The breaking waves dashed high
On a stern and rock-bound coast,
And the woods, against a stormy sky,
Their giant branches tost;
And the heavy night hung dark
The hills and water o'er,
When a band of exiles moored their bark
On the wild New England shore.
Not as the conqueror comes,
They, the true-hearted, came;
Not with the roll of the stirring drums,
And the trumpet that sings of fame;
Not as the flying come,
In silence and in fear, -
They shook the depths of the desert's gloom
With their hymns of lofty cheer.
Amidst the storm they sang,
And the stars heard and the sea;
And the sounding aisles of the dim woods rang
To the anthem of the free.
The ocean-eagle soared
From his nest by the white wave's foam,
And the rocking pines of the forest roared -
This was their welcome home!
There were men with hoary hair
Amidst that pilgrim band:
Why had they come to wither there,
Away from their childhood's land?
There was woman's fearless eye,
Lit by her deep love's truth;
There was manhood's brow serenely high,
And the fiery heart of youth.
What sought they thus afar?
Bright jewels of the mine?
The wealth of the seas? the spoils of war? -
They sought a faith's pure shrine!
Ay, call it holy ground,
The soil where first they trod!
They have left unstained what there they found -
Freedom to worship God!
-- Felicia Dorothea Hemans
[Editor's Note: It is important to bear in mind that the Puritans who founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony did not believe in religious freedom; this is the reason why Roger Williams eventually left Boston to found Rhode Island, and why four persons, including one woman, were hanged in Boston Common for being Quakers. - DJMc.]