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John Greenleaf Whittier


My heart was heavy, for its trust had been
Abused, its kindness answered with foul wrong;
So, turning gloomily from my fellowmen,
One summer Sabbath day I strolled among
the green mounds of the village burial place;
Where, pondering how all human love and hate
Find one sad level; and how, soon or  late,
Wronged and wrong-doer, each with meekened face,
And cold hands folded over a still heart,
Pass the green threshold of our common grave,
Whither all footsteps tend, whence none depart,
Awed for myself, and pitying my race,
Our common sorrow, like a mighty wave,
Swept all my pride away, and trembling I forgave!


John Greenleaf Whittier (1807 - 1892) was one of the "Fireside Poets," called such because their work was popular enough to be read (ostensibly by the fire) in homes all over America. And Whittier was one of those rare poets who actually made a rather comfortable living from the proceeds of his work. Born into a Massachusetts farm family, Whittier was introduced to poetry by one of his school teachers. An avid reader and writer early on, Whittier spent much of his working life as an editor, though he had political aspirations as well. He was a staunch abolitionist, and produced two collections of anti-slavery poems, along with an anti-slavery pamphlet that managed to incur the wrath of both sides and effectively any hopes Whittier had of a political career. Critical opinion on the value of Whittier's poetry is mixed. Some dismiss it as overly emotional, while others believe the heartfelt simplicity is precisely its appeal.


Post New Comment:
Truth does not grow out-of-date. Thanks.
Posted 07/22/2012 04:36 PM
This is such a balm for those who are hurting. Thanks, Jayne.
Posted 07/21/2012 01:24 PM
Thank you for selecting this one. You were "listening" when you chose!
Posted 07/21/2012 09:06 AM
The old lessons have to be taught and re-taught and re-taught. This poem glistens with its lack of ambiguity, its single-mindedness.
Posted 07/21/2012 08:38 AM
Janet Leahy:
Again, "the common sorrow," something we all feel in the aftermath of tragedy, thanks for posting this poem today.
Posted 07/21/2012 06:56 AM
I like his uncomplicated humility
Posted 07/21/2012 05:28 AM

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