Posted by: W. E. Poplaski | February 3, 2009

POEM OF THE DAY: Bride Brook

by George Parsons Lathrop (1851 – 1898).


Bride Brook (1892)


Wide as the sky Time spreads his hand,

   And blindly over us there blows

A swarm of years that fill the land,

   Then fade, and are as fallen snows.


Behold, the flakes rush thick and fast;                                    5

   Or are they years, that come between,—

When, peering back into the past,

   I search the legendary scene?


Nay. Marshaled down the open coast,

   Fearless of that low rampart’s frown,                              10

The winter’s white-winged, footless host

   Beleaguers ancient Saybrook town.


And when the settlers wake they stare

   On woods half-buried, white and green,

A smothered world, an empty air:                                         15

   Never had such deep drifts been seen!


But “Snow lies light upon my heart!

   An thou,” said merry Jonathan Rudd,

“Wilt wed me, winter shall depart,

   And love like spring for us shall bud.”                              20


“Nay, how,” said Mary, “may that be?

   No minister nor magistrate

Is here, to join us solemnly;

   And snow-banks bar us, every gate.”


“Winthrop at Pequot Harbor lies,”                                        25

   He laughed. And with the morrow’s sun

He faced the deputy’s dark eyes:

   “How soon, sir, may the rite be done?”


“At Saybrook? There the power’s not mine,”

   Said he. “But at the brook we’ll meet,                              30

That ripples down the boundary line;

   There you may wed, and Heaven shall see’t.”


Forth went, next day, the bridal train

   Through vistas dreamy with gray light.

The waiting woods, the open plain,                                     35

   Arrayed in consecrated white,


Received and ushered them, along.

   The very beasts before them fled,

Charmed by the spell of inward song

   These lovers’ hearts around them spread.                      40


Four men with netted foot-gear shod

   Bore the maid’s carrying-chair aloft;

She swayed above, as roses nod

   On the lithe stem their bloom-weight soft.


At last beside the brook they stood,                                    45

   With Winthrop and his followers;

The maid in flake-embroidered hood,

   The magistrate well cloaked in furs,


That, parting, showed a glimpse beneath

   Of ample, throat-encircling ruff                                          50

As white as some wind-gathered wreath

   Of snow quilled into plait and puff.


A few grave words, a question asked;

   Eyelids that with the answer fell

Like falling petals;—form that tasked                                 55

   Brief time;—and so was wrought the spell!


Then “Brooklet,” Winthrop smiled and said,

   “Frost’s finger on thy lip makes dumb

The voice wherewith thou shouldst have sped

   These lovers on their way. But, come,                             60


“Henceforth forever be thou known

   By memory of this day’s fair bride:

So shall thy slender music’s moan

   Sweeter into the ocean glide!”


Then laughed they all, and sudden beams                         65

   Of sunshine quivered through the sky.

Below the ice, the unheard stream’s

   Clear heart thrilled on in ecstasy;


And lo, a visionary blush

   Stole warmly o’er the voiceless wild;                                70

And in her rapt and wintry hush

   The lonely face of Nature smiled.


Ah, Time, what wilt thou? Vanished quite

   Is all that tender vision now;

And, like lost snow-flakes in the night,                                75

   Mute are the lovers as their vow.


And O thou little, careless brook,

   Hast thou thy tender trust forgot?

Her modest memory forsook,

   Whose name, known once, thou utterest not?             80


Spring wakes the rill’s blithe minstrelsy;

   In willow bough or alder bush

Birds sing, o’er golden filigree

   Of pebbles ‘neath the flood’s clear gush;


But none can tell us of that name                                         85

   More than the “Mary.” Men still say

“Bride Brook” in honor of her fame;

   But all the rest has passed away.



“Bride Brook.—The colony of New London (now part of Connecticut) was founded by John Winthrop, Jr., under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts. One of the boundary lines was a stream flowing into Long Island Sound, between the present city of New London and the Connecticut River. In the snowy winter of 1646, Jonathan Rudd, who dwelt in the settlement of Saybrook Fort, at the mouth of the Connecticut, sent for Winthrop to celebrate a marriage between himself and a certain ‘Mary’ of Saybrook, whose last name has been lost. Winthrop performed the ceremony on the frozen surface of the streamlet, the farthest limit of his magistracy; and thereupon bestowed the name ‘Bride Brook,’ which it still bears.”




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