“Field Preaching” by Phoebe Cary (poem)

Greenwood, Phil_Blossom
Phil Greenwood (Welsh, 1943–), Blossom, 2003. Etching and aquatint, 67 × 59 cm. Edition of 150.

I have been out today in field and wood,
Listening to praises sweet and counsel good
Such as a little child had understood,
              That, in its tender youth,
Discerns the simple eloquence of truth.

The modest blossoms, crowding round my way,
Though they had nothing great or grand to say,
Gave out their fragrance to the wind all day;
              Because his loving breath,
With soft persistence, won them back from death.

And the right royal lily, putting on
Her robes, more rich than those of Solomon,
Opened her gorgeous missal in the sun,
              And thanked him soft and low,
Whose gracious, liberal hand had clothed her so.

When wearied, on the meadow-grass I sank,
So narrow was the rill from which I drank,
An infant might have stepped from bank to bank;
              And the tall rushes near,
Lapping together, hid its waters clear.

Yet to the ocean joyously it went,
And, rippling in the fulness of content,
Watered the pretty flowers that o’er it leant;
              For all the banks were spread
With delicate flowers that on its bounty fed.

The stately maize, a fair and goodly sight,
With serried spear-points bristling sharp and bright,
Shook out his yellow tresses, for delight,
              To all their tawny length,
Like Samson, glorying in his lusty strength.

And every little bird upon the tree,
Ruffling his plumage bright, for ecstasy,
Sang in the wild insanity of glee;
              And seemed, in the same lays,
Calling his mate and uttering songs of praise.

The golden grasshopper did chirp and sing;
The plain bee, busy with her housekeeping,
Kept humming cheerfully upon the wing,
              As if she understood
That, with contentment, labor was a good.

I saw each creature, in his own best place,
To the Creator lift a smiling face,
Praising continually his wondrous grace;
              As if the best of all
Life’s countless blessings was to live at all!

So with a book of sermons, plain and true,
Hid in my heart, where I might turn them through,
I went home softly, through the falling dew,
              Still listening, rapt and calm,
To Nature giving out her evening psalm.

This poem was originally published in Poems of Faith, Hope, and Love by Phoebe Cary (Hurd and Houghton, 1867) and is in the public domain.

Phoebe Cary (1824–1871) was an American poet whose verse focuses on themes of religion, nature, and feminism. She grew up on a farm near Cincinnati, Ohio, the sixth of nine children. She was particularly close with her older sister Alice, also a writer, with whom she copublished a volume of poetry in 1849 before going on to publish books of her own. Buoyed by the recognition they received from such luminaries as Edgar Allan Poe and John Greenleaf Whittier, in 1950 the two sisters moved to New York City together, where they contributed regularly to national periodicals and hosted a weekly Sunday evening salon attended by East Coast literati. Phoebe was active in the early days of the women’s rights movement, serving as an assistant editor for The Revolution, Susan B. Anthony’s suffrage newspaper. She died of hepatitis at age forty-six, just six months after Alice.

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