The Drovers





THROUGH heat and cold, and shower and sun,

Still onward cheerly driving

There's life alone in duty done,

And rest alone in striving.

But see! the day is closing cool,

The woods are dim before us;

The white fog of the wayside pool

Is creeping slowly o'er us.



The night is falling, comrades mine,

Our footsore beasts are weary,

And through yon elms the tavern sign

Looks out upon us cheery.

The landlord beckons from his door,

His beechen fire is glowing;

These ample barns, with feed in store,

Are filled to overflowing.



From many a valley frowned across

By brows of rugged mountains;

From hillsides where, through spongy moss,

Gush out the river fountains;

From quiet farm-fields, green and low,

And bright with blooming clover;

From vales of corn the wandering crow

No richer hovers over;



Day after day our way has been

O'er many a hill and hollow;

By lake and stream, by wood and glen,

Our stately drove we follow.

Through dust-clouds rising thick and dun,

As smoke of battle o'er us,

Their white horns glisten in the sun,

Like plumes and crests before us.



We see them slowly climb the hill,

As slow behind it sinking;

Or, thronging close, from roadside rill,

Or sunny lakelet, drinking.

Now crowding in the narrow road,

In thick and struggling masses,

They glare upon the teamster's load,

Or rattling coach that passes.



Anon, with toss of horn and tail,

And paw of hoof, and bellow,

They leap some farmer's broken pale,

O'er meadow-close or fallow.

Forth comes the startled goodman; forth

Wife, children, house-dog, sally,

Till once more on their dusty path

The baffled truants rally.



We drive no starvelings, scraggy grown,

Loose-legged, and ribbed and bony,

Like those who grind their noses down

On pastures bare and stony,--

Lank oxen, rough as Indian dogs,

And cows too lean for shadows,

Disputing feebly with the frogs

The crop of saw-grass meadows!



In our good drove, so sleek and fair,

No bones of leanness rattle;

No tottering hide-bound ghosts are there,

Or Pharaoh's evil cattle.

Each stately beeve bespeaks the hand

That fed him unrepining;

The fatness of a goodly land

In each dun hide is shining.



We've sought them where, in warmest nooks,

The freshest feed is growing,

By sweetest springs and clearest brooks

Through honeysuckle flowing;

Wherever hillsides, sloping south,

Are bright with early grasses,

Or, tracking green the lowland's drouth,

The mountain streamlet passes.



But now the day is closing cool,

The woods are dim before us,

The white fog of the wayside pool

Is creeping slowly o'er us.

The cricket to the frog's bassoon

His shrillest time is keeping;

The sickle of yon setting moon

The meadow-mist is reaping.



The night is falling, comrades mine,

Our footsore beasts are weary,

And through yon elms the tavern sign

Looks out upon us cheery.

To-morrow, eastward with our charge

We'll go to meet the dawning,

Ere yet the pines of Kearsarge

Have seen the sun of morning.



When snow-flakes o'er the frozen earth,

Instead of birds, are flitting;

When children throng the glowing hearth,

And quiet wives are knitting;

While in the fire-light strong and clear

Young eyes of pleasure glisten,

To tales of all we see and hear

The ears of home shall listen.



By many a Northern lake and bill,

From many a mountain pasture,

Shall Fancy play the Drover still,

And speed the long night faster.

Then let us on, through shower and sun,

And heat and cold, be driving;

There 's life alone in duty done,

And rest alone in striving.

1847.





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