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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Louise Imogen Guiney (1861–1920)

Peter Rugg the Bostonian

THE MARE is pawing by the oak,

The chaise is cool and wide

For Peter Rugg the Bostonian

With his little son beside;

The women loiter at the wheels

In the pleasant summer-tide.

“And when wilt thou be home, father?”

“And when, good husband, say:

The cloud hangs heavy on the house

What time thou art away.”

He answers straight, he answers short,

“At noon of the seventh day.”—

“Fail not to come, if God so will,

And the weather be kind and clear.”—

“Farewell, farewell! But who am I

A blockhead rain to fear?

God willing or God unwilling,

I have said it, I will be here.”

He gathers up the sunburnt boy,

And from the gate is sped;

He shakes the spark from the stones below,

The bloom from overhead,

Till the last roofs of his own town

Pass in the morning-red.

Upon a homely mission

North unto York he goes,

Through the long highway broidered thick

With elder-blow and rose;

And sleeps in sound of breakers

At every twilight’s close.

Intense upon his heedless head

Frowns Agamenticus,

Knowing of Heaven’s challenger

The answer: even thus

The Patience that is hid on high

Doth stoop to master us.

Full light are all his parting dreams;

Desire is in his brain;

He tightens at the tavern-post

The fiery creature’s rein.

“Now eat thine apple, six-years child!

We face for home again.”

They had not gone a many mile

With nimble heart and tongue,

When the lone thrush grew silent

The walnut woods among;

And on the lulled horizon

A premonition hung.

The babes at Hampton schoolhouse,

The wife with lads at sea,

Search with a level lifted hand

The distance bodingly;

And farmer folk bid pilgrims in

Under a safe roof-tree.

The mowers mark by Newbury

How low the swallows fly;

They glance across the southern roads

All white and fever-dry,

And the river, anxious at the bend,

Beneath a thinking sky.

But there is one abroad was born

To disbelieve and dare:

Along the highway furiously

He cuts the purple air.

The wind leaps on the startled world

As hounds upon a hare;

With brawl and glare and shudder ope

The sluices of the storm:

The woods break down, the sand upblows

In blinding volleys warm;

The yellow floods in frantic surge

Familiar fields deform.

From evening until morning

His skill will not avail,

And as he cheers his youngest born,

His cheek is spectre-pale;

For the bonnie mare from courses known

Has drifted like a sail!

On some wild crag he sees the dawn

Unsheathe her scimiter.

“Oh, if it be my mother-earth

And not a foreign star,

Tell me the way to Boston,

And is it near or far?”

One watchman lifts his lamp and laughs:

“Ye’ve many a league to wend.”

The next doth bless the sleeping boy

From his mad father’s end;

A third upon a drawbridge growls,

“Bear ye to larboard, friend.”

Forward and backward, like a stone

The tides have in their hold,

He dashes east, and then distraught

Darts west as he is told.

(Peter Rugg the Bostonian,

That knew the land of old!)

And journeying, and resting scarce

A melancholy space,

Turns to and fro, and round and round,

The frenzy in his face,

And ends alway in angrier mood,

And in a stranger place:

Lost! lost in bayberry thickets

Where Plymouth plovers run,

And where the masts of Salem

Look lordly in the sun;

Lost in the Concord vale, and lost

By rocky Wollaston!

Small thanks have they that guide him,

Awed and aware of blight;

To hear him shriek denial,

It sickens them with fright:—

“They lied to me a month ago

With thy same lie to-night!”

To-night, to-night, as nights succeed,

He swears at home to bide,

Until, pursued with laughter

Or fled as soon as spied,

The weather-drenchèd man is known

Over the country-side!

The seventh noon’s a memory,

And autumn’s closing in;

The quince is fragrant on the bough,

And barley chokes the bin.

“O Boston, Boston, Boston!

And O my kith and kin!”

The snow climbs o’er the pasture wall,

It crackles ’neath the moon;

And now the rustic sows the seed,

Damp in his heavy shoon;

And now the building jays are loud

In canopies of June.

For season after season

The three are whirled along,

Misled by every instinct

Of light, or scent, or song;

Yea, put them on the surest trail,

The trail is in the wrong.

Upon those wheels in any path

The rain will follow loud,

And he who meets that ghostly man

Will meet a thunder-cloud,

And whosoever speaks with him

May next bespeak his shroud.

Though nigh two hundred years have gone,

Doth Peter Rugg the more

A gentle answer and a true

Of living lips implore:—

“Oh, show me to my own town,

And to my open door!”

Where shall he see his own town,

Once dear unto his feet?

The psalms, the tankard to the king,

The beacon’s cliffy seat,

The gabled neighborhood, the stocks

Set in the middle street?

How shall he know his own town

If now he clatters through?

Much men and cities change that have

Another love to woo;

And things occult, incredible,

They find to think and do.

With such new wonders since he went

A broader gossip copes;

Across the crowded triple hills,

And up the harbor slopes,

Tradition’s self for him no more

Remembers, watches, hopes.

But ye, O unborn children!

(For many a race must thrive

And drip away like icicles

Ere Peter Rugg arrive,)

If of a sudden to your ears

His plaint is blown alive;

If nigh the city, folding in

A little lad that cries,

A wet and weary traveler

Shall fix you with his eyes,

And from the crazy carriage lean

To spend his heart in sighs:—

“That I may enter Boston,

Oh, help it to befall!

There would no fear encompass me,

No evil craft appall:

Ah, but to be in Boston,

GOD WILLING, after all!”—

Ye children, tremble not, but go

And lift his bridle brave

In the one Name, the dread Name,

That doth forgive and save,

And lead him home to Copp’s Hill ground,

And to his fathers’ grave.