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On The Hilltop

by Elizabeth Drew Stoddard, 1895

"By the margent of the sea
I would build myself a home."

Not by the margent of the sea,
But on the hilltop I would be,
My little house a mossy den,
Between me and the world of men.
Beside me dips a wide ravine,
Covered with a flowery screen;
Far round me rise a band of hills,
Whose voices reach me by their rills,
Or deep susurrus of the wood,
That stands in stately brotherhood,
Upholding one vast web of green,
Whereunder foot has never been—
The pine and elm, the birch and oak—
And thus their voices me invoke:
"If you would on the hilltop be,
We cannot share your misery;
Cease, cease this moaning for the Past:
The law of grief can never last."
When springtime brings anemones,
Upon the sod I take my ease,
Or search for Arethusa's pink,
Along the torrent's ragged brink;
Or in the tinted April hours
I watch the curtain of the showers
That fall beneath a lurking cloud,
Which for a moment throws a shroud
On the sun's arrows in the west,
Till it blaze up a golden crest.
The young moon bends her crescent horn
Against the lingering summer morn;
Then, riding down the starry sky,
She follows me till night goes by.
And when the dawn breaks on yon town,
I think the sleepers lying down
Must rise to shoulder dismal care
Methinks that once was but my fare.
But I upon the hilltop yet
Am free from every tangling fret;
So ever thus, in peace of mind,
I give my pity to my kind.
For me this noble solitude!
And as I face its varying mood,
Reflected in its every show,
Some higher self I come to know.
See, autumn here, with color glad,
Not like the poets—russet clad—
But scarlet, umber, green, and gold;
Then in a breath I must behold
The autumn winds tear down my screen,
And leave me not a leaf to glean.
The snow will cover glen and height,
And all my hilltop glisten white;
I see the crystal atoms fly
Under the dome of this gray sky.
Like gnomes are they, these spectral gleams?
Or shall I guess them only dreams?
Whatever is the truth, I say,
If up and down the world I stray,
Still on the hilltop I would be,
Not by the margent of the sea!

Published in Poems

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