The Cockerel of the New Brick
On His Cambridge Perch
High on the church-top, swinging in the wind,
Blow it hot, blow it cold, blow wet or dry.
My watch-post I keep, and my business I mind,
As I signal the breezes that sweep through the sky.
A sturdy old bird of the game-cock breed,
I was born in the quarrel that built the New Brick,
When mounting the spire, like a knight on his steed,
Bold challenge I gave to New North and Old Nick.
Dost remember the story that tells of the fall
Of him who his Master so basely denied,
When twice, sharply echoed from wall to wall,
His message of warning the chanticleer cried?
So stood I aloft on the day when I rose-
So they say – to put Peter, of Weymouth, to shame,
And gave him a Scripture salute of loud crows,
As the crowd on the street gave low jeers to his name.
A bitter church-schism began my career,
But softened by time the old feud died away;
Like a stream, battle-stained, that works itself clear,
As it flows in its course further on to the bay.
And when a half-century old I had grown,
Had seen Bunker Hill, wreathed with smoke, running
And God’s house, the Old North, profanely chopped
To feed the cook’s fires for John Bull’s red-coat brood,
The church in its exile and ours became one,
Fast married amid the war-storm of the time;
And still at my post under cloud-veil and sun
I saw far below me the street-pantomime.
Across the two centuries stretches my life,
Many years I’ve outlived the fair home of my birth,
Till from my proud height the wind’s hurricane strife
Hurled new spire and old cockerel down to the earth.
I am stricken in years, but good work I can do,
As the church-folks in Cambridge so wisely have
When, finding me caged, while the four winds still blew,
My powers left to rust to new service they’ve brought.
A goodly church homestead once more I have found;
On the Washington elm well-pleased I gaze down,
On the halls of fair Harvard, on homes world-renowned,
And all the new glories that grace the old town.
Her the North and the South wind, the East and the
I welcome alike, each is good in its way:
Not mine to decide which of all is the best;
I turn as they turn, like the Vicar of Bray.
And whether the people that worship below
Through Calvin’s green spectacles read n the Book,
Or the creed of the Puritans overboard throw,
With a Gallic’s eye on their changes I look.
I, who swung over Waldron,* swung round over Ware,
and saw the crowds flocking to drink in his word,
And when the disciples of Wesley sang there,
Their hymns of the Spirit serenely I heard.
The saints of old time, like the saints of the new,
Being men, could not always in all things agree;
And what to the Shepards and Mathers seemed true
The Cannings and Wares with their eyes cannot see.
And now in my age, as erst in my youth,
The world keeps in motion above and below:
New times must bring with them new phases of truth,
New light from God’s Word and God’s Spirit will flow.
The Future is veiled antitype of the past:
In the pews and the pulpit what changes betide!
Shepard’s name, honored still, long his creed will outlast,
And churches, once severed, will stand side by side.
Let the winds in their circuits change on, as they list,
And sects, new and old, spring up and pass by:
Still shines through the breeds the unchangeable Christ,
as over the clouds the unchangeable sky.
* Waldron was the first minister of the “New Brick”