By Joanne Lovato

Source: The Courtship of Miles Standish, and other poems
Author: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Publisher: Ticknor and Fields
Publication Date: 1859
Pages 250-250

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In that building, long and low
With its windows all a-row
Like the port-holes of a hulk
Human spiders spin and spin
Backward down their threads so thin
Dropping, each a hempen bulk.

Image result for ropewalk
At the end, an open door
Squares of sunshine on the floor
Light the long and dusky lane
And the whirring of a wheel
Dull and drowsy, makes me feel
All its spokes are in my brain.

As the spinners to the end
Downward go and reascend
Gleam the long threads in the sun
While within this brain of mine
Cobwebs brighter and more fine
By the busy wheel are spun.

Two fair maidens in a swing
Like white doves upon the wing
First before my vision pass
Laughing, as their gentle hands
Closely clasp the twisted strands
At their shadow on the grass.

Then a booth of mountebanks
With its smell of tan and planks
And a girl poised high in air
On a cord, in spangled dress
With a faded loveliness
And a weary look of care.

Then a homestead among farms
And a woman with bare arms
Drawing water from a well
As the bucket mounts apace
With it mounts her own fair face
As at some magician’s spell.

Then an old man in a tower
Ringing loud the noontide hour
While the rope coils round and round
Like a serpent at his feet
And again, in swift retreat
Nearly lifts him from the ground.

Then within a prison-yard
Faces fixed, and stern, and hard
Laughter and indecent mirth
Ah! it is the gallows-tree!
Breath of Christian charity
Blow, and sweep it from the earth!

Then a school-boy, with his kite
Gleaming in a sky of light
And an eager, upward look
Steeds pursued through lane and field
Fowlers with their snares concealed
And an angler by a brook.


All these scenes do I behold
These, and many left untold
In that building long and low
While the wheel goes round and round
With a drowsy, dreamy sound
And the spinners backward go.

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Read this full story…..: The Ropewalk