THE SLEEPING BEAUTY.
A NEW VERSION.
BY ANNA O. STEDMAN.
Alas! I am so very tired,
This glorious summer's day ;
It seems to me a long, long time
Since last I came this way.
You say you don't remember me?
Well, that is not so strange,
For in the last one hundred years
Of course must be some change.
Nor is, it strange that, having lain
So long upon the shelf,
In making an appearance
I must introduce myself.
Alas! how sad that none remain
Of all I used to know
And love, and rest my heart upon,
One hundred years ago.
And while the recollections sad
Are crowding on my brain,
As in the busy life around
My youth returns again ;—
I hear some graceless youngster say,
From out the crowd below:
"What's the old woman driving at?
I wish she'd let us know."
Shades of my ancestors! Not thus,
As you too fully know,
Spake we unto our grandmothers,
One hundred years ago.
Still, yielding to the high demands
Of the present "high-toned" day,
I'll strive to answer his commands
As briefly as I may.
My children, you have doubtless heard,
To your juvenile delight,
The story of the Sleeping Maid,
The gallant rescuing Knight?
Ah, yes, you all remember well,
But did you know until
This moment that that castle grand
Once stood on New Fane hill?
But yes, this maid of high renown,
(A maid no longer, she,)
Upon the heights of this old town
Reared a large family ;
And feeling weary with her work,
She donned her big night-cap,
And quietly she settled down
To take another nap.
It was in seventeen seventy-four
The sleepy fit came on,
And as nothing very special
To disturb her has been done,
She very calmly snoozed away,
Just as she did before,
Till she was wakened by the noise
Of eighteen seventy-four.
'Tis true she had some curious dreams,
As happens to the best,
And once or twice came very near
Being broken of her rest.
But they did quite well without her,
And built, and bought and sold,
Until her children, like herself,
Were growing gray and old;
And then the fancy came to them
That 'twould be finer still
To place their habitations
In the valley 'neath the hill.
Now, you must know, it could not be
So many girls and boys
Could move their goods and chattels down
Without a little noise
But on they came, and reared the homes
That shelter them to-day,
But that the old hill held most grand
They could not bring away.
Its air, its streams, its proud old mounds
With verdure covered o'er, —
These be its heaven-born heritage
Till time shall be no more!
The years rolled on, a greater thrill
Shook mightily the land.
When the voice of God doth speak to men.
Where shall His children stand?
Not in the ranks of cowards!
Not in the bonds of slaves!
Sooner shall heaven's dews nightly fall
Upon their martyr graves!
So, with whitening lip and sinking heart,
The mother said "good-bye,"
And tried to smile upon the boy
She was sending forth to die.
And wives grew pale, and closer clasped
Their babies to their breasts,
And prayed — but, ah! you know it all ;
Why need I tell the rest
How many of that honored band
Who proudly marched away,
Have fallen by a traitor's hand,
How many stand to-day
The victors in as brave a host
As e'er to battle led?
Then let us give them equal praise,
The living and the dead.
But the God of battles spake again,
The tide of blood was stayed,
And His sunshine blessed once more the land
Laid waste by treason's raid ;
And the ancient dame, but half aroused
By the mutterings of her foes,
Just quietly fell back again
To finish her repose.
'Tis true that in the vale below,
So peaceful though it seem,
The waters did not always flow
Smoothly as one might deem ;
But tell me, what can you expect
In this dull world of ours,
Where women talk, and men but loaf,
To while away the hours?
Surely, the proverb learned in youth
Will never be less true,
That "Satan finds some mischief still
For idle folks to do."
Nathless, altho' some trifling wave
Would sometimes swell the tide,
Yet, mainly, with this quiet life
All seemed quite satisfied —
Until a certain year when Spring
Came in with gentle breath,
Wafting away the memories
Of cold, and sleep, and death —
With her some magic influence came,
Some subtle, mystic spell,
That warmed the blood and thrilled the veins
Of all o'er whom it fell ; —
Not that which spring-time always brings —
Sometimes, alas! too late,
When leaflets burst, and lovers woo,
And robins seek their mates
Yet none could read the spell, till one,
More brilliant than the rest,
Remarked in Yankee fashion
To his neighbor, that he "guessed"
If they'd wake up their ideas,
'Twas very plain to show
That this old town first drew its breath
One hundred years ago.
Then his brother Yankee answered him:
"Wa-al, what are you goin' to do?
You just shell out your notions, man,
I'll be bound we'll put you thro'."
"Do!" quoth his patriotic friend,
In tones that pierced him thro',
"We'll have a celebration grand,
That's what we're going to do!
"We'll have some grand orations, fit
For Independence Day,
And the finest band of music
That ever came this way.
We'll get up a rousing dinner
Of the best that can be found,
And ask our friends and neighbors in
From all the country round.
"We'll tell them all the wondrous deeds
Our forefathers begun,
And try to think of something smart
That we ourselves have done.
We'll call our sires and grandmothers
From out their place of rest,
And, though you youngsters of to-day
May do your prettiest,
You'll see them march about the town
As lively as the best.
"Talk of your expositions,
World's fair, or fancy ball ;
Beside our great Centennial
They'll be nowhere at all!
I tell you, we'll get up a show
Will knock these others flat ;
If we don't make the thing a go.
You're welcome to my hat!"
Well, they have, doubtless, done their best,
But whether they've complied
With these amazing promises,
OUR GUESTS can best decide.
Now she who armies could not rouse,
Nor civic feuds surprise,
On hearing all these murmurings
Began to rub her eyes ;
And, rousing up her weary limbs,
She said, in accents slow,
"If they have a grand Centennial,
I surely ought to go."
'Tis therefore I have come to greet
My numerous family,—
Although it seems incredible
That all belong to me.
Whate'er the virtues of Newfane,
Or her renown may be,
In latter years she is not famed
For her fecundity.
But tho we may not all have shared
The same baptismal font,
You all are welcome, just the same,
As sons of old Vermont;
And as justice has been fully done
To what has gone before,
Let us attempt, with hopeful gaze,
The future to explore.
First, by your leave, I beg it may
Be fully understood
That, having slumbered long and well,
I've now waked up for good;
And, borrowing our starting point
From apostolic lore
To leave the things that are behind
And press to those before
What shall we hope for as we look
Through the long mist of years?
What shall we pray for, bending low
To him who ever hears?
Shall we hope our beauteous valley
Ne'er may cease to bud and bloom?
That our streams may join their music
With the spindle and the loom? .
That the iron horse may find his way
Among these hills of ours,
Helping us coin the quiet day
Into busy, golden hours?
And may we ask for better things:
That knowledge grow and love increase,
And learn of all good gifts below,
The best of all to dwell in peace.
God knoweth best; these issues all
To Him we humbly leave,
While with most earnest hearts we strive
His promise to believe,
That whoso seeketh, he shall find,
Who asketh shall receive.
And, tho' 'tis sad to own, our lives
Are not perennial,
So 'twould be vain to ask you to
Our next Centennial ;
Yet, blessed be God that nobler aims,
More glorious hopes have we,
That, by His grace, we all may stand
Beside the crystal sea.