NATHANIEL PARKER WILLIS was born in Portland, Maine, in January, 1806. He was the son of Nathaniel Willis, and the brother of Sarah Payson Willis (Fanny Fern). Graduating at Yale College in 1827, he at once entered upon a literary life. In 1829 he established the American Monthly Magazine, which, three years later, was merged in the New York Mirror, of which Mr. Willis became editor, in association with George P. Morris. He made several voyages to Europe, and was admitted to the best literary society of England. He died at Idlewild, his beautiful home on the Hudson River, January 20, 1867 His first volume of verse, called Sketches, was published in 1827. His first prose book, Pencillings by the Way (1835), attracted a good deal of notice in England, and a review of it, written by Captain Marryat, led to a duel between himself and Mr. Willis. Among the most notable of the twenty-seven volumes of prose and verse which bear his name, are Letters from un ler a Bridge, Loiterings by the Way, People I Have Met, and Dashes at Life with a Free Pencil. One of his latest works was Paul Fane, a novel, which did not enhance his reputation. Mr. Willis is best known in literature as a writer of sketches of society. He was at once a "society man" and a littérateur, and rejoiced in such opportunities of appearing in his twofold character as were afforded in such sketches, in the writing of which he displayed peculiar grace, ease, and admirable audacity. While the bulk of his writings is of a somewhat ephemeral character, he was sometimes moved by a loftier ambition, and produced matter of more substantial value. Specimens of this may be found in some of his notes of travel, -A Health Trip to the Tropics, and A Summer Cruise in the Mediterranean, and in several religious poems of marked dignity and beauty. These poems must be regarded as his best productions; and, indeed, few poets have equaled him in this poetical specialty. In The Death of Absalom, the dramatic harmony, the sober beauty of the descriptive passages, and the noble grief of David, combine with singular felicity to produce a powerful and enduring effect on the reader's mind. Mr. Willis's versatility was remarkable; but it is to be regretted that he lavished so much of his talent upon such frivolous subjects.


THE waters slept. Night's silvery veil hung low
On Jordan's bosom, and the eddies curled

Their glassy rings beneath it, like the still,
Unbroken beating of the sleeper's pulse.

The reeds bent down the stream; the willow leaves,
With a soft cheek upon the lulling tide,

Forgot the lifting winds; and the long stems,
Whose flowers the water, like a gentle nurse,
Bears on its bosom, quietly gave way,
And leaned, in graceful attitudes, to rest.
How strikingly the course of nature tells,
By its light heed of human suffering,
That it was fashioned for a happier world!

King David's limbs were weary. He had fled
From far Jerusalem; and now he stood,
With his faint people, for a little rest

Upon the shores of Jordan. The light wind
Of morn was stirring, and he bared his brow
To its refreshing breath; for he had worn
The mourner's covering, and he had not felt
That he could see his people until now.

They gathered round him on the fresh green bank,
And spoke their kindly words; and, as the sun
Rose up in heaven, he knelt among them there,
And bowed his head upon his hands to pray.
Oh! when the heart is full, when bitter thoughts
Come crowding thickly up for utterance,
And the poor common words of courtesy
Are such an empty mockery, how much
The bursting heart may pour itself in prayer!
He prayed for Israel, and his voice went up
Strongly and fervently. He prayed for those
Whose love had been his shield, and his deep tones

Grew tremulous. But, oh! for Absalom,

For his estranged, misguided Absalom,-
The proud, bright being, who had burst away
In all his princely beauty, to defy

The heart that cherished him, for him he poured,

In agony that would not be controlled,

Strong supplication, and forgave him there,
Before his God, for his deep sinfulness.

The pall was settled. He who slept beneath
Was straightened for the grave; and, as the folds
Sank to the still proportions, they betrayed

The matchless symmetry of Absalom.
His hair was yet unshorn, and silken curls

Were floating round the tassels as they swayed
To the admitted air, as glossy now

As when, in hours of gentle dalliance, bathing
The snowy fingers of Judæa's daughters.
His helm was at his feet; his banner, soiled

With trailing through Jerusalem, was laid,
Reversed, beside him; and the jeweled hilt,
Whose diamonds lit the passage of his blade,
Rested, like mockery, on his covered brow.
The soldiers of the king trod to and fro,
Clad in the garb of battle; and their chief,
The mighty Joab, stood beside the bier,
And gazed upon the dark pall steadfastly,
As if he feared the slumberer might stir.

A slow step startled him. He grasped his blade
As if a trumpet rang; but the bent form
Of David entered, and he gave command,
In a low tone, to his few followers,

And left him with his dead. The king stood still
Till the last echo died; then, throwing off
The sackcloth from his brow, and laying back
The pall from the still features of his child,
He bowed his head upon him, and broke forth
In the resistless eloquence of woe :

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Alas! my noble boy! that thou shouldst die ! Thou, who wert made so beautifully fair! That death should settle in thy glorious eye,

And leave his stillness in this clustering hair! How could he mark thee for the silent tomb! My proud boy, Absalom!

"Cold is thy brow, my son! and I am chill, As to my bosom I have tried to press thee! How was I wont to feel my pulses thrill,


Like a rich harp-string, yearning to caress thee, And hear thy sweet My father!' from these dumb And cold lips, Absalom!

"But death is on thee. I shall hear the gush
Of music, and the voices of the young;
And life will pass me in the mantling blush,
And the dark tresses to the soft winds flung ;
But thou no more, with thy sweet voice, shalt come
To meet me, Absalom!

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And oh when I am stricken, and my heart, Like a bruised reed, is waiting to be broken, How will its love for thee, as I depart,

Yearn for thine ear to drink its last deep token! It were so sweet, amid death's gathering gloom, To see thee, Absalom!


And now, farewell!

"T is hard to give thee up, With death so like a gentle slumber on thee; And thy dark sin! -Oh! I could drink the cup, If from this woe its bitterness had won thee. May God have called thee, like a wanderer, home, My lost boy, Absalom!"

He covered up his face, and bowed himself
A moment on his child: then, giving him
A look of melting tenderness, he clasped
His hands convulsively, as if in prayer;
And, as if strength were given him of God,
He rose up calmly, and composed the pall
Firmly and decently - and left him there-
As if his rest had been a breathing sleep.

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ON the cross-beam under the Old South bell
The nest of a pigeon is builded well.

In summer and winter that bird is there,
Out and in with the morning air;
I love to see him track the street,
With his wary eye and active feet;
And I often watch him as he springs,
Circling the steeple with easy wings,
Till across the dial his shade has passed,
And the belfry edge is gained at last;

"T is a bird I love, with its brooding note,

And the trembling throb in its mottled throat;

There's a human look in its swelling breast,

And the gentle curve of its lowly crest;

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Whatever is rung on that noisy bell, Chime of the hour, or funeral knell,

The dove in the belfry must hear it well.

When the tongue swings out to the midnight moon,
When the sexton cheerly rings for noon,

When the clock strikes clear at morning light,
When the child is waked with " nine at night,"
When the chimes play soft in the Sabbath air,
Filling the spirit with tones of prayer,
Whatever tale in the bell is heard,
He broods on his folded feet unstirred,
Or, rising half in his rounded nest,
He takes the time to smooth his breast,
Then drops again, with filméd eyes,
And sleeps as the last vibration dies.

Sweet bird! I would that I could be

A hermit in the crowd like thee!
With wings to fly to wood and glen,
Thy lot, like mine, is cast with men;
And daily, with unwilling feet,
I tread, like thee, the crowded street;
But, unlike me, when day is o'er,
Thou canst dismiss the world and soar
Or, at a half-felt wish for rest,
Canst smooth the feathers on thy breast,
And drop, forgetful, to thy nest.

I would that in such wings of gold

I could my weary heart upfold;

I would I could look down unmoved

(Unloving as I am unloved),

And while the world throngs on beneath,
Smooth down my cares and calmly breathe;
And never sad with others' sadness,
And never glad with others' gladness,
Listen, unstirred, to knell or chime,
And, lapped in quiet, bide my time.

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