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a web of many textures

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I stood on Salem's wizard hill,
My sinking soul by terror daunted;
The summer wind blew strangely chill,
My fluttering heart would not be still,
Upon that upper land enchanted.
I felt a Presence by my side —
Old Roger Conant touched my shoulder:
My heart sent back its rushing tide,
As I that awful touch descried,
And the cool breeze seemed growing colder.
Then spake the Presence — not by word,
But by what people call impression:
My soul alone the language heard,
For Roger's lips no moment stirred
From long accustomed grave possession.
“I welcome you to this fair scene,
Endowed with beauty, grace, and riches;
Few brighter spots than this, I ween,
You 'll find our nation's bounds between,
Yet this was once the hold of witches.
“Around you dusky shadows glide
Of those who made a bloody story:
Yonder is Burroughs sanctified,
With Mary Easty, grace denied,
And here is sturdy old Giles Cory.
“And angel Martha Cory 's nigh, —
No saint in heaven's courts is sweeter, —
With Alice Parker standing by;
And old George Jacobs here doth hie,
With Margaret Scott and Ann Pudeater.
“The list is large, but not a whit
Of anger now is felt among 'em;
And often round this hill they flit,
Or here upon this summit sit,
In friendship with the ones who swung 'em.


Page 153
“E'en now, my friend, while here we talk,
Witch-hangers round among us gather:
Yonder old Parson Paris stalks,
And Justice Hathorne hither walks,
Locked arm in arm with Cotton Mather.
“They carted them to Gallows Hill,
Without a tear, or sigh, or blessing;
And then around, as I am still,
I saw their cup of sorrow fill,
But could not change their fate distressing.
“And yonder were the locust-trees
On which were seen their bodies swinging,
While pious prayers from bended knees,
And sacrifices God to appease,
Rose from this spot, toward heaven winging.
“You know, of course, the matter dark,
For Upham 's told you all the story,
And Poole's bright muse has made its mark,
And 'lumed with wit's effulgent spark
That page inscribed with letters gory.
“But don't condemn those men severe,
Nor by your bushel their grain measure;
As honest they to me appear
As you in this enlightened year,
Who knowledge, wealth, and power, treasure.
“God's glory was their guiding aim,
Much more than yours, who 've often spurned it;
And, though to you it seem a shame
To kill a witch by cord or flame,
The word was plain as they had learned it.
“Please not a word — one single thought
Annuls all cavilling and stricture:
Those darksome times, with horror fraught,
Round which such hideous tales are wrought,
Are shadows to a glorious picture.
“Your landscape were but tamely shown
'Neath everlasting summer weather;


Page 154
Grand and effective 't is alone
When contrasts in one field are thrown, —
A beauteous whole when viewed together.
“The shadows are of darksome hue,
Not fading out or evanescent;
And bright by contrast is the view
Of beauties that the scene bestrew,
That makes the picture of THE PRESENT.
“There 's Salem now, in beauteous guise, —
It does my soul delight to mind it, —
Shines fairer far to thoughtful eyes,
As in its affluence there it lies,
With sombre Gallows Hill behind it.”
The Presence clipped the spectral thread
It garrulously had been spinning,
When, nodding with its shadowy head,
It turned about with shadowy tread,
And left me there as at beginning.