FRIEND, gliding near me on life's widening stream,
In whose long wake star-spangled ripples gleam,
And from whose prow the pioneering light
Keenly dispels the gathering gloom of night;
While, with spent oars quiescent at our side,
Trustfully yielding to the ebbing tide,
On which, with gently graduated motion,
We seek the lap of the mysterious ocean,
Survivors of a gaily tuneful throng,
Shall we not hail each other with a song?
While, from each mast the time-worn pennant bends,
Salute the memory of departed friends?
Or, with our ensigns drooping in the calm,
Together raise a grateful evening psalm?
Shall we to distant followers in the race,
Sing of the radiant morn, the early grace
That robed in sunshine our excursive sails.
When first they open'd to the fav'ring gales?
Ah! not for them our tales of vanished glory,
They still are sketching out their own bright story:
Theirs is the golden dawn, the rising sun,
Theirs the light wave on which our course begun,
Theirs, soon, the rapids that we have out run.
Shall we then seek to guide some rash career,
Teaching unskilful hand and eye to steer
'Mid rocks and boulders, snags and tangled snares,
Or lightly skim above life's shallow cares?
Some strong, broad rules we doubtless may enforce,
But how anticipate each devious course?
Has our own track so watchful been and wary
Since first it wound thro' childhood's smiling prairie,
That we can warn of every dangerous spot,
Point to a chart without a blur or blot,
And, casting back experience-lightened eyes,
Say firmly: “This was right,” or “That was wise?”
Alas! too oft the wisdom we have stored
Is scatter'd like the miser's cherish'd hoard;
We heap up piles of mental wealth and lore,
And know not who shall gather of our store;
Some counsel-aid we to our sons may give,
But 'tis by living they must learn to live.
Can we do nought to speed them on their way?
We can but bid them work, and watch and pray.
Touch, then, with me, the deep responding strings,
Bid memory stretch her retrogressive wings,
And, gathering sunbeams from the days gone by,
Reflect them on a placid evening sky;
Fanning our folded banners with the breeze
Whose sights awake long-slumb'ring melodies,
Raising our hearts in homage to the Giver
Who launched our barques upon His Heaven-ward river,
Freighted with comfort, blest with kindred ties,
Social endearments, kindly sympathies,
Health, and the long-tried vigour of the brain,
All gracious types to seize and to retain:
Food for the mind on Nature's ample field.
The Higher Life, on Holy page reveal'd;
The Star of Hope, that, lingering in the West,
Still seems an Eastern rising to suggest;
The atoning Cross that bids us bravely bear
Of human sorrow our appointed share;
The charge divine some suff'ring to allay,
Some want relieve, some trouble soothe away,
And, while we on our Master's bounty live,
The joy of giving, and the power to give.