The Golden Mile-Stone


    Leafless are the trees; their purple branches
    Spread themselves abroad, like reefs of coral,
                Rising silent
    In the Red Sea of the Winter sunset.

    From the hundred chimneys of the village,
    Like the Afreet in the Arabian story,
                Smoky columns
    Tower aloft into the air of amber.

    At the window winks the flickering fire-light;
    Here and there the lamps of evening glimmer,
                Social watch-fires
    Answering one another through the darkness.

    On the hearth the lighted logs are glowing,
    And like Ariel in the cloven pine-tree
                For its freedom
    Groans and sighs the air imprisoned in them.

    By the fireside there are old men seated,
    Seeing ruined cities in the ashes,
                Asking sadly
    Of the Past what it can ne'er restore them.

    By the fireside there are youthful dreamers,
    Building castles fair, with stately stairways,
                Asking blindly
    Of the Future what it cannot give them.

    By the fireside tragedies are acted
    In whose scenes appear two actors only,
                Wife and husband,
    And above them God the sole spectator.

    By the fireside there are peace and comfort,
    Wives and children, with fair, thoughtful faces,
                Waiting, watching
    For a well-known footstep in the passage.

    Each man's chimney is his Golden Mile-stone;
    Is the central point, from which he measures
                Every distance
    Through the gateways of the world around him.

    In his farthest wanderings still he sees it;
    Hears the talking flame, the answering night-wind,
                As he heard them
    When he sat with those who were, but are not.

    Happy he whom neither wealth nor fashion,
    Nor the march of the encroaching city,
                Drives an exile
    From the hearth of his ancestral homestead.

    We may build more splendid habitations,
    Fill our rooms with paintings and with sculptures,
                But we cannot
    Buy with gold the old associations!


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Return to the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Home Page, or . . . Read the next poem; The Good Part That Shall Not Be Taken Away

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