Whittier as Quaker

First-Day Thoughts

Interior of the Amesbury Friends’ Meeting House, showing Whittier’s pew.John Greenleaf Whittier was born into a Quaker family, and he remained a Quaker for life. His religion gave him values which were to shape his life, making him an Abolitionist and a Pacifist, and his early experience at the Friend’s Meeting House in Amesbury gave him a lifetime preference for the traditional service: without program or leadership, consisting of long periods of silence broken by anyone who felt “inspired.” He described this service in “First- Day Thoughts.”

In calm and cool and silence, once again
I find my old accustomed place among
My brethren, where, perchance, no human tongue
Shall utter words; where never hymn is sung,
Nor deep-toned organ blown, nor censer swung,
Nor dim light falling through the pictured pane!


There let me strive with each besetting sin,
Recall my wandering fancies, and restrain
The sore disquiet of a restless brain;
And, as the path of duty is made plain,
May grace be given that I may walk therein,
Not like the hireling, for his selfish gain,
With backward glances and reluctant tread,
Making a merit of his coward dread,
But cheerful, in the light around me thrown,
Walking as one to pleasant service led;
Doing God's will as it if were my own,
Yet trusting not in mine, but in His strength alone!

Full text of "First- Day Thoughts"

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