Louise Imogen Guiney

Here you will find the Long Poem Peter Rugg the Bostonian of poet Louise Imogen Guiney

Peter Rugg the Bostonian


The mare is pawing by the oak, 
The chaise is cool and wide 
For Peter Rugg the Bostonian 
With his little son beside; 
The women loiter at the wheels 
In the pleasant summer-tide. 

"And when wilt thou be home, Father?" 
"And when, good husband, say: 
The cloud hangs heavy on the house 
What time thou art away." 
He answers straight, he answers short, 
"At noon of the seventh day." 

"Fail not to come, if God so will, 
And the weather be kind and clear." 
"Farewell, farewell! But who am I 
A blockhead rain to fear? 
God willing or God unwilling, 
I have said it, I will be here." 

He gathers up the sunburnt boy 
And from the gate is sped; 
He shakes the spark from the stones below, 

The bloom from overhead, 
Till the last roofs of his own town 
Pass in the morning-red. 

Upon a homely mission 
North unto York he goes, 
Through the long highway broidered thick 
With elder-blow and rose; 
And sleeps in sounds of breakers 
At every twilight's close. 

Intense upon his heedless head 
Frowns Agamenticus, 
Knowing of Heaven's challenger 
The answer: even thus 
The Patience that is hid on high 
Doth stoop to master us. 


Full light are all his parting dreams; 
Desire is in his brain; 
He tightens at the tavern-post 
The fiery creature's rein: 
"Now eat thine apple, six years' child! 
We face for home again." 

They had not gone a many mile 
With nimble heart and tongue, 
When the lone thrush grew silent 
The walnut woods among; 
And on the lulled horizon 
A premonition hung. 

The babes at Hampton schoolhouse, 
The wife with lads at sea, 
Search with a level-lifted hand 
The distance bodingly; 
And farmer folk bid pilgrims in 
Under a safe roof-tree. 

The mowers mark by Newbury 
How low the swallows fly, 
They glance across the southern roads 
All white and fever-dry, 
And the river, anxious at the bend, 
Beneath a thinking sky. 

But there is one abroad was born 
To disbelieve and dare: 
Along the highway furiously 
He cuts the purple air. 
The wind leaps on the startled world 
As hounds upon a hare; 

With brawl and glare and shudder ope 
The sluices of the storm; 
The woods break down, the sand upblows 
In blinding volleys warm; 
The yellow floods in frantic surge 
Familiar fields deform. 

From evening until morning 
His skill will not avail, 
And as he cheers his youngest born, 
His cheek is spectre-pale; 
For the bonnie mare from courses known 
Has drifted like a sail! 


On some wild crag he sees the dawn 
Unsheathe her scimitar. 
"Oh, if it be my mother-earth, 
And not a foreign star, 
Tell me the way to Boston, 
And is it near or far?" 

One watchman lifts his lamp and laughs: 
"Ye've many a league to wend." 
The next doth bless the sleeping boy 
From his mad father's end; 
A third upon a drawbridge growls: 
"Bear ye to larboard, friend." 

Forward and backward, like a stone 
The tides have in their hold, 
He dashes east, and then distraught 
Darts west as he is told, 
(Peter Rugg the Bostonian, 
That knew the land of old!) 

And journeying, and resting scarce 
A melancholy space, 
Turns to and fro, and round and round, 
The frenzy in his face, 
And ends alway in angrier mood, 
And in a stranger place, 

Lost! lost in bayberry thickets 
Where Plymouth plovers run, 
And where the masts of Salem 
Look lordly in the sun; 

Lost in the Concord vale, and lost 
By rocky Wollaston! 

Small thanks have they that guide him, 
Awed and aware of blight; 
To hear him shriek denial 
It sickens them with fright: 
"They lied to me a month ago 
With thy same lie to-night!" 

To-night, to-night, as nights succeed, 
He swears at home to bide, 
Until, pursued with laughter 
Or fled as soon as spied, 
The weather-drenchèd man is known 
Over the country side! 


The seventh noon's a memory, 
And autumn's closing in; 
The quince is fragrant on the bough, 
And barley chokes the bin. 
"O Boston, Boston, Boston! 
And O my kith and kin!" 

The snow climbs o'er the pasture wall, 
It crackles 'neath the moon; 
And now the rustic sows the seed, 
Damp in his heavy shoon; 
And now the building jays are loud 
In canopies of June. 

For season after season 
The three are whirled along, 

Misled by every instinct 
Of light, or scent, or song; 
Yea, put them on the surest trail, 
The trail is in the wrong. 

Upon those wheels in any path 
The rain will follow loud, 
And he who meets that ghostly man 
Will meet a thunder-cloud, 
And whosoever speaks with him 
May next bespeak his shroud. 

Tho' ni