by John Greenleaf Whittier
Read September 10, 1885, to the surviving students of Haverhill Academy in 1827-1830.
The gulf of seven and fifty years
We stretch our welcoming hands across;
The distance but a pebble's toss
Between us and our youth appears.
For in life's school we linger on
The remnant of a once full list;
Conning our lessons, undismissed,
With faces to the setting sun.
And some have gone the unknown way,
And some await the call to rest;
Who knoweth whether it is best
For those who went or those who stay?
And yet despite of loss and ill,
If faith and love and hope remain,
Our length of days is not in vain,
And life is well worth living still.
Still to a gracious Providence
The thanks of grateful hearts are due,
For blessings when our lives were new,
For all the good vouchsafed us since.
The pain that spared us sorer hurt,
The wish denied, the purpose crossed,
And pleasure's fond occasions lost,
Were mercies to our small desert.
'T is something that we wander back,
Gray pilgrims, to our ancient ways,
And tender memories of old days
Walk with us by the Merrimac;
That even in life's afternoon
A sense of youth comes back again,
As through this cool September rain
The still green woodlands dream of June.
The eyes grown dim to present things
Have keener sight for bygone years,
And sweet and clear, in deafening ears,
The bird that sang at morning sings.
Dear comrades, scattered wide and far,
Send from their homes their kindly word,
And dearer ones, unseen, unheard,
Smile on us from some heavenly star.
For life and death with God are one,
Unchanged by seeming change His care
And love are round us here and there;
He breaks no thread His hand has spun.
Soul touches soul, the muster roll
Of life eternal has no gaps;
And after half a century's lapse
Our school-day ranks are closed and whole.
Hail and farewell! We go our way;
Where shadows end, we trust in light;
The star that ushers in the night
Is herald also of the day!