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Vane of the Old North Church

Old North Church

Today the Old North Church spire is the most recognizeable image in the city. It links the seacoast to its past, to a time when Washington and Daniel Webster attended services here in Market Square. It is also falling down and in immediate need of costly repair. In this poem, written after the Civil War, historian Brewster remembers when the old weathervane came down. He lets the steeple tell its own story.


The Vane of the Old North Church
By CHarles W. Brewster (1864)

Author's Note: The vane of the Old North Church bore the date of 1732 when it was put up. It was not gilded until 1796. When destined to come down in 1854, the vane is thus personified, to enable it to tell its story.

SEE:  North Church weather vane TODAY (Restored in 2007) 

I can't come down! I can't come down!
Call loudly as you may!
A century and a third I've stood;
Another I must stay.

Long have I watched the changing scene,
As every point I've faced;
And witnessed generations rise,
Which others have displaced.

The points of steel which o'er me rise
Have branched since I perched here;
For Franklin then was but a boy,
Who gave the lightning gear.

The day when Cook exploring sailed,
I faced the eastern breeze;
Stationed at home, I turned my head
To the far western seas.

I've stood while isles of savage men
Grew harmless as a dove;
And spears and battle-axes turned
To purposes of love.

I looked on when those noble elms
Upon my east first sprung,
And heard, where now a factory stands,
The ship-yard's busy hum.

When tumult filled the anxious throng,
I found on every side
The constant fanned flame,
And freedom's fire supplied.

William and Mary's fort I've oft,
Through storms, kept full in view;
Queen's Chapel in the snow's squalls faced;
And west, looked King Street through.

For Constitution now takes place,
To meet my south-east glance;
The shrill north-easters from St. John's
Up Congress Street advance.

In peace I once felt truly vain;
For 'neath my shadow stood
The man whom all the people loved, --
George Washington the good!

But why recount the sights I've seen?
You'll say I'm getting old:
I'll quit my tale, long though it be,
And leave it half untold.

The name of Rogers, Fitch and Stiles,
And Buckminster, --- all true;
And later men, whom all do know,
Come passing into view.

Their sainted souls and hearers too --
Your fathers -- where are they?
The temple of their love still stands, --
Its memories cheer your way.

Till that old oak, among whose boughs
The sun my first shade cast,
Lays low in dust his vigorous form,
A respite I may ask.

This little boon I now must crave, --
(Time's peltings I will scorn,) --
Till coward like, I turn my head,
Let me still face the storm.

From POETS OF PORTSMOUTH (1885), Edited by Albert Laighton

READ: About this poem & North Church history

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