The Quaker Alumni

From the well-springs of Hudson, the sea-cliffs of Maine,
Grave men, sober matrons, you gather again;
And, with hearts warmer grown as your heads grow more cool,
Play over the old game of going to school.

All your strifes and vexations, your whims and complaints,
(You were not saints yourselves, if the children of saints!)
All your petty self-seekings and rivalries done,
Round the dear Alma Mater your hearts beat as one!

How widely soe'er you have strayed from the fold,
Though your 'thee' has grown 'you,' and your drab blue and gold,
To the old friendly speech and the garb's sober form,
Like the heart of Argyle to the tartan, you warm.

But, the first greetings over, you glance round the hall;
Your hearts call the roll, but they answer not all
Through the turf green above them the dead cannot hear;
Name by name, in the silence, falls sad as a tear!

In love, let us trust, they were summoned so soon
rom the morning of life, while we toil through its noon;
They were frail like ourselves, they had needs like our own,
And they rest as we rest in God's mercy alone.

Unchanged by our changes of spirit and frame,
Past, now, and henceforward the Lord is the same;
Though we sink in the darkness, His arms break our fall,
And in death as in life, He is Father of all!

We are older: our footsteps, so light in the play
Of the far-away school-time, move slower to-day;--
Here a beard touched with frost, there a bald, shining crown,
And beneath the cap's border gray mingles with brown.

But faith should be cheerful, and trust should be glad,
And our follies and sins, not our years, make us sad.
Should the heart closer shut as the bonnet grows prim,
And the face grow in length as the hat grows in brim?

Life is brief, duty grave; but, with rain-folded wings,
Of yesterday's sunshine the grateful heart sings;
And we, of all others, have reason to pay
The tribute of thanks, and rejoice on our way;

For the counsels that turned from the follies of youth;
For the beauty of patience, the whiteness of truth;
For the wounds of rebuke, when love tempered its edge;
For the household's restraint, and the discipline's hedge;

For the lessons of kindness vouchsafed to the least
Of the creatures of God, whether human or beast,
Bringing hope to the poor, lending strength to the frail,
In the lanes of the city, the slave-hut, and jail;

For a womanhood higher and holier, by all
Her knowledge of good, than was Eve ere her fall,--
Whose task-work of duty moves lightly as play,
Serene as the moonlight and warm as the day;

And, yet more, for the faith which embraces the whole,
Of the creeds of the ages the life and the soul,
Wherein letter and spirit the same channel run,
And man has not severed what God has made one!

For a sense of the Goodness revealed everywhere,
As sunshine impartial, and free as the air;
For a trust in humanity, Heathen or Jew,
And a hope for all darkness the Light shineth through.

Who scoffs at our birthright?--the words of the seers,
And the songs of the bards in the twilight of years,
All the foregleams of wisdom in santon and sage,
In prophet and priest, are our true heritage.

The Word which the reason of Plato discerned;
The truth, as whose symbol the Mithra-fire burned;
The soul of the world which the Stoic but guessed,
In the Light Universal the Quaker confessed!

No honors of war to our worthies belong;
Their plain stem of life never flowered into song;
But the fountains they opened still gush by the way,
And the world for their healing is better to-day.

He who lies where the minster's groined arches curve down
To the tomb-crowded transept of England's renown,
The glorious essayist, by genius enthroned,
Whose pen as a sceptre the Muses all owned,--

Who through the world's pantheon walked in his pride,
Setting new statues up, thrusting old ones aside,
And in fiction the pencils of history dipped,
To gild o'er or blacken each saint in his crypt,--

How vainly he labored to sully with blame
The white bust of Penn, in the niche of his fame!
Self-will is self-wounding, perversity blind
On himself fell the stain for the Quaker designed!

For the sake of his true-hearted father before him;
For the sake of the dear Quaker mother that bore him;
For the sake of his gifts, and the works that outlive him,
And his brave words for freedom, we freely forgive him!

There are those who take note that our numbers are small,--
New Gibbons who write our decline and our fall;
But the Lord of the seed-f
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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 Quaker Alumni" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 30 May 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/23179/the-quaker-alumni>.

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