The Literary Maiden

A compendium of obscure 19th century writing.

Tag: Willis

“January 1, 1829” by Nathaniel Parker Willis

January 1, 1829
Nathaniel Parker Willis

WINTER is come again. The sweet south-west
Is a forgotten wind, and the strong earth
Has laid aside its mantle to be bound
By the frost fetter. There is not a sound,
Save of the skater’s heel, and there is laid
An icy finger on the lip of streams,
And the clear icicle hangs cold and still,
And the snow-fall is noiseless as a thought.
Spring has a rushing sound, and Summer sends
Many sweet voices with its odors out,
And Autumn rustleth its decaying robe
With a complaining whisper. Winter’s dumb!
God made his ministry a silent one,
And he has given him a foot of steel
And an unlovely aspect, and a breath
Sharp to the senses—and we know that He
Tempereth well, and hath a meaning hid
Under the shadow of his hand. Look up;
And it shall be interpreted—Your home
Hath a temptation now! There is no voice
Of waters with beguiling for your ear,
And the cool forest and the meadows green
Witch not your feet away; and in the dells
There are no violets, and upon the hills
There are no sunny places to lie down.
You must go in, and by your cheerful fire
Wait for the offices of love, and hear
Accents of human tenderness, and feast
Your eye upon the beauty of the young.
It is a season for the quiet thought,
And the still reckoning with thyself. The year
Gives back the spirits of its dead, and time
Whispers the history of its vanish’d hours;
And the heart, calling its affections up,
Counteth its wasted ingots. Life stands still
And settles like a fountain, and the eye
Sees clearly through its depths, and noteth all
That stirr’d its troubled waters. It is well
That Winter with the dying year should come!

“January 1, 1828” by Nathaniel Parker Willis

January 1, 1828
Nathaniel Parker Willis

FLEETLY hath passed the year. The seasons came
Duly as they are wont—the gentle Spring,
And the delicious Summer, and the cool,
Rich Autumn, with the nodding of the grain,
And Winter, like an old and hoary man,
Frosty and stiff—and are so chronicled.
We have read gladness in the new green leaf,
And in the first-blown violets; we have drunk
Cool water from the rock, and in the shade
Sunk to the noontide slumber;—we have pluck’d
The mellow fruitage of the bending tree,
And girded to our pleasant wanderings
When the cool wind came freshly from the hills;
And when the tinting of the Autumn leaves
Had faded from its glory, we have sat
By the good fires of Winter, and rejoiced
Over the fulness of the gathered sheaf.
“God hath been very good!” ‘Tis He whose hand
Moulded the sunny hills, and hollow’d out
The shelter of the valleys, and doth keep
The fountains in their secret places cool;
And it is he who leadeth up the sun,
And ordereth the starry influences,
And tempereth the keenness of the frost—
And therefore, in the plenty of the feast,
And in the lifting of the cup, let HIM
Have praises for the well-completed year.

“Autumn” by Nathaniel Parker Willis

The following is a transcription of Nathaniel Parker Willis’ gorgeous article, entitled “Autumn,” taken from the September 30, 1837 issue of The New York Mirror. It was too stirring not to share. —Ann Neilson 

The first severe frost had come, and the miraculous change had passed upon the leaves, which is known only in America. The blood-red sugar-maple, with a leaf brighter and more delicate than a Circassian lip, stood here and there in the forest, like the Sultan’s standard in a host—the solitary and far-seen aristocrat of the wilderness; the birch, with its spirit-like and amber leaves, ghosts of the departed summer, turned out along the edges of the woods like a lining of the palest gold; the broad sycamore and the fan-like catalpa flaunted their saffron foliage in the sun, spotted with gold, like the wings of a lady-bird; the kingly oak, with its summit shaken bare, still hid its majestick trunk in a drapery of sumptuous dyes, like a stricken monarch, gathering his robes of state about him, to die royally in his purple; the tall poplar, with its minaret of silver leaves, stood blanched, like a coward, in the dying forest, burdening every breeze with its complainings; the hickory, paled through its enduring green; the bright berries of the mountain-ash, flushed with a more sanguine glory in the unobstructed sun; the gaudy tulip-tree, the Sybarite of vegetation, stripped of its golden cups, still drank the intoxicating light of noon-day in leaves, than which the lip of an Indian shell was never more delicately tined; the still deeper-dyed vines of the lavish wilderness, perishing with the noble things whose summer they had shared, outshone them in their decline, as woman, in her death, is heavenlier than the being on whom in life, she leaned; and, alone and unsympathising in this universal decay, outlaws from nature, stood the fir and hemlock, their frowning and sombre heads darker and less lovely than ever, in contrast with the death-struck glory of their companions.

The dull colours of English autumnal foliage give you no conception of this marvellous phenomenon. The change there is gradual; in America it is the work of a night—of a single frost!

Oh! to have seen the sun set on hills bright in the still green and lingering summer, and to wake in the morning to a spectacle like this!

It is as if a myriad of rainbows were laced through the tree-tops—as if the sunsets of a summer—gold, purple and crimson—had been fused in the alembick of the west, and poured back in a new deluge of light and colour over the wilderness. It is as if every leaf in those countless trees had been painted to outflush the tulip—as if, by some electrick miracle, the dyes of the earth’s heart had struck upward, and her crystals and ores, her sapphires, hyacinths and rubies, had let forth their imprisoned colours to mount through the roots of the forest, and, like the angels that, in olden times, entered the bodies of the dying, re-animate the perishing leaves, and revel an hour in their bravery.