“Inscription” by James Gates Percival

by Ann Neilson

Inscription
By P. [James Gates Percival]
From the United States Literary Gazette, Volume 3, October 1, 1825, pp. 28-29.

Stranger, if thou hast ever blessed the shade,
That lent thee shelter from the sun or rain,
Thou wilt not rest thee underneath this elm
Without a sense of gratitude. The boughs,
That overshadow thee, have borne the brunt
Of centuries, and have records of the past
In all their whispering leaves. We cannot hear them
Telling their tales, through the long summer day,
To the cool west-wind, and have other thoughts,
Than of the generations, who have sat,
In long succession, on the mossy turf
That beds these twisted roots. Sunshine and calm,
Darkness and storm, have been around these boughs.
And they have smiled to the unclouded sky,
And rocked in the rude tempest, but have stood
Unbroken, while the stream of human life
Has ebbed and flowed like the perpetual tide,
And hardly left a trace upon its shores,
To tell us where it came. Then rest thee, stranger,
And think thou hearest in the ancient wood
A monitor, that warns thee of thy end
With a low earnest voice, a voice of kindness,
That, like a silent fountain running over,
Refreshes where it flows, and, like its waters,
Gives life to the sere heart it passes by.