father's plantation,
    And sighs for the bucket that hangs in the well―
    The old oaken bucket, the iron-bound bucket,
    The moss-covered bucket that hangs in the well!

  3. The Family Doctor

    by Edgar A. Guest

    I've tried the high-toned specialists, who doctor folks to-day;
    I've heard the throat man whisper low "Come on now let us spray";
    I've sat in fancy offices and waited long my turn,
    And paid for fifteen minutes what it took a week to earn;
    But while these scientific men are kindly, one and all,
    I miss the good old doctor that my mother used to call.

    The old-time family doctor! Oh, I am sorry that he's gone,
    He ushered us into the world and knew us every one;
    He didn't have to ask a lot of questions, for he knew
    Our histories from birth and all the ailments we'd been through.
    And though as children small we feared the medicines he'd send,
    The old-time family doctor grew to be our dearest friend.

    No hour too late, no night too rough for him to heed our call;
    He knew exactly where to hang his coat up in the hall;
    He knew exactly where to go, which room upstairs to find
    The patient he'd been called to see, and saying: "Never mind,
    I'll run up there myself and see what's causing all the fuss."
    It seems we grew to look and lean on him as one of us.

    He had a big and kindly heart, a fine and tender way,
    And more than once I've wished that I could call him in to-day.
    The specialists are clever men and busy men, I know,
    And haven't time to doctor as they did long years ago;
    But some day he may come again, the friend that we can call,
    The good old family doctor who will love us one and all.

  4. Old-Fashioned Letters

    by Edgar A. Guest

    Old-fashioned letters! How good they were!
    And nobody writes them now;
    Never at all comes in the scrawl
    On the written pages which told us all
    The news of town and the folks we knew,
    And what they had done or were going to do.
    It seems we've forgotten how
    To spend an hour with our pen in hand
    To write in the language we understand.

    Old-fashioned letters we used to get
    And ponder each fond line o'er;
    The glad words rolled like running gold,
    As smoothly their tales of joy they told,
    And our hearts beat fast with a keen delight
    As we read the news they were pleased to write
    And gathered the love they bore.
    But few of the letters that come to-day
    Are penned to us in the old-time way.

    Old-fashioned letters that told us all
    The tales of the far away;
    Where they'd been and the folks they'd seen;
    And better than any fine magazine
    Was the writing too, for it bore the style
    Of a simple heart and a sunny smile,
    And was pure as the breath of May.
    Some of them oft were damp with tears,
    But those were the letters that lived for years.

    Old-fashioned letters! How good they were!
    And, oh, how we watched the mails;
    But nobody writes of the quaint delights
    Of the sunny days and the merry nights
    Or tells us the things that we yearn to know—
    That art passed out with the long ago,
    And lost are the simple tales;
    Yet we all would happier be, I think,
    If we'd spend more time with our pen and ink.

  5. A Time to Talk

    by Robert Frost

    When a friend calls to me from the road
    And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
    I don’t stand still and look around
    On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
    And shout from where I am, What is it?
    No, not as there is a time to talk.
    I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
    Blade-end up and five feet tall,
    And plod: I go up to the stone wall
    For a friendly visit.

  6. The Milkman

    by Christopher Morley

    Early in the morning, when the dawn is on the roofs,
    You hear his wheels come rolling, you hear his horse's hoofs;
    You hear the bottles clinking, and then he drives away:
    You yawn in bed, turn over, and begin another day!

    The old-time dairy maids are dear to every poet's heart—
    I'd rather be the dairy man and drive a little cart,
    And bustle round the village in the early morning blue,
    And hang my reins upon a hook, as I've seen Casey do.

  7. The Furnace

    by Christopher Morley

    At night I opened
    The furnace door:
    The warm glow brightened
    The cellar floor.

    The fire that sparkled
    Blue and red,
    Kept small toes cosy
    In their bed.

    As up the stair
    So late I stole,
    I said my prayer:
    Thank God for coal!

  8. Song of the School Bell

    by John Edward Everett

    Kind neighbors, you and I are friends.
    And toiling for the selfsame ends,
    To help the children wiser grow,
    And teach them what they ought to know.

    Day after day, the winter through,
    I guard your sons and daughters true.
    Each day at nine I say, "hello",
    To the youthful world of joy and woe.
    Each day at nine are loudly sung
    Clear greetings from my iron tongue,
    While children rush with romp and race,
    As though to meet my fond embrace.
    Then through the hours they ply the mind
    To see what knowledge they may find—
    Sometimes with smile and radiant eye,
    Sometimes with frown and inward sigh.
    'Tis now with bright, now downcast, looks
    They bend their heads above their books.

    Kind neighbors, you and I are friends.
    And toiling for the selfsame ends,—
    To help the children wiser grow,
    And teach them what they ought to know.

  9. Bringing Home the Cows

    by Sir Charles George Douglas Roberts

    When potatoes were in blossom,
    When the new hay filled the mows,
    Sweet the paths we trod together,
    Bringing home the cows.

    What a purple kissed the pasture,
    Kissed and blessed the alder-boughs,
    As we wandered slow at sundown,
    Bringing home the cows!

    How the far-off hills were gilded
    With the light that dream allows.
    As we built our hopes beyond them,
    Bringing home the cows!

    How our eyes were bright with visions,
    What a meaning wreathed our brows,
    As we watched the cranes, and lingered,
    Bringing home the cows!

    Past the years, and through the distance,
    Throbs the memory of our vows.
    Oh, that we again were children,
    Bringing home the cows!

  10. Living on a Farm

    by Anonymous

    How brightly through the mist of years,
    My quiet country home appears!
    My father busy all the day
    In plowing corn or raking hay;
    My mother moving with delight
    Among the milk pans, silver-bright;
    We children, just from school set free,
    Filling the garden with our glee.
    The blood of life was flowing warm
    When I was living on a farm.

    I hear the sweet churchgoing bell,
    As o'er the fields its music fell,
    I see the country neighbors round
    Gathering beneath the pleasant sound;
    They stop awhile beside the door,
    To talk their homely matters o'er
    The springing corn, the ripening grain,
    And "how we need a little rain;"
    "A little sun would do no harm,
    We want good weather for the farm."

    When autumn came, what joy to see
    The gathering of the husking bee,
    To hear the voices keeping tune,
    Of girls and boys beneath the moon,
    To mark the golden corn ears bright,
    More golden in the yellow light!
    Since I have learned the ways of men,
    I often turn to these again,
    And feel life wore its highest charm.
    When I was living on the farm.

  11. Winters on the Farm

    by Freeman E. Miller

    Glad winters on the olden farm!
    How raptures from those early times
    Commingle into fairy chimes
    Which gently banish cries of harm!
    My fainting soul finds rest the whiles
    Within the arms of memory,
    And tender scenes of boyish glee
    Transform my sorrows into smiles.

    How brightly beamed the pleasures then,
    When frigid fingers came to throw
    A wintry winding sheet of snow
    Around the silent homes of men!
    But happiness found no alarm,
    For safe with cheer, secure with love,
    She gladly grew and sweetly throve
    Through winters on the olden farm.

    With merry bells and busy sleighs,
    That sung and flew o'er icy vales
    And climbed the hills as fleet as gales,
    Like singing phantoms died the days;
    Or then with coat and muffler warm
    Sweet children glided on the lake,
    Or chased the rabbit through the brake,
    In winters on the olden farm.

    How glad the joys at eventide
    When 'round the hearth-stone's pleasant heat
    The simple song in music sweet
    From loving voices floated wide!
    The mellowed apples gave a charm,
    While pop-corn white and cider bright
    With worlds of laughter lent delight
    To winters on the olden farm.

    Thrice happy nights and happy days,
    Sweet isles of pleasure in the past,
    May long your hallowed moments cast
    A sacred sunshine o'er my ways!
    And where life leads me, gladly arm
    My soul with angel songs of bliss,
    With true embrace and holy kiss,
    O, winters on the olden farm!

  12. The Old Farm

    by O. Henry

    Just now when the whitening blossoms flare
    On the apple trees and the growing grass
    Creeps forth, and a balm is in the air;
    With my lighted pipe and well-filled glass
    Of the old farm I am dreaming,
    And softly smiling, seeming
    To see the bright sun beaming
    Upon the old home farm.

    And when I think how we milked the cows,
    And hauled the hay from the meadows low;
    And walked the furrows behind the plows,
    And chopped the cotton to make it grow
    I'd much rather be here dreaming
    And smiling, only seeming
    To see the hot sun gleaming
    Upon the old home farm.

  13. The Old Barn

    by Madison Cawein

    Low, swallow-swept and gray,
    Between the orchard and the spring,
    All its wide windows overflowing hay,
    And crannied doors a-swing,
    The old barn stands to-day.

    Deep in its hay the Leghorn hides
    A round white nest; and, humming soft
    On roof and rafter, or its log-rude sides,
    Black in the sun-shot loft,
    The building hornet glides.

    Along its corn-crib, cautiously
    As thieving fingers, skulks the rat;
    Or in warped stalls of fragrant timothy,
    Gnaws at some loosened slat,
    Or passes shadowy.

    A dream of drouth made audible
    Before its door, hot, smooth, and shrill
    All day the locust sings… What other spell
    Shall hold it, lazier still
    Than the long day's, now tell:—

    Dusk and the cricket and the strain
    Of tree-toad and of frog; and stars
    That burn above the rich west's ribbéd stain;
    And dropping pasture bars,
    And cow-bells up the lane.

    Night and the moon and katydid,
    And leaf-lisp of the wind-touched boughs;
    And mazy shadows that the fireflies thrid;
    And sweet breath of the cows,
    And the lone owl here hid.

  14. The Stack Behind the Barn

    by Sir Charles George Douglas Roberts

    September is here, with the ripened seeds,
    And the homely smell of the autumn weeds,
    My heart goes back to a vanished day,
    And I am again a boy at play
    In the stack behind the barn.

    Dear memory of the old home-farm,—
    The hedge-rows fencing the crops from harm,
    The cows, too heavy with milk for haste,
    The barn-yard, yellow with harvest waste,
    And the stack behind the barn.

    Dear, dear, dear the old garden-smell,
    Sweet William and phlox that I loved so well,
    And the seeding mint, and the sage turned grey,
    But dearer the smell of the tumbled hay
    In the stack behind the barn.

    In the side of the stack we made our nest,
    And there was the play-house we loved the best.
    A thicket of goldenrod, bending and bright,
    Filled us with glory and hid us from sight
    In the stack behind the barn.

    Then, when the stack, with the year, ran low,
    And our frosty, morning cheeks were aglow,
    When time had forgotten the dropping leaves,
    What joy to drop from the barn's wide eaves
    To the stack behind the barn!

    O childhood years! Your heedless feet
    Have slipped away with how much that's sweet!
    But dreams and memory master you,
    Till the make-believe of Life is through
    I still may play as the children do
    In the stack behind the barn.

  15. The Old Homestead

    by William Henry Venable

    Enshrined among roses
    The Homestead reposes
    With vines mantled o'er;
    Ground-ivy and clover
    Are running all over
    The stone at the door.

    Pinks, lilies, are blowing,
    Blue violets showing
    Gold hearts to the June;
    Bees going and coming
    Keep evermore humming
    Their Hyblean tune.

    'Twas here that I wasted
    Youth's flower and tasted
    Love's first honey-dew;
    A boy here I slumbered,
    By care unencumbered,
    Long, balmy nights through.

    The wood-birds each morning
    Gave musical warning
    For shadows to fly;
    Their rhapsody choral
    Foretold the auroral
    First flush of the sky.

    With rising emotion
    Akin to devotion
    The scene I behold;—
    With fond recollections
    Of tender affections
    Too sweet to be told.

  16. The Old Fire-Place

    by Rev. John S. Mohler

    How sad is the memory of days that are gone
    When parents and children in a circle at home
    Around the Old Fire-place would cheerfully gather,
    Away from the cold and inclemency of weather.

    Around the Old Fire-place mother, all the day long,
    Was toiling, and toiling with cheer and with song
    For father and children preparing them food,
    While nourishing and rearing her innocent brood.

    At evening with treadle she was humming the wheel
    While father was wrapping the yarn from the reel;
    And brothers and sisters were reading their books,
    Or merrily playing in their innocent sports.

    As the embers on the hearth were dying away,
    Our father more fuel would carefully lay,
    Till the Old Fire-place blazed again in a roar,
    Which caused us to widen our circle still more.

    When the toils and the pleasures of evening were o'er,
    We knelt 'round the Fire-place, God's mercy to implore,
    From harm and from evil us safely would keep,
    As defenseless we lay in the silence of sleep.

    As the cold wintery winds were passing away,
    And the gentle breeze sighed through the long summer day,
    And the embers had died on the once blazing hearth,
    Now vocal at evening with the cricket's soft chirp.

    The Old Fire-place scenes, alas, I see them no more,
    For its circle is scattered to far distant shores:
    the wheel and the reel are covered with rust,
    And parents and children are moldering to dust.

    The hearth that once glowed with warmth and with cheer,
    Is forsaken and desolate, cold and drear;
    No prattling of children's sweet voices are there,
    No songs of devotion, thanksgiving, or prayer.

    Just a few broken links of the beautiful chain,
    That bound us together on earth, yet remain;
    But that circle complete I hope I shall view
    In the day when the Lord maketh all things new.

  17. The Old-Time Fire

    by Samuel Harden

    "Talk about yer buildin's
    That's het up by steam―
    Give me the old oak fire
    Where the old folks used to dream.

    "The rickety dog-irons,
    One-sided as could be;
    The ashes banked with 'taters
    That was roastin' there fer me.

    "The dog on one side, drowsin', Or barkin' near the door;
    The kitten cuttin' capers With the knittin' on the floor.

    "An' me a little tow head
    By mammy's side at night;
    With both my cheeks a-burnin'
    From the red flames leapin bright.

    "These steam-het buildin's make me
    Jest weary fer the blaze
    That was heap more comfortable
    In my childhood's nights and days.

    "An I'd give the finest heater
    In the buildin's het by steam
    Fer the old-time chimbley corner
    Where the old folks used to dream."

  18. The Old Hickory Wood Fire

    by Evander A. Crewson

    As I sit by the stove, all polished and nickeled,
    Where a carpet of velvet covers the floor,
    I reckon I ought to feel wonderfully tickled
    While the wind thumps and bangs at the door;
    Yes, ought to feel glad—so much to admire,
    But it all will not cure a longing desire
    A fellow will have for the old hickory fire;
    With its curling and snapping,
    And its whirling and lapping;
    That good old fashioned hickory wood fire.

    Their anthracite coal don't have any snap;
    No bright burning flame up the flue rolls;
    I can't help missing the sweet hickory sap
    Frying out of the fore-stick over the coals;
    These new fangled fires are all very well,
    But one thing I miss, and its easy to tell:
    'Tis the good old fashioned hickory wood smell;
    That old rustic perfume
    Which filled up the room;
    That good old fashioned hickory wood smell.

    How often we'd sit by that wide open fire,
    The wild winds howling and roaring outside;
    The bright hickory flames mounting up higher,
    Beaming on "linsey-woolsey" close to our side.
    Yep, thoughts of it oft' my memory will throng
    As I dream how, with apples and cider and song,
    We'd while away evenings that never seemed long;
    And when the fire burned low,
    How it would tell of the snow
    In the old winter evenings that never seemed long.

    You can take your coal and your natural gas,
    Which the tastes of to-day are made to desire;
    The bright burnished stove in its nickel and brass,
    But give me the old fashioned hickory wood fire;
    Where, with apples and walnuts, before it we'd sit,
    While father would doze and mother would knit,
    And the flames would snap and sparkle and spit;
    But the fire burned low
    In the long, long ago,
    And the ashes of years lie forever on it.

  19. The Old Cane Mill

    by Nellie Gregg Tomlinson

    "What's sorghum?" Don't you know sorghum?
    My gran'son nigh sixteen,
    Don t boys know nothin' nowadays?
    Beats all I ever seen.
    Why sorghum's the bulliest stuff
    Wuz ever made ter eat.
    You spread it thick on homemade bread;
    It's most oncommon sweet.

    "Come from?" Wall yer jist better bet
    It don't come from no can.
    Jus' b'iled down juice from sorghum cane,
    Straight I'way 'lasses bran'.
    "What's cane?" It's some like corn, yer know,
    An' topped with plumes o' seed.
    Grows straight an' tall on yaller clay
    That wouldn't grow a weed.

    Long in September when 'twuz ripe,
    The cane-patch battle field
    Wuz charged by boys with wooden swords,
    Good temper wuz their shield.
    They stripped the stalks of all their leaves,
    Then men, with steel knives keen
    Slashed off the heads and cut the stalks
    An' piled them straight an' clean.

    The tops wuz saved ter feed the hens,
    Likewise fer nex' year's seed.
    The farmer allus has ter save
    Against the futur's need.
    The neighbors cum from miles erbout
    An' fetched the cane ter mill.
    They stacked it high betwixt two trees,
    At Gran'dads, on the hill.

    An' ol' hoss turned the cane mill sweep,
    He led hisself erroun.
    The stalks wuz fed inter the press,
    From them the sap wuz groun'.
    This juice run through a little trough
    Ter pans beneath a shed;
    There it wuz b'iled an' skimmed and b'iled,
    Till it wuz thick an' red.

    Then it wuz cooled an' put in bar'ls
    An' toted off to town
    While us kids got ter lick the pan,
    Which job wuz dun up brown.
    Gee whiz! but we did hev good times
    At taffy pullin' bees.
    We woun' the taffy roun' girls' necks—
    Bob wuz the biggest tease.

    Inside the furnace, on live coals,
    We het cane stalks red hot,
    Then hit 'em hard out on the groun'—
    Yer oughter hear 'em pop!
    Sometimes a barefoot boy would step
    Inter the skimmin's hole,
    Er pinch his fingers in the mill,
    Er fall off from the pole.

    When winter winds went whis'lin' through
    The door an' winder cracks,
    An' piled up snow wuz driftin'
    Till yer couldn't see yer tracks,
    Then we all drawed roun' the table
    An' passed the buckwheat cakes,
    Er mebbe it wuz good corn bread.
    "What's sorghum?" Good lan' sakes.

    Wall, son, yer hev my symperthy;
    Yer've missed a lot, I swan.
    Oh, sure yer dance an' joy-ride
    Frum ev'nin' untel dawn,
    Yer've football, skates an' golf ter he'p
    The passin' time ter kill,
    But give me mem'ry's boyhood days,
    Erroun' the ol' cane mill.

  20. The Old Grist-Mill

    by Richard Henry Stoddard

    Beside the stream the grist-mill stands,
    With bending roof and leaning wall;
    So old, that when the winds are wild,
    The miller trembles lest it fall:
    And yet it baffles wind and rain,
    Our brave old Mill! and will again.

    Its dam is steep, and hung with weeds:
    The gates are up, the waters pour,
    And tread the old wheel’s slippery round,
    The lowest step forevermore.
    Methinks they fume, and chafe with ire,
    Because they cannot climb it higher.

    From morn to night in autumn time,
    When harvests fill the neighboring plains,
    Up to the mill the farmers drive,
    And back anon with loaded wains:
    And when the children come from school
    They stop, and watch its foamy pool.

    The mill inside is small and dark;
    But peeping in the open door
    You see the miller flitting round,
    The dusty bags along the floor,
    The whirling shaft, the clattering spout,
    And the yellow meal a-pouring out!

    All day the meal is floating there,
    Rising and falling in the breeze;
    And when the sunlight strikes its mist
    It glitters like a swarm of bees:
    Or like the cloud of smoke and light
    Above a blacksmith’s forge at night.

    All day the meal is floating there,
    Rising and falling in the breeze;
    And when the sunlight strikes its mist
    It glitters like a swarm of bees:
    Or like the cloud of smoke and light
    Above a blacksmith’s forge at night.

    I stand beside the stream of Life,
    And watch the current sweep along:
    And when the flood-gates of my heart
    Are raised it turns the wheel of Song:
    But scant, as yet, the harvest brought
    From out the golden fields of Thought!

  21. The Old Mill by the River

    by Isaac McLellan

    Here in the years when life was bright
    With dewy mornings and sunset light,
    In the pleasant season of leafy June,
    In each idle, holiday afternoon
    I lov'd to wander with willow wand—
    I lov'd on the river border to stand
    And take the trout or the yellow bream
    That leap'd, that glanc'd athwart the stream.

    With broken window, with hingeless door,
    Thro' which the slanting sunbeams pour;
    With leaning gable, and settling wall,
    O'er which the draperied ivies fall;
    With rafter moldy, worm-eaten beam,
    O'er which the silken cobwebs stream,
    Fast by the river-banks serene
    The old forsaken mill is seen.
    Its roof shows many a chasm and rent,
    Its creaking vane is crack'd and bent,
    In and out the swallows fly
    Under the eaves their dwellings lie.
    The leather-wing'd bats, when day is dim,
    Thro' vacant rooms and granaries skim;
    Its shingles that ages ago were new,
    Splendid with painters' lavish hue,
    Are faded now and swing in the gale,
    Scarce held by the loosen'd rusty nail;
    The clapboards rattle and clank amain
    In gusts of the snow-fall and the rain,
    For the dust of many a lapsing year
    Hath writ its wasteful chronicle here.
    The dam o'er which the waters pour
    Is settling and crumbling by the shore;
    The slippery logs and mossy stone
    Yield to the current one by one;
    And swift thro' many a rent abyss
    The spouting rivulets foam and hiss,
    And soon must the crazy fabric decay,
    And the torrent sweep uncheck'd away.
    The water-wheel so black and vast,
    With beam like a battle-vessel's mast
    That once would churn with mighty sweep
    The boiling waters so dark and deep,
    Lies now a wreck in humbled pride,
    Trembling with each assault of the tide.
    Under the crumbling, blacken'd wheel
    The crystal bubbles circle and reel;
    Over and under the eddies boil
    Round molder'd timber and rotting post;
    In many a circling ripple they coil
    In sudden plunge, in wild turmoil,
    Now seen an instant, then quickly lost.

  22. The Saw-mill on the Connecticut

    by Grace Hazard Conkling

    Where clear the river ponders
    The marshes' slow maroon,
    There floats a leveled forest
    Upon a broad lagoon.

    The bowl of spacious meadow
    Is brimmed with trunks of trees
    And there's a wilding fragrance
    Embroidered on the breeze.

    Along the azure water
    Most patiently they lie,
    And hear the shrieking saw-mill
    And memorize the sky,

    And see the impartial sunlight
    They knew so well of old,
    Turn shavings into satin
    And saw-dust into gold.

    All in the ripe September
    I tried to pass today.
    The smooth road beckoned Follow!
    But the logs whispered . . . Stay!

    And lest alone the tree-folk
    Go sadly to their death,
    I watched the pine surrender
    Its rich and final breath,

    And heard the oak's last murmur
    Where poured its scented dust—
    "I do but travel onward
    As valiant farers must."

  23. Keepsake Mill

    by Robert Louis Stevenson

    Over the borders, a sin without pardon,
    Breaking the branches and crawling below,
    Out through the breach in the wall of the garden,
    Down by the banks of the river, we go.

    Here is the mill with the humming of thunder,
    Here is the weir with the wonder of foam,
    Here is the sluice with the race running under—
    Marvellous places, though handy to home!

    Sounds of the village grow stiller and stiller,
    Stiller the note of the birds on the hill;
    Dusty and dim are the eyes of the miller,
    Deaf are his ears with the moil of the mill.

    Years may go by, and the wheel in the river
    Wheel as it wheels for us, children, to-day,
    Wheel and keep roaring and foaming for ever
    Long after all of the boys are away.

    Home from the Indies and home from the ocean,
    Heroes and soldiers we all shall come home;
    Still we shall find the old mill wheel in motion,
    Turning and churning that river to foam.

    You with the bean that I gave when we quarrelled,
    I with your marble of Saturday last,
    Honoured and old and all gaily apparelled,
    Here we shall meet and remember the past.

  24. The Stake and Rider Fence

    by W. E. Hutchinson

    I love to let my fancy go wandering where it will,
    To the happy days of boyhood, to the meadow and the hill;
    To the brooks and quiet places, to the woods that seemed immense,
    But they always linger fondly at the stake-and-rider fence.

    Here, cicadas sing their loudest, and the crickets draw the bow,
    And the 'hoppers and the locusts join the chorus, soft and low;
    And you hear the bees a humming like a fiddle with one string,
    While the air just seems to vibrate with a soothing kind of ring.

    There the squirrel scolds and chatters as he runs along the rail,
    And you hear the rain-crow calling, and the whistle of the quail;
    And the catbird, and the blue jay, scold with vigor most intense,
    As they build among the branches by the stake-and-rider fence.

    There grew the tasseled milkweed with its bursting silken pods,
    And the stately, waving branches of the yellow goldenrod;
    The mullein stalk and asters, with teasels growing dense,
    God's garden, in the angle of the stake-and-rider fence.

    It was homely, but I loved it, and I wouldn't trade, would you?
    For all the hothouse beauties that a florist ever knew.
    Yes, I'd give up earthly honors, and count it recompense,
    Just to wander through the meadow by the stake-and-rider fence.

  25. Sleighing

    by Helen Lee Carey

    Here are we nestled, warm and snug,
    Within the cutter's perfumed rug,
    And swiftly o'er the light road skim
    Toward the hills far and dim
    Lie on the cold horizon's rim.

    Away, away! the snow is white,
    The air is clear, the moon is bright,
    To backward glance the village spires,
    Tipped with their pale up-pointing fires,
    Fade as a holy thought expires.

    Away! to-night our company
    The spirits of the frost shall be;
    We'll chase the flying bells whose play
    On moonlit meadows far away
    Is softened to a murmur gay.

    Away through villages that lie
    Like silver jewels, gliding by
    The river's gleaming stream of steel,
    Whose fringe of ice the waves conceal
    That echo back our sleigh-bells' peal.

    Here stands a quiet farm-house; there
    A stretch of glistening fields lies bare;
    Here thickets, robed in white array
    Climb the sleep banks, and sharply lay
    Dark shadows o'er our rapid way.

    The shaken trees their crystals fling,
    That shatter with an airy ring;
    And hark! a mocking ripple swells
    From where the covered streamlet wells
    And tinkles through its icy cells.

    Away again! yon pine-trees tall
    Close round us a mysterious wall;
    Through their great harps the solemn moan
    Of winds is sweeping, long and lone,
    In melancholy minor tone.

    Away through spicy forests, hung
    With mantles by the storm-winds flung,
    From out whose solitude the sigh
    Of breezes brings some weird, wild cry,
    To scare us as we glimmer by.

    Ah, see! the watch-fire on the lake,
    Where merry skaters pleasure take!
    Their voices, as we onward go,
    Die to a light cadenza low,
    As sounds through dreams of music flow.

    The prospect widens; on before
    Stretches the broad lake's dazzling floor;
    And far, where pearly vapors rise,
    Shine through a mist the peaceful skies
    And azure hills of paradise.

    The distance shuts like wings behind;
    Before, it opens silver-lined;
    The angel of the radiant night
    Leads ever on before our flight,
    And past us stream its robes of light.

  26. "Sugaring Off"

    by Hattie Howard

    Round after round in rugged tramp,
    But wholesome discipline,
    By sturdy hands about the camp
    The sap was gathered in;
    When one perspiring, very red,
    And sitting on a trough,
    "To close the season," so he said,
    Proposed to "sugar off."

    Beyond the farm-house still and white,
    Beyond the poplar bars,
    A lignous pile emitted light
    That paled the brighest stars;
    Where caldrons hung, like those of which
    The Bard of Avon told,
    With ebullition contents rich
    Above the flame of gold.

    A score or more of beaux and belles
    On toothsomeness intent,
    Like buzzing bees in flower-dells
    Inhaled the maple scent;
    Who danced around in impish glee
    Like witches in Macbeth,
    And stirred the sweet consistency,
    And laughed till out of breath.

    In fidget spells, by trial sips
    Of liquid boiling hot,
    How many burned their saucy lips;
    And pouted at the thought
    Of strips of plaster stretched across
    Each rosy orifice,
    Or sighed in secret o'er the loss
    Of some prospective kiss.

    Anon, the mass like melted wax
    Electrified their hopes,
    Who followed out diversion's tracks
    By making candy ropes;
    That by mysterous lasso twirls—
    How, record never tells—
    Glued ribbon-bows and spiral curls
    To overcoat lapels.

    How many lads in languid pose
    Leaned later 'gainst the trees,
    The sticky syrup on their clothes,
    The 'lasses on their knees—
    That is, the sugar!—never yet
    Hath language run so fast—
    But one can never quite forget
    What happened decades past.

    Such fun beyond the curfew hour
    A Puritan might rue,
    Or like an unbelieving Giaour
    Deny the statement true;
    But so it was—till Pater (and A lantern) caused surprise,
    Who quite broke up the festive band
    And captured their supplies.

    O, with a wild remembrance-thrill
    My heart in rapture beats!
    The egg-shell cups again I fill
    With granulated sweets,
    And mold in scalloped patty-pans
    Delicious maple cakes
    As yellow as the golden sands,
    But pure as snowy flakes.

    I've been, as by the drift of chance,
    A wanderer for years
    From those delightful, happy haunts
    That memory endears;
    But never life hath been so bright
    As when, upon a trough
    With Peter Stump, one blessed night
    I helped to "sugar off."

    * * * * *

    And for his sake, where'er he is,
    This rustic ode I pen
    To stir his risibilities;
    The jolliest of men,
    Though Prelate of the Holy See;
    Who dreams sometimes I know
    Of sweetness, sap, and sorcery—
    O, years and years ago!

  27. The Old Sugar Camp

    by Helen M. Johnson

    Come let us away to the old Sugar Camp;
    The sky is serene though the ground may be damp,—
    And the little bright streams, as they frolic and run,
    Turn a look full of thanks to the ice-melting sun;
    While the warm southern winds, wherever they go,
    Leave patches of brown 'mid the glittering snow.

    The oxen are ready, and Carlo and Tray
    Are watching us, ready to be on the way,
    While a group of gay children, with platter and spoon,
    And faces as bright as the roses of June,
    O'er fences and ditches exultingly spring,
    Light-hearted and careless as birds on the wing.

    Where's Edwin? Oh, here he comes, loading his gun;
    Look out for the partridges—hush! there is one!
    Poor victim! a bang and a flutter—'tis o'er,—
    And those fair dappled wings shall expand nevermore;
    It was shot for one invalid sister at home,
    Yet we sigh as beneath the tall branches we roam.

    Our cheeks all aglow with the long morning tramp,
    We soon come in sight of the old Sugar Camp;
    The syrup already is placed in the pan,
    And we gather around it as many as can,—
    We try it on snow; when we find it is done
    We fill up a mold for a dear absent one.

    Oh, gayest and best of all parties are these,
    That meet in the Camp 'neath the old maple trees,
    Renewing the love and the friendship of years,—
    They are scenes to be thought of with smiles and with tears
    When age shall have furrowed each beautiful cheek,
    And left in dark tresses a silvery streak.

    Here brothers and sisters and lovers have met,
    And cousins and friends we can never forget;
    The prairie, the ocean, divide us from some,
    Yet oft as the seasons for sugaring come,
    The cup of bright syrup to friendship we'll drain,
    And gather them home to our bosom again.

    Dear Maple, that yieldeth a nectar so rare,
    So useful in spring, and in summer so fair,—
    Of autumn acknowledged the glory and queen,
    Attendant on every Canadian scene,
    Enshrined in our homes it is meet thou shouldst be
    Of our country the emblem, O beautiful Tree!

  28. Sugaring

    by Raymond Holden

    A man may think wild things under the moon—
    In March when there is a tapping in the pails
    Hung breast-high on the maples. Though you sink
    To boot-tops only in the uncrusted snow,
    And feel last autumn's leaves a short foot down,
    There will be one among the men you meet
    To say the snow lies six feet level there.
    "Not here!" you say; and he says, "In the woods"—
    Implying woods that he knows where to find.
    Well, such a moon may be miraculous,
    And if it has the power to make one man
    Believe a common February snow
    The great storm-wonder he would talk about
    For years if once he saw it, there may be
    In the same shimmering sickle over the hill
    Vision of other things for other men.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    The moon again
    Playing tonight with vapors that go up
    And out into the silver. The brown sap works
    Its foamy bulk over the great log fire.
    Colors of flame light up a man, who kneels
    With sticks upon his arm, and in his face
    A grimace of resistance to the glow.
    All that is burning is not under here
    Boiling the early sap—I wonder why.
    It is as calm as a dream of paradise
    Out there among the trees, where runnels make
    The only music heard above the sway
    Of branches fingering the leaning moon.
    And yet a man must go, when the sap has thickened,
    Up and away to sleep a tired sleep,
    And dream of dripping from a rotting roof
    Back into sap that once was rid of him.
    I wonder why, I wonder why, I wonder . . .

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Close the iron doors and let the fire die,
    And the faint night-wind blow through the broken walls.
    The sugar thickens, and the moon is gone,
    And frost threads up the singing rivulets.
    I am going up the mountain toward the stars,
    But I should like to lie near earth tonight—
    Earth that has borne the furious grip of winter
    And given a kind of birth to beauty at last.
    Look! — the old breath thrills through her once again
    And there will be passion soon, shaking her veins
    And driving her spirit upward till the buds
    Burst overhead, and swallows find the eaves
    Of the sugar-house untroubled by the talk
    Of men gone off with teams to mend the roads.
    I think I shall throw myself down here in the snow
    So to be very near her when she stirs.

  29. Spinning Tow

    by Ellen P. Allerton

    A little maiden with braided hair
    Walks to and fro
    Before a wheel. What does she there?
    The child is spinning tow.

    In through the open window comes
    The scented breeze;
    With drowsy wing the wild bee hums
    Out in the orchard trees.

    The blue sky bends, the flowers are sweet,
    As children know;
    Yet with deft hands and steady feet,
    This child keeps spinning tow,

    Still works she; steady mounts the sun
    Through the skies of May,—
    The small task ends; the skein is spun;
    The girl bounds out to play.

    She learns life's lesson young you say?
    'Tis better so.
    That life is toil as well as play,
    She learns here spinning tow.

    Years pass. Beside her own hearthstone
    A woman stands
    With steady eye and cheerful tone,
    Brave heart and willing hands.

    This matron, who on household ways
    Glides to and fro,
    Learned when a child, on soft spring days,
    Life's lesson, spinning tow.

  30. My Mother's Wheel

    by Ellen P. Allerton

    Broken, dismantled! would that it were mine:
    I would not keep it in that dusty nook,
    Where tangled cobwebs cross and intertwine,
    And old, grim spiders from their corners look.

    From distaff, band, and polished rim, are hung
    The dusty meshes. Black the spindle is,
    Crooked, and rusty—a dead, silent tongue,
    That once made whispering music—there it lies.

    Ah, dear to me is the forsaken thing!
    I gaze upon it and my eyes grow dim;
    For I can see my mother, hear her sing,
    As winds the shining thread, and whirls the rim.

    So sweet she sang—her youngest on her knee—
    Now a low warble, now some grand old hymn,
    Sublime, exultant, full of victory,
    Triumphant as the songs of seraphim.

    Sweet toiler! through her life of crowded care,
    While grief came oft, and pain, and weariness,
    Still swelled the anthem, still was breathed the prayer,
    Till death came clasping with its cold caress.

    She sings no more; beside the chimney wide
    No more she spins. Years come and go;
    Above her grave on the lone hillside,
    The snow drifts lie, the summer grasses grow.

  31. The Old Flax-Wheel

    by Virgil Viraldini Twitchell

    Grandma sat there in her old arm-chair, humming her favorite tune,
    Her head was white but her face as bright as a leafless rose in June;
    She tapped her heel as she turned her reel, in a sing-song way so queer,
    I can hear her yet, and I'll never forget, though I live a hundred year,
    The distaff's rebound as it turned around, and grandma's cry, "Take care!"
    'Twas always my fate, I found too late, the "old thing" pulling my hair.

    She'd sit upright from morn till night, nor think it was a tax,
    With toe and heel she'd turn the wheel and finger the glossy flax;
    The old black cat asleep on the mat, the clock so tall and queer
    Its tick, tick, tick, and the wheels' click, click, were musical sounds to hear;
    The fiery blaze from the fire-place made shadows on the wall
    Of revolving reel and spinning wheel, with grandma over all.

  32. Knitting

    by Ellen P. Allerton

    An old-time kitchen, an open door,
    Sunshine lying across the floor;
    A little maid, feet bare and brown,
    Cheeks like roses, a cotton gown,
    Rippling masses of shining hair,
    And a childish forehead smooth and fair.

    The child is knitting. The open door
    Wooes her, tempts her, more and more.
    The sky is cloudless, the air is sweet
    And sadly restless the bare brown feet.
    Still, as she wishes her task were done,
    She counts the rounds off, one by one.

    Higher yet mounts the sun of June;
    But one round more!—a joyous tune
    Ripples out from the childish lips,
    While swift and swifter the finger-tips
    Play out and in, till I hear her say,
    "Twenty rounds! I'm going to play!"

    Up to the hedge where the sweet-brier blows,
    Down to the bank where the brooklet flows,
    Chasing the butterflies, watching the bees,
    Wading in clover up to her knees,
    Mocking the bobolinks; oh, what fun
    It is to be free when the task is done!

    Years and years have glided away.
    The child is a woman, and threads of gray
    One by one creep into her hair,
    And I see the prints of the feet of care.
    Yet I like to watch har. To-night she sits
    By her household fire, and as then she knits.

    Swiftly the needles glance, and the thread
    Glides through her fingers, white and red.
    'Tis a baby's stocking. To and fro
    And out and in as the needles go,
    She sings as she sang that day in June,
    But the low, soft strain is a nursery tune.

    Closely beside her the baby lies,
    Slowly closing his sleepy eyes.
    Forward, backward, the cradle swings,
    Touched by her foot as she softly sings.
    And now in silence har watch she keeps;
    The song is hushed, for the baby sleeps.

    Up from the green, through the twilight gray,
    Comes the shouts of a troop at play.
    Blue eyes, black eyes, golden curls—
    These are all hers—her boys and girls.
    Then wonder not at the prints of care,
    Or the silver threads in her braided hair.

    Does she ever pine for the meadow brook,
    The sweet-brier hedge, the clover nook?
    When sweet winds woo, when smiles the sun,
    Does she ever wish that her task was done?
    Would you know? Than watch her where she sits
    Smiling dreamily, while she knits.

  33. The Sewing Circle

    by Evander A. Crewson

    Sewing, sewing, busy sewing;
    Hear the scissors rattle, rattle;
    Everybody's tongue agoing—
    Tittle-tattle, tittle-tattle.

    Good intentions, glorious cause—
    Willing angels in life's battle;
    Picking out the little flaws—
    Tittle-tattle, tittle-tattle.

    Making some poor mother clothes;
    Helping buy the baby's rattle;
    Hitting friends and hitting foes—
    Tittle-tattle, tittle-tattle.

    Willing hearts and willing hands:
    Generals all in life's battle;
    Laying bare each other's plans—
    Tittle-tattle, tittle-tattle.

  34. The Cabin Days of Kansas

    by Ed Blair

    In the cabin days of Kansas,
    Oh! 'twas great to live here then,
    When we heard the morning cackle
    Of the prairie chicken hen;
    And the drum like noise of roosters,
    Coming from the prairie near,
    In the early days of Kansas—
    Days that always will be dear.

    How we visited with neighbors,
    Living miles and miles away,
    In a bobsled or a wagon,
    For the trip, the entire day.
    How we welcomed all the strangers,
    As they drove up to the yard,
    And they shared our every comfort,
    Though the best sometimes was hard.

    In the twilight father's "fiddle"
    Used to pour the music sweet
    Of the "Devil's Dream" and others,
    While the foot ne'er lost a beat.
    And the "Sweet Tobacco Posey,"
    Alabama's dearest rose,
    Always came in for a feature
    Ere the evening would close,

    Oh! the old time songs he gave us—
    Could a child of his e'er roam?
    "Bobbie Burns," his favorite ballads,
    Best of all, "No Place Like Home."
    And the songs of war-time heroes,
    In each line a thrill of love
    For the Union Flag forever,
    On the ramparts far above.

    How the music soothed a youngster,
    As the creaking trundle bed,
    Cuddled me between the comforts,
    And the "Good Night" words were said,
    And I lay there drifting, dreaming,
    On the wings of peaceful sleep.
    With no thought of stern tomorrow's
    Climbing up Life's Hill so steep.

    "Turn your backs" would come the warning,
    As the women left the hearth,
    (Breaking up the happy circle
    'Round the fireplace) for their berth.
    Then the last was father's winding
    Of the old Seth Thomas clock,
    Like the katydid's false warning.
    Latch string in. Asleep his flock.

  35. The Kansas That Was

    by Albert Stroud

    There was a state called Kansas, it's a place I used to know,
    And I'd like right well to see it if I knew which way to go;
    Its prairies they were level and as far as eye could see
    There wasn't any house but ours, and not a fence or tree.
    We had a field of second sod where tumble weeds would grow
    And in the fall when they were dry I liked to watch them blow.
    They made the nicest herd of cows for little girls and boys
    Who didn't have—and didn't need—a lot of costly toys.
    We hadn't any berries so we made sheep-sorrel pie;
    We sliced our pumpkins into strips and hung them up to dry,
    And in the winter they were fine, cooked with a hunk of meat;
    Those were the days when anything seemed mighty good to eat.
    The sunsets out in Kansas were not clouded o'er with smoke
    And when we went to take a walk there was no dust to choke;
    I could name a hundred reasons, as I live those times again,
    Why Kansas was a paradise for women folks and men.
    I ought to go back there once more, I thought I heard you say;
    Why, sure, I'd like to do it—but I never moved away.

  36. The Man With the Axe

    by Horace Dumont Herr

    The Summer has come and the Summer is past,
    And "the man with the hoe," he is out of a job,
    The pastures are bare and are swept by the blast,
    And the cattle for grass must eat "corn on the cob,"
    While scraggy-haired colts are turned out to the stalks,
    But the woodman he whistles a tune as he walks.

    The Summer brings harvest of oats and of wheat,
    And the meadows are strewn with the fragrant new hay;
    And Autumn gives apples, and pumpkin and beet,
    And the fruits and the nuts make the gatherers gay;
    But fruits for the cellar and wheat for the stacks
    Have a rival in the harvest of the wood chopper's ax.

    The scythe is keen edged and the sword is a power,
    And the reaper, old Time, mows a path thro' the years,
    And age falls in ripeness and childhood in flower,
    And the sword hews a channel for blood and for tears;
    But the woodman he smites with a stroke that ne'er tires,
    For his ax cleaves the wood for the home-altar fires.

    The snowflakes have wrapped in white down the dark earth,
    And the woods a black fringe show against the cold sky;
    When all appears dead that in Summer had birth,
    And there's not a bird songster a solo to try,
    Then cheery as notes of the robin in Spring
    Does the ax of the woodman re-echo and ring.

    A man of wood-craft the good axman is he,
    He knows well the name and the nature of wood,
    Can chip, and make fall any sort of a tree
    In the very direction he willed that it should;
    And when it is down on its body he stands,
    And he severs the giant, with the ax in his hands.

    This man of the woods is a surgeon of trees,
    He can chop a straight cut or a flying slant chip,
    He can halve with his wedge, if it so should him please,
    And can quarter, and heart, and around the knot slip,
    'Til body and limbs into cordwood he racks,
    For an artist is he with the wedge and the ax.

    He swings his great maul like the hammer of Thor,
    And the cord-lengths fly open of oak and of beach,
    'Till the clearing at last is with wood scattered o'er,
    And heaped up as high as the chopper can reach
    Are the tepees of brush that the axman has made
    In the places where trees by his ax were low laid.

    All corded and straight thro' the Summer shall lie
    All the wood that the woodman in Winter has chopped,
    In wind and in sun will the sticks slowly dry,
    And when Winter again plow and reaper has stopped,
    The farmer to sheds with his horses will draw
    What the axman has cut for the buck and the saw.

    And often the farmer, the evening before,
    Will upon his red wagon pile up a good load
    To haul it to town for some dwelling or store,
    And the wheels of his broad-tread will sing on the road,
    With four horses drawing it over the snow,
    For the axman's dry wood to the city must go.

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