A Bicknell Idyl


Letter D

EAR Friends and Kindred—far away,
I give you greeting—all to-day—
Each friendly band I fain would grasp
In a long, thrilling, loving clasp.
But seas of circumstance divide,
As sure as ocean’s rolling tide.
And what I have to say or think,
Must go to you by pen and ink.
Fate dooms my vision may not see
This old new-gathered family;
My willing feet no road may trace
To your time-honored meeting place.
So at this BICKNEL7L Jubilee
Another will my proxy be,—
Linking—Dear Cousins—you and me.

"Lang syne " my feet have trod the street
In the old town where you will meet;
And memory dear around it weaves
A charm,—bright as its autumn leaves;
My Mother’s Birthplace! Shall I not
Do reverence to this hallowed spot?

As from the hill top, gained at last,
Over the way we came,— we cast
Our eyes with long drawn earnest gaze
At the far landscape,— lost in haze,
So we, though veiled in distance blue,
The journey of our sires review.

Long long ago,— one summer’s day
The waves of Massachusetts Bay
Were parted by the oaken prow
Of the "Assurance;" freighted now
With stern souls from "Old England" come
To found in this "New World" a home.
On deck more than a hundred stand;
The seed corn for this virgin land.
From " Weymouth" old, for "Weymouth" new,
Sires, dames and babes; a royal crew,
Fit followers of that Plymouth stock
Late planted on the world-famed " Hock."

ZACHARY,— AGNES,— JOHN! Over their biers
The winds have blown two hundred years.
But as the breezes come and go
In all the ages man shall know,
May their blest memory sacred be
Who planted here the BICKNELL tree;
Their "Requiem" the sounding sea.

As in the spring the well tilled field
Gives promise of autumnal yield
So in those spring-time days of yore,
Our tree paternal fruitage bore
In numbers rich. Each branching shoot
In new homes added to the fruit
Already ripening;— till the town
Itself too small for them was found:
South, West and North they emigrate,
A welcome find in many a State.
More homes they plant throughout the Nation
And quite outgrow all calculation.

At this late day we cannot tell
The old, old story, passing well;
For little record has been left
By which to trace the warp and weft
Of all the yards wove, since the day
Our Fathers entered this broad bay:-
By History's shuttle: flying fast
As it e'er must while time shall last.
But a few words,- mere feeble hints
Of what has happened to us, since
The household "parting of the ways"
(Leading asunder like the rays
Of bounteous light,- and like that too
As wider thrown, more good to do).

Near to this spot that farmhouse stood
From which departed the young blood
Fortunes to seek. And now again
After so long,- back to "Old Spain"
We come, as pilgrims to their shrines;
Or children to their homes returning,
Their hearts for household faces yearning,
Glad each new cousin now to know;
Uniting here the parted lines
Sundered so many years ago.

The oldest,- John,- at home remained;
And age of manhood having gained,
As was quite proper,- took a wife;
And lived a sober, quiet life
For many years; his duty doing
To all around; no myths pursuing,
But practical, and steady going.
And now the fruit of this good sowing
Is seen in many a household here,
On all the hillsides far and near.
For specimen wheat if you desire
Say our "Toast Master"- Zachariah!

The second southward took his way
(Named for "Grandfather Zach,"- they say),
And by the "Narragansetts" bay
Sees, what appears to his glad eyes,
Place for a farm of goodly size!
The soil was fair, and as they grew
The "boys" could have a farm there, too.
These waters, too; nice place for fish;
And clams I so many that no dish
Could cook them right;- so in the ground
Dug caves; the only way they found!!
But in this world surprises come.
He found what seemed a fair-sized home
Was more! in fact, strange to relate,
The whole of "Little Rhody's" State!
This, they, of course, soon overflow,
And westward the grandchildren go.
Some in the "Empire State remain,
Some, pushing on, "Ohio" gain.
I will not vouch that all is true
Of these details, as told to you.
I cannot,- for I was not there
To see; but cousin Thomas, in the chair
Is of that branch; and sure he "oughter"
Know if the story will "hold water."
Young Thomas, too, picked up his bundle;
Thinking it time for him to trundle
His worldly gear; and as its wings
The young bird tries before it springs
For higher flights,- he started out
For a short trip,- finding, no doubt
His wish; for in a neighboring borough
Where land was good he turned a furrow
Hard by the State, where, as you know,
The well-known "wooden nutmegs grow.
And well they delved, no labor shirking
When, wishing for new fields to work in
Some left New England, and their banner
Planted upon the Susquehanna.
Where Penn, so famed in song and story,

Founded the city,-now his glory.
But still the children will not stay
Under their roof tree,- and away
Some go to the "far, far West;"
To those broad acres, where the best
Of crops are gathered,- wheat and corn
And children,- good as ever born!
Of fruit from that branch of our tree,
If you are curious now to see,
I name (sub rosa) our "M. C."

And so they "Live and thrive and grow"
Until our day, and here, we show
These samples of that Pilgrim blood,
That crossed old ocean's stormy flood
With Zachary and his manly boy.
May future Bicknells feel like joy,
And show results as sound and true
As have come down from them to you.
Pardon me, cousins, if I stray
From themes of larger scope to-day,
And read to you a single leaf
Of personal history. 'Tis, in brief,
Like many another, which you all
In your ancestors' lives recall.
'Tis but one stone uncarved and rude
In this Fane, pillared with our blood.
A single note in the grand song
That to our name and land belong.
Let me bring back that olden time
(Whose memory stirs like vesper chime
Stealing across some shadowed bay
Pearl-tinted by the dying day):
When, childhood's busy labor done,
I sat me down at set of sun
To hear the story told again
Of a long journey down to "Maine!"
Of Grandpa Noah, so strong and bold,
And his wife, Nancy, good as gold.
Of Emery, the first-born son,

May we in loving, joyous bands,
Meet the warm clasp of welcoming hands.

Not far away from where I write,
Enrobed in pure, immortal white
A sculptured CLIO sits. Around
Her snowy feet 'tis hallowed ground,
Where our good LINCOLN bared his head
To eulogize the Nation's Dead!
Fair fields of Gettysburg; one line
In memory of thee and thine.
Could I invoke her magic power,
And wield her marble pen one hour,
These lines should thrill your listening ears,
Should fill your answering eyes with tears,
Strengthen your inmost souls, for fight
Against the wrong, tho' armed with might.
Pledging anew each loyal soul
In Freedom's sacred army roll,
Allay all doubt,- dispel all fears -
And warm your hearts for coming years.

Sometimes the northern breeze brings down
A message to this German town;
Telling in accents soft and low
Of those I knew so long ago.
Bringing to our delighted ears
The story of successful years.
The brush one wields with rising fame;
One labors in his Master's name;
Some till the soil, some thrive at trade,
For arts mechanic some seem made;
But laggards, none! a drone alive
Is stranger to the Bicknell hive I
Sometimes we hear of bridal bells;
Or ringing laugh of baby glee
Chorus of sweetest melody!
And sometimes, sad funereal knells,
Telling that servants tried and true,
Faithful with many as with few,

Their sun low sinking in the west
Are summoned, "Enter into rest."
The latest carrier dove that flew
Straight to the Susqoehanna's blue,
Brought down the welcome invitation
To meet this new " Association!
I wish that healh and purse said "Yea
But Prudence, safer guide, says "Nay,
Be patient." So I send this greeting,
Hoping to be at your next meeting.
The circle widens,- another year
Will bring them all, from far and near.

Kinswomen, who have changed your names
(Not one, like me, I think, to Ames),
I send you greeting. May this verse
Find you possessors of none worse.
And may each one of you have joy
Like me, in one, big Bicknell boy!
Please pardon, if I add a line
On lineage, of this son of mine,
(Altho' I hold the best of blood
Is that which keeps us doing good
And the best legacy that's given
Is manhood, and the hope of Heaven:
A little pride may pardoned be
Because of virtuous family).
When I of "Zachary" discourse,
His father names another source,
Old Fisher Ames! the eloquent,
Once Harvard's chosen President.
And all agree that we should be
Honored by honest progeny.

My fair-young cousins; human flowers,
Adorning this gray band of ours, -
Upon the green and fragrant banks
Where bloom your sweet and scented ranks,
May one "wild oat" ne'er stay or drop
To propagate a sinful crop.

But in your sunshine's golden glow
May you to full perfection grow,
To guard the honor of our name,
Dearer by far than wealth or fame.

Let us rejoice:- no spendthrift son
Comes home in rags to ask a bone!
But as the rivers flowing free
Down to a common, glorious sea,
Come to this gathering old and young,
Those known to fame, and those not sung
In song or story; but who yet,
Ere their life's sun shall sink and set,
By worthy word or labor done,
May carve their name on pillared stone.

What is the lesson heard to-day?
What does the voice historic say
To us,-as down the stream of Time
Comes many a message,- grand, sublime,
Feeble or foolish,- as the ears
That catch the accents read the years?
It speaks of homely duties done,
Of fields from native wildness won,-
Of thankless tasks performed with zeal,
Of works of mercy, and of weal
For those unable to repay:
Of tireless labor day by day
In years when plenty was unknown,
It points to many a happy home
(Not mansion grand, but cottage hearth),
Not station high, but modest worth,
It tells of Faith, and Hope, and Trust,
Showing that "treasure," that the "rust
And moth" of all the years
Dims not, but brighter yet appears.
It says " Fear not the right to do,"-
Warns us no folly to pursue,-
Strengthens the outstretched hand of Love,
By daily work our creed to prove;

Sees Earth, as by His bounty given;
Our FATHER,- GOD! our home,- in Heaven.

Time tarries not:- my song must cease -
But ere we part,- I pray the "peace
That passeth all," - our lot may be
For time, and for Eternity.
'Tis fitting we should here rejoice
In these old new-found "girls" and "boys."
'Tis fitting that we join to cheer
Our gathered household, old and dear:
"Three cheers" for all who bear our name,
And three for all who love the same.
Three for old Zachary, and his sons,
Back to those five our blood all runs.
Three for this good old town, their home,
Good for a thousand years to come.
Three for each State that holds our kin,
Three for each Bicknell borne within.
Three for our Brother, who fills the chair,
Three for our Statesman,- three for our "fair."
Three for our Artists, Lawyers, Teachers,
Three for our Farmers, and our Preachers,
Three for our Daughters, Wives and Mothers,
Three for our Fathers, Cousins, Brothers.
Three for our Flag, and "three times three"
For Law, for Love, for Liberty!

Time tarries not,- Dear friends, Good bye,
In the far space beyond the sky,
Some glorious world, we hope, may be
Our home throughout Eternity.
Hedged by no name, however bright:
Bounded by naught but Love and Right.
One common, perfect family,-
Our Father's children- all : may we
United be :-. no parting sigh,-
Never again to say" GOOD BYE."