1807–1892
portrait

De­cem­ber 17, 1807, near Ha­ver­hill, Mas­sa­chu­setts.

Sep­tem­ber 7, 1892, Hamp­ton Falls, New Hamp­shire.

Un­ion Ce­me­te­ry, Ames­bu­ry, Mas­sa­chu­setts.

portrait

At age 22, Whit­ti­er be­came ed­it­or of the Am­er­i­can Man­u­fac­tur­er in Bos­ton, Mas­sa­chu­setts. In 1830, he be­gan ed­it­ing the Ha­ver­hill Ga­zette and the New Eng­land Week­ly Re­view (Har­tford, Con­nec­ti­cut).

In 1835, Whit­ti­er was elect­ed to the Mas­sa­chu­setts le­gis­la­ture. From 1847–59, he wrote for The Na­tion­al Era in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Whit­ti­er was in­flu­en­tial in the an­ti-sla­ve­ry move­ment, and served as sec­re­ta­ry of the Am­er­i­can An­ti-Sla­ve­ry So­ci­e­ty. When he moved to Phil­a­del­phia, Penn­syl­van­ia, he ed­it­ed the Penn­syl­van­ia Free­man. Mobs at­tacked him sev­er­al times be­cause of his views.

Whittier was known as Am­er­i­ca’s Quak­er po­et: Al­most 200 hymns were formed by cen­tos from his po­ems.

His works in­clude:

Worship

The pagan’s myths through marble lips are spoken,
And ghosts of old beliefs still flit and moan
Round fane and altar overthrown and broken,
O’er tree-grown barrow and gray ring of stone.

Blind faith had martyrs in those old high places,
The Syrian hill grove and the Druid’s wood,
With mothers offering, to the Fiend’s embraces,
Bone of their bone, and blood of their own blood.

Red altars, kindling through that night of error,
Smoked with warm blood beneath the cruel eye
Of lawless power and sanguinary terror,
Throned on the circle of a pitiless sky;

Beneath whose baleful shadow, overcasting
All heaven above, and blighting earth below,
The scourge grew red, the lip grew pale with fasting,
And man’s oblation was his fear and woe!

Then through great temples swelled the dismal moaning
Of dirge-like music and sepulchral prayer;
Pale wizard priests, o’er occult symbols droning,
Swung their white censers in the burdened air:

As if the pomp of rituals, and the savor
Of gums and spices could the Unseen One please;
As if His ear could bend, with childish favor,
To the poor flattery of the organ keys!

Feet red from war-fields trod the church aisles holy,
With trembling reverence: and the oppressor there,
Kneeling before his priest, abased and lowly,
Crushed human hearts beneath his knee of prayer.

Not such the service the benignant Father
Requireth at his earthly children’s hands:
Not the poor offering of vain rites, but rather
The simple duty man from man demands.

For Earth He asks it: the full joy of heaven
Knoweth no change of waning or increase;
The great heart of the Infinite beats even,
Untroubled flows the river of His peace.

He asks no taper lights, on high surrounding
The priestly altar and the saintly grave,
No dolorous chant nor organ music sounding,
Nor incense clouding up the twilight nave.

For he whom Jesus loved hath truly spoken:
The holier worship which He deigns to bless
Restores the lost, and binds the spirit broken,
And feeds the widow and the fatherless!

Types of our human weakness and our sorrow!
Who lives unhaunted by his loved ones dead?
Who, with vain longing, seeketh not to borrow
From stranger eyes the home lights which have fled?

O brother man! fold to thy heart thy brother;
Where pity dwells, the peace of God is there;
To worship rightly is to love each other,
Each smile a hymn, each kindly deed a prayer.

Follow with reverent steps the great example
Of Him whose holy work was doing good;
So shall the wide earth seem our Father’s temple,
Each loving life a psalm of gratitude.

Then shall all shackles fall; the stormy clangor
Of wild war music o’er the earth shall cease;
Love shall tread out the baleful fire of anger,
And its ashes plant the tree of peace!

John Greenleaf Whittier, 1848

  1. All as God Wills
  2. All Things Are Thine
  3. Blest Land of Ju­dea
  4. Dear Lord and Fa­ther of Man­kind
  5. God Giv­eth Qui­et­ness at Last
  6. Green Earth Sends Its In­cense Up, The
  7. Harp at Na­ture’s Ad­vent Strung, The
  8. Hast Thou, ’Midst Life’s Emp­ty Nois­es
  9. I Ask Not Now for Gold to Gild
  10. I Bow My Fore­head to the Dust
  11. I Long for House­hold Voic­es Gone
  12. Immortal Love, For­ev­er Full
  13. It May Not Be Our Lot
  14. May Free­dom Speed On­ward
  15. Now Is the Seed Time
  16. O Back­ward Look­ing Son of Time
  17. O Beau­ty, Old Yet Ev­er New
  18. O Bro­ther Man
  19. O Fair­est Born of Love and Light
  20. O He Whom Je­sus Loved
  21. O Holy Fa­ther, Just and True
  22. O Lord and Mas­ter of Us All
  23. O Love! O Life!
  24. O Mak­er of the Fruits and Flowers
  25. O Not Alone with Out­ward Sign
  26. O Pure Re­form­ers, Not in Vain
  27. O Thou, at Whose Re­buke the Grave
  28. O Thou, Whose Pre­sence Went Be­fore
  29. O, What Thou Our Feet May Not Tread
  30. Old and New
  31. Our Fa­thers’ God, from Out Whose Hand
  32. Our Friend, Our Bro­ther, and Our Lord
  33. Our Thought of Thee Is Glad with Hope
  34. Path of Life We Walk To­day, The
  35. Shall We Grow Wea­ry in Our Watch?
  36. So to the Calm­ly Ga­thered Thought
  37. Sound over All Wa­ters
  38. Sport of the Change­ful Mul­ti­tude
  39. Thine Are All the Gifts, O God
  40. Thy Grace Im­part
  41. Thou Hast Fall­en in Thine Ar­mor
  42. Today, Be­neath Thy Chast­en­ing Eye
  43. We Faint­ly Hear, We Dim­ly See
  44. We See Not, Know Not
  45. We May Not Climb the Hea­ven­ly Steeps
  46. When on My Day of Life
  47. Who Fa­thoms the Eter­nal Thought
  48. With Si­lence On­ly as Their Be­ne­dic­tion
  49. Within the Mad­den­ing Maze of Things