August 20, 2011

McLellan: that joyful time has gone

Though born in Maine, Isaac McLellan spent his last years on Long Island, where he died on August 20, 1899. A man dedicated to hunting and other sporting activities, he also published several major collections of poetry while contributing to (and occasionally editing) various periodicals and journals.

McLellan's final years were busy ones. At 80 years old, he published an entire book of poems reflecting is interest in hunting and fishing. At 90 years old, he officially converted and joined the Protestant Episcopal Church. He was 93 (and still a bachelor) when he died. His poem "The Passion for Life":

O! Give me back my youth!
O! give me back life's golden prime,
Childhood, and boyhood's blissful time,
Gay sports and frolies rude;
The tumble on the new-mown hay,
The ramble in the wood;
The long, bright summer-holiday,
The Christmas Eve's domestic play;
The saunter in the fields,
When autumn fruits were rod and ripe,
And grapes were hanging thick and sweet
From every sunny wall,
And in the orchard, round our feet,
The yellow pears were thickly spread,
And pippins, streak'd with gold, would fall
With every breeze that stirr'd o'erhead,
And schoolboy baskets soon were laden
With wild nuts from the branches shaken.

O! give me back my youth!
Nor wealth nor wisdom do I crave,
Nor honour, praise, or fame;
For soon the deep and gaping grave
Must close above this frame:
But rather give me back my youth—
Its joy, its innocence, its truth.

O! give me back my youth!
Fill these dull eyes again with light;
Let these white hairs be shorn away,
And let the golden locks of yore
Above these temples play;
And let this old and furrow'd brow,
Plough'd by full many a year,
Take the bright look of long ago,
So white, so pure and clear;
And let this sunken cheek resume
Its rosy health, its glowing bloom.

Home of my childhood! happy spot!
Beyond the dreary waste of years,
In memory's faithful glass, how bright,
How fair your humble roof appears!
I now behold the rustic porch
And, close beside the door,
The old elm, waving still as green
As in the days of yore.
I see the wreathing smoke ascend,
In azure columns, up the sky;
I see the twittering swallows still
Around in giddy circles fly.

But, no! that joyful time has gone—
Has gone forever by;
And life and earth are fading fast
Upon this glazing eye;
And soon the imprison'd soul shall mount,
In freedom, to its last account!

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