Song of Old Time

- 1818-1889

I wear not the purple of earth-born kings,
Nor the stately ermine of lordly things;
But monarch and courtier, though great they be,
Must fall from their glory and bend to me.
My sceptre is gemless; yet who can say
They will not come under its mighty sway?
Ye may learn who I am,—there’s the passing chime,
And the dial to herald me, Old King Time!

Softly I creep, like a thief in the night,
After cheeks all blooming and eyes all light;
My steps are seen on the patriarch’s brow,
In the deep-worn furrows and locks of snow.
Who laughs at my power? the young and the gay;
But they dream not how closely I track their way.
Wait till their first bright sands have run,
And they will not smile at what Time hath done.

I eat through treasures with moth and rust;
I lay the gorgeous palace in dust;
I make the shell-proof tower my own,
And break the battlement, stone from stone.
Work on at your cities and temples, proud man,
Build high as ye may, and strong as ye can;
But the marble shall crumble, the pillar shall fall,
And Time, Old Time, will be king after all.

More by Eliza Cook

The Old Arm-Chair

I love it, I love it; and who shall dare
To chide me for loving that old arm-chair?
I’ve treasured it long as a sainted prize,
I’ve bedew’d it with tears, and embalmed it with sighs;
’Tis bound by a thousand bands to my heart;
Not a tie will break, not a link will start.
Would ye learn the spell? a mother sat there,
And a sacred thing is that old arm-chair.

In childhood’s hour I linger’d near
The hallow’d seat with list’ning ear;
And gentle words that mother would give,
To fit me to die and teach me to live.
She told me shame would never betide,
With truth for my creed and God for my guide;
She taught me to lisp my earliest prayer,
As I knelt beside that old arm-chair.

I sat and watch’d her many a day,
When her eye grew dim, and her locks were grey;
And I almost worshipp’d her when she smil’d
And turn’d from her Bible to bless her child.
Years roll’d on, but the last one sped—
My idol was shatter’d, my earth-star fled;
I learnt how much the heart can bear,
When I saw her die in that old arm-chair.

’Tis past! ’tis past! but I gaze on it now
With quivering breath and throbbing brow:
’Twas there she nursed me, ’twas there she died;
And memory flows with lava tide.
Say it is folly, and deem me weak,
While the scalding drops start down my cheek;
But I love it, I love it, and cannot tear
My soul from a mother’s old arm-chair.

Spring

Welcome, all hail to thee!
     Welcome, young Spring!
Thy sun-ray is bright
     On the butterfly’s wing.
Beauty shines forth
     In the blossom-robed trees;
Perfume floats by
     On the soft southern breeze.

Music, sweet music,
     Sounds over the earth;
One glad choral song
     Greets the primrose’s birth;
The lark soars above,
     With its shrill matin strain;
The shepherd boy tunes
     His reed pipe on the plain.

Music, sweet music,
     Cheers meadow and lea;—
In the song of the blackbird,
     The hum of the bee;
The loud happy laughter
     Of children at play
Proclaim how they worship
     Spring’s beautiful day.

The eye of the hale one,
     With joy in its gleam,
Looks up in the noontide,
     And steals from the beam;
But the cheek of the pale one
     Is mark’d with despair,
To feel itself fading,
     When all is so fair.

The hedges, luxuriant
     With flowers and balm,
Are purple with violets,
     And shaded with palm;
The zephyr-kiss’d grass
     Is beginning to wave;
Fresh verdure is decking
     The garden and grave.

Welcome! all hail to thee,
     Heart-stirring May!
Thou hast won from my wild harp
     A rapturous lay.
And the last dying murmur
     That sleeps on the string
Is welcome! All hail to thee,
     Welcome, young Spring!

Winter

We know ’tis good that old Winter should come,
Roving awhile from his Lapland home;
’Tis fitting that we should hear the sound
Of his reindeer sledge on the slippery ground:

For his wide and glittering cloak of snow
Protects the seeds of life below;
Beneath his mantle are nurtured and born
The roots of the flowers, the germs of the corn.

The whistling tone of his pure strong breath
Rides purging the vapours of pestilent death.
I love him, I say, and avow it again,
For God’s wisdom and might show well in his train.

But the naked—the poor! I know they quail
With crouching limbs from the biting gale;
They pine and starve by the fireless hearth,
And weep as they gaze on the frost-bound earth.

Stand nobly forth, ye rich of the land,
With kindly heart and bounteous hand;
Remember ’tis now their season of need,
And a prayer for help is a call ye must heed.

A few of thy blessings, a tithe of thy gold,
Will save the young, and cherish the old.
’Tis a glorious task to work such good—
Do it, ye great ones! Ye can, and ye should.

He is not worthy to hold from heaven
The trust reposed, the talents given,
Who will not add to the portion that’s scant,
In the pinching hours of cold and want.

Oh! listen in mercy, ye sons of wealth,
Basking in comfort and glowing with health;
Give whate’er ye can spare, and be ye sure
He serveth his Maker who aideth the poor.