The Exiles. 1660

The goodman sat beside his door
One sultry afternoon,
With his young wife singing at his side
An old and goodly tune.

A glimmer of heat was in the air,-
The dark green woods were still;
And the skirts of a heavy thunder-cloud
Hung over the western hill.

Black, thick, and vast arose that cloud
Above the wilderness,

As some dark world from upper air
Were stooping over this.

At times the solemn thunder pealed,
And all was still again,
Save a low murmur in the air
Of coming wind and rain.

Just as the first big rain-drop fell,
A weary stranger came,
And stood before the farmer's door,
With travel soiled and lame.

Sad seemed he, yet sustaining hope
Was in his quiet glance,
And peace, like autumn's moonlight, clothed
His tranquil countenance,-

A look, like that his Master wore
In Pilate's council-hall:
It told of wrongs, but of a love
Meekly forgiving all.

'Friend! wilt thou give me shelter here?'
The stranger meekly said;
And, leaning on his oaken staff,
The goodman's features read.

'My life is hunted,-evil men
Are following in my track;
The traces of the torturer's whip
Are on my aged back;

'And much, I fear, 't will peril thee
Within thy doors to take
A hunted seeker of the Truth,
Oppressed for conscience' sake.'

Oh, kindly spoke the goodman's wife,
'Come in, old man!' quoth she,
'We will not leave thee to the storm,
Whoever thou mayst be.'

Then came the aged wanderer in,
And silent sat him down;
While all within grew dark as night
Beneath the storm-cloud's frown.

But while the sudden lightning's blaze
Filled every cottage nook,
And with the jarring thunder-roll
The loosened casements shook,

A heavy tramp of horses' feet
Came sounding up the lane,
And half a score of horse, or more,
Came plunging through the rain.

'Now, Goodman Macy, ope thy door,-
We would not be house-breakers;
A rueful deed thou'st done this day,
In harboring banished Quakers.'

Out looked the cautious goodman then,
With much of fear and awe,
For there, with broad wig drenched with rain
The parish priest he saw.

Open thy door, thou wicked man,
And let thy pastor in,
And give God thanks, if forty stripes
Repay thy deadly sin.'

'What seek ye?' quoth the goodman;
'The stranger is my guest;
He is worn with toil and grievous wrong,-
Pray let the old man rest.'

'Now, out upon thee, canting knave!'
And strong hands shook the door.
'Believe me, Macy,' quoth the priest,
'Thou 'lt rue thy conduct sore.'

Then kindled Macy's eye of fire
'No priest who walks the earth,
Shall pluck away the stranger-guest
Made welcome to my hearth.'

Down from his cottage wall he caught
The matchlock, hotly tried
At Preston-pans and Marston-moor,
By fiery Ireton's side;

Where Puritan, and Cavalier,
With shout and psalm contended;
And Rupert's oath, and Cromwell's prayer,
With battle-thunder blended.

Up rose the ancient stranger then
'My spirit is not free
To bring the wrath and violence
Of evil men on thee;

'And for thyself, I pray forbear,
Bethink thee of thy Lord,
Who healed again the smitten ear,
And sheathed His follower's sword.

'I go, as to the slaughter led.
Friends of the poor, farewell!'
Beneath his hand the oaken door
Back on its hinges fell.

'Come forth, old graybeard, yea and nay,'
The reckless scoffers cried,
As to a horseman's saddle-bow
The old man's arms were tied.

And of his bondage hard and long
In Boston's crowded jail,
Where suffering woman's prayer was heard,
With sickening childhood's wail,

It suits not with our tale to tell;
Those scenes have passed away;
Let the dim shadows of the past
Brood o'er that evil day.

'Ho, sheriff!' quoth the ardent priest,
'Take Goodman Macy too;
The sin of this day's heresy
His back or purse shall rue.'

'Now, goodwife, haste thee!' Macy cried.
She caught his manly arm;
Behind, the parson urged pursuit,
With outcry and alarm.

Ho! speed the Macys, neck or naught,-
The river-course was near;
The plashing on its pebbled shore
Was music to their ear.

A gray rock, tasselled o'er with birch,
Above the waters hung,
And at its base, with every wave,
A small light wherry swung.

A leap-they gain the boat-and there
The goodman wields his oar;
'Ill luck betide them all,' he cried,
'The laggards on
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John Greenleaf Whittier

John Greenleaf Whittier was an influential American Quaker poet and ardent advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States. more…

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"The Exiles. 1660" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 2 Jun 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/23092/the-exiles.--1660>.

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