Oliver Wendell Holmes.

The writings of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Volume 13 online

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But Ocean coils and heaves in vain.
Bound in the subtle moonbeam's chain ;
And love and hope do but obey
Some cold, capricious planet's raj,
Which lights and leads the tide it chaims
To Death's dork caves and icy arms.

Alas I one narrow line is drawn.
That links our sunset with our dawn ;
In mist and shade life's morning rose,
And clouds are round it at its close ;
But ah I no twilight beam ascends
To whisper where that evening ends.

Oh I in the hour when I shall feel
Those shadows round my senses steal.
When gentle eyes are weeping o'er
The clay that feels their tears no more,
Then let thy spirit with me be.
Or some sweet angel, likest thee I

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What is a poet's love ? —

To write a girl a sonnet,
To get a ring, or some such thing,

And fustianize upon it.

What is a poet's fame ? —

Sad hints about his reason.
And sadder praise from garreteers.

To be returned in season.

Where go the poet's lines ? —

Answer, ye evening tapers I
Ye auburn locks, ye golden curls.

Speak from your folded papers I

Child of the ploughshare, smile ;

Boy of the counter, grieve not,
Though muses round thy trundle-bed

Their broidered tissue weave not.

The poet's future holds

No civic wreath above him ;
Nor slated roof, nor varnished chaise,

Nor wife nor child to love him.

Maid of the village inn.

Who workest woe on satin,
(The grass in black, the graves in green.

The epitaph in Latin,)

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Trust not to them who say.
In stanzas, the j adore thee ;

Oh rather sleep in churchjard clay,
With urn and cherub o'er thee !


Wak-visaged thing I thy virgin leaf
To me looks more than deadly pale,

Unknowing what may stain thee yet, —
A poem or a tale.

Who can thy unborn meaning scan ?

Can Seer or Sibyl read thee now?
No, — seek to trace the fate of man

Writ on his infant brow.

Love may light on thy snowy cheek,
And shake his Eden-breathing plumes ;

Then shalt thou tell how Lelia smiles,
Or Angelina blooms.

Satire may lift his bearded lance.
Forestalling Time's slow*moving scythe,

And, scattered on thy little field,
Disjointed bards may writhe.

Perchance a vision of the night.

Some grizzled spectre, gaunt and thin.

Or sheeted corpse, may stalk along.
Or skeleton may grin I

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n it should be in pensive hour
Some sorrow-moving theme I tiy,

Ah, nudden, how thj tears will &I1,
For all I doom to die I

But if in merry mood I touch

Thj leaves, then shall the sight of thee
Sow smiles as thick on rosy lips

As ripples on the

The Weekly press shall gladly stoop
To bind thee up among its sheaves ;

The Daily steal thy shining ore,
To gild its leaden leaves.

Thou hast no tongue, yet thou canst speak.
Till distant shores shall hear the sound ;

Thou hast no life, yet thou canst breathe
Fresh life on all around.

Thou art the arena of the wise,

The noiseless battle-ground of fame ;

The sky where halos may be wreathed
Around the humblest name.

Take, then, this treasure to thy trust,
To win some idle reader's smile.

Then fade and moulder in the dust,
Or swell some bonfire's pile.

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It may be so, — perhapB thou hast

A warm and loying heart;
I will not blame thee for thy &oe,

Poor devil as thou art

That thing thou fondly deem'st a nose.

Unsightly though it be, —
In spite of all the cold world's scorn,

It may be much to thee.

Those eyes, — among thine elder friends

Perhaps they pass for blue, —
No matter, — if a man can see.

What more have eyes to do ?

Thy mouth, — that fissure in thy face,

By something like a chin, —
May be a very useful place

To put thy victual in.

I know thou hast a wife at home,

I know thou hast a child,
By that subdued, domestic smile

Upon thy features mild.

That wife sits fearless by thy side,
That cherub on thy huee ;

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They do not shudder at thy looks,
They do not shrink from thee.

AboYe thy mantel is a hook, —

A portrait onoe was there ;
It was thine only ornament, —

Alas I that hook is bare.

She begged thee not to let it go,

She begged thee all in vain ;
She wept, — and breathed a trembling prayer

To meet it safe again.

It was a bitter sight to see

That picture torn away ;
It was a solemn thought to think

What all her friends would say I

And often in her oahner hoiurs,

And in her happy dreams,
Upon its long-deserted hook

The absent portrait seems.

Thy wretched infant turns his head

In melancholy wise,
And looks to meet the placid stare

Of those unbending eyes.

I never saw thee, lovely one, —

Perchance I never may ;
It is not often that we cross

Such people in our way ;

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Bat if we meet in distant yean,
Or on some foreign shore,

Sure I can take my Bible oath,
I 'ye seen that &oe before.


It was a tall young oysterman lived by the river-

His shop was jnst upon the bank, his boat was on
the tide ;

The daughter of a fisherman, that was so straight
and slim.

Lived over on the other bank, right opposite to him.

It was the pensive oysterman that saw a lovely

Upon a moonlight evening, a sitting in the shade ;
He saw her wave her handkerchief, as much as if

to say,
^^ I 'm wide awake, young oysterman, and all the

folks away."

Then up arose the oysterman, and to himself said

^^ I guess I 'U leave the skiff at home, for fear that

folks should see ;
I read it in the story-book, that, for to kiss his dear,
Leander swam the Hellespont, — and I will swim

this here."

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And he has leaped into the waTBs, and crossed the

shining stream.
And he has clambered np the bank, all in the

moonlight gleam ;
Oh there were kisses sweet as dew, and words as

soft as run, —
Bat they have heard her father's step, and in he

leaps again I

Out spoke the ancient fisherman, — ^^ Oh, what was

that, my daughter ? "
^ 'T was nothing but a pebble, sir, I threw into the

^^ And what is that, pray tell me, love, that paddles

off so fast?"
^^ It's nothing but a porpoise, sir, that 's been a

swimming past."

Out spoke the ancient fisherman, — ^^Now bring
me my harpoon I

I'll get into my fishing-boat, and fix the fellow

Down fell that pretty innocent, as falls a snow-
white lamb,

Her hair drooped round her pallid cheeks, like sea-
weed on a clam.

Alas for those two loving ones I she waked not from

her swound,
And he was taken with the cramp, and in the waves

was drowned ;

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Bat Fate has metamorphosed them, in pity of their

And now they keep an oyster-shop for mermaids

down below.


The dinner-bell, the dinner-bell

Is ringing loud and clear ;
Through hill and plain, through street and lane,

It echoes far and near ;
From curtained hall and whitewashed stall.

Wherever men can hide,
Like bursting waves from ocean caves.

They float u{)on the tide.

I smell the smell of roasted meat I

I hear the hissing fry I
The beggars know where they can go.

But where, oh where shall I?
At twelve o'clock men took my hand.

At two they only stare,
And eye me with a fearful look.

As if I were a bear I

The poet lays his laurels down,

And hastens to his greens ;
The happy tailor quits his goose.

To riot on his beans ;
The weary cobbler snaps his thread.

The printer leaves his pi ;

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His veiy deyil hatih a home.
Bat what, oh what have I?

Methinks I hear an angel Toioe,

That softly seems to say :
^ Pale stranger, all may yet be well,

Then wipe thy tears away ;
Erect thy head, and cock thy hat.

And follow me abr,
And thou shalt have a joUy meal.

And chaige it at the bar."

I hear the voioe I I go I I go I

Prepare your meat and wine I
They little heed their future need

Who pay not when they dine.
GKve me to-day the rosy bowl,

GKve me one golden dream, — -
To-morrow kick away the stool.

And dangle from the beam I


The folks, that on the first of May

Wore winter coats and hose.
Began to say, the first of June,

^^ Good Lord I how hot it grows I "
At last two Fahrenheits blew up.

And killed two children small.
And one barometer shot dead

A tutor with its ball I '

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Now all day long the loovsts Bang

Among ihe leafless trees ;
Three new hoteb warped inside out,

The pomps could only wheeze ;
And ripe old wine, that twenty years

Had oobwebbed o'er in vain,
Came spoating through the rotten corks

Like Joly's best champagne I

The Worcester locomotives did

Their trip in half an hour ;
The Lowell cars ran forty miles

Before they checked the power ;
Boll brimstone soon became a drug,

And loco-f ocos fell ;
All asked for ice, but everywhere

Saltpetre was to selL

Plump men of mornings ordered tights,

But, ere the scorching noons.
Their candle-moulds had grown as loose

As Cossack pantaloons I
The dogs ran mad, — men could not try

If water they would choose ;
A horse fell dead, — he only left

Four red-hot, rusty shoes !

But soon the people could not bear

The slightest hint of fire ;
Allusions to caloric drew

A flood of savage ire ;

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The leases on heat were all torn oat

From every book at school,
And many blaokguards kicked and caned,

Becaose they said, ^^ Keep cool I "

The gas-light companies were mobbed.

The bakers all were shot,
The penny press began to talk •

Of lynching Doctor Nott ;
And all about the warehouse steps

Were angry men in droves.
Crashing and splintering through the doors

To smash the patent stoves I

The abolition men and maids

Were tanned to such a hue.
You scarce could tell them from their friends,

Unless their eyes were blue ;
And, when I left, society

Had burst its ancient guards.
And Brattle Street and Temple Place

Were interchanging cards I


A STILL, sweet, placid, moonlight face.

And slightly nonchalant,
Which seems to claim a middle place

Between one's love and aimt.
Where childhood's star has left a ray

In woman's sunniest sky.

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Ab morning dew and blushing day
On fruit and blossom lie.

And yet, — and yet I cannot love

Those lovely lines on steel ;
They beam too much of heaven above,

Earth's darker shades to feel ;
Perchance some early weeds of care

Around my heart have grown,
And brows unfurrowed seem not fair,

Because they mock my own.

Alas ! when Eden's gates were sealed.

How oft some sheltered flower
Breathed o'er the wanderers of the field.

Like their own bridal bower ;
Yet, saddened by its loveliness.

And humbled by its pride,
Earth's fairest child they could not bless, -

It mocked them when they sighed.



If sometimes in the dark blue eye.
Or in the deep red wine,

Or soothed by gentlest melody.
Still warms this heart of mine,

Yet something colder in the blood.
And calmer in the brain.

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Have whispered that my yoath's bright flood
Ebbs, not to flow again.

If by Helvetia's acme hike,

Or Amo's yellow stream,
Each star of memory could awake,

As in my first young dream,
I know that when mine eye shall greet

The hillsides bleak and bare.
That gird my home, it will not meet

My childhood's sonsets there.

Oh, when love's first, sweet, stolen kiss

Burned on my boyish brow,
Was that young forehead worn as this?

Was that flushed cheek as now?
Were that wild pulse and throbbing heart

Like these, which vainly strive,
In thankless strains of soulless art,

To dream themselves alive?

Alas I the morning dew is gone.

Gone ere the full of day ;
Life's iron fetter still is on.

Its wreaths all torn away ;
Happy if still some casual hour

Can warm the fading shrine,
Too soon to chill beyond the power

Of love, or song, or wine I

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The two proud Bisters of the sea.

In glory and in doom I —
Well may the eternal waters be

Their broad, unsculptured tomb I
The wind that rings along the wave,

The dear, unshadowed sun,
Are torch and trumpet o'er the brave,

Whose last green wreath is won I

No stranger-hand their banners furled.

No victor's shout they heard ;
Unseen, above them ocean curled.

Safe by his own pale bird ;
The gnashing billows heaved and fell ;

Wild shrieked the midnight gale ;
Far, far beneath the morning swell

Were pennon, spar, and saiL

The land of Freedom I Sea and shore

Are guarded now, as when
Her ebbing waves to victory bore

Fair barks and gallant men ;
Oh, many a ship of prouder name

May wave her starry fold,
Nor trail, with deeper light of fame.

The paths they swept of old !

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"QOTF/FBf* 277

*'Qm VIVE?''

^ Qui vive f " The sentry's musket rings.

The channelled bayonet gleams ;
High o'er him, like a raven's wings
The broad trioolored banner flings
Its shadow, rustling as it swings

Pale in the moonlight beams ;
Pass on t while steel-dad sentries keep
Their vigil o'er the monarch's sleep,

Thy bare, unguarded breast
Asks not the unbroken, bristling zone
That girds yon sceptred trembler's throne ; -

Pass on, and take thy rest I

^ Qui vive T " How oft the midnight air

That startling cry has borne t
How oft the evening breeze has fanned
The banner of this haughty land,
O'er mountain snow and desert sand,
Ere yet its folds were torn I
Through Jena's carnage flying red.
Or tossing o'er Marengo's dead.

Or curling on the towers
Where Austria's eagle quivers yet.
And suns the ruffled plumage, wet

With battle's crimson showers I

** Qui vine f " And is the sentry's cry, —
The sleepless soldier's hand, —

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Are these — the painted folds that fly
And lift their emblems, printed high
On morning mist and sunset sky —

The guardians of a land ?
No I If the patriot's pulses sleep,
How vain the watch that hirelings keep, —

The idle flag that waves,
When Conquest, with his iron heel,
Treads down the standards and the steel

That belt the soil of slaves I

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Page 6. " They *re as wft a» DarCl Malcolm.**
The following epitaph is still to be read on a tall graye-
stone standing as yet undisturbed among the transplanted
monuments of the dead in Copp's Hill Burial-Ground, one of
the three oitj oemeteries which have been desecrated and
ndned within my own remembrance : —


Btone OrmTs 10 feet dMp,

Otp* Daiiul MAboouE M«roht

Who d«]»rC6d this Life

October 23d, 1768,


ft true Mn of liberty,

ft Friend to tbe Pabliok,

•n Enemy to oppreaelon,

and one of the f oremoit

In opposing the Beyenne Aots

on j

Page 62. nU broad-hrawed youth.
Benjamin Bobbins Curtis.
Page 62. The etripUng smooth of face and slight.
George Tyler Bigelow.

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A oraaty bookoase, placed before, zn. 106.

A healtli to dear woman ! She bids ns untwine, zi. 106.

A loyely ahow for eyea to aee, ziii 72.

A prologue ? Well, of oonne the ladies know, ziL 118.

A aiok man's chamber, though it often boast, zL 143.

A still sweet, placid, moonlight face, ziii. 278.

A triple health to Friendship, Science, Art, zi 158.

Afar he sleeps whose name is graven here, ziii 188.

Ah Clemence I when I saw thee last, ziii 266.

Ah, here it is I the sliding rail, zii. 146.

All o v ergr o wn with bnsh and fern, zi 270.

Alone, beneath the darkened sky, ziii 119.

Alone I no climber of an Alpine diif, zii. 176.

An naher standing at the door, ziii 70.

And can it be yon 've found a place, ziii. 22.

And what shall be the song to-night, zii. 10.

Angel of Death I eztend thy silent reign I zi 218.

Angel of lore, for every grief, ziii. 169.

Angel of Peace, thoa hast wandered too long I zii 306.

Another doaded night ; the stars are hid, zii 165.

As I look from the isle, o'er its billows of green, zii 106.

As life's imending column pours, zi. 147.

As o'er the glacier's frozen sheet, zi 103.

As the Toice of the watch to tlie mariner's dream, zi 229.

As through the forest, disarrayed, zii. 208.

Ay, tear her tattered ensign down I zi 2.

Bankrupt ! onr pockets inside out ! ziii 72.

Behold — not him we knew ! zi 258.

Behold the rocky wall, zi 248.

Behold the shape our eyes haye known I ziii 17.

Brave singer of the coming time, zii 128.

Brief glimpses of the bright celeetial spheres, zii 168.

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Bfiffht on tin Imiumb of lily and iom, zm. 28.
** Bring me my bvokaii bazp/' ho nid, ziiL lOS.
Brodiem, wliom wo msy not reneh, ziL 246.

Cliieago mmnds rough to the makor of Toioe, ziiL 88.

Clear the brown path, to meet hii oonlter^B gleam ! xL 19S.

Come baek to your mother, ye ehildzen, for ehame, zi. 82.

Come, dear old oomrade, yon and I, xiL 1.

Come ! fill a freeh bnmper, for why ehonld we go, ziL 14L

Come, hei^ the fagots I Ere we go, ziL 05.

Come, apread yoor winga, aa I spread mme, zL 220.

Day hath put on hii jaoket, and aronnd, zL 17.

Dear friends, left darkling in the long edipae, ziu. 186.

Dear friends, we are stmngers ; we neyer before, ziL 297.

Dear Qoyemor, if my skiff might braTe, zL 217.

Dearest, a look is bnt a ray, ziiL 261.

Deyonteat of my Sunday frienda, ziL 208.

Do yon know the Old Man of the Sea, of the Sea ? zL 278.

Eighty years haTe passed, and more, ziL 280.
Ibohanter of Erin, whose magio has bonnd na, ziiL 88.
Ere yet the warning ohimes of midnight sonnd, ziL 270.

Facts respecting an old arm-ohair, ziL 185.

Fallen wHh antmnn*8 falling leaf, ziiL 170.

Farewell, for the bark has her breast to the tide, zL 230.

Fast as the rolling seasons bring, ziL 29.

Father of Mercies, Heayenly Friend, ziL 283.

Fit emblem for the altar's side, ziiL 182.

Flag of the heroes who left ns their glory, ziL 288.

Flash ont a stream of blood-red wine, ziL 15.

For him the Arohiteot of all, ziL 89.

Four summers ooined their golden light in leayes, ziL 267.

Friend, whom thy f onrsoore winten leave more dear, ziiL 136.

Friend, yon seem thonghtf uL I not wonder mneh, ziL 292.

IVom my lone tonet as I look aronnd, ziL 178.

IVom the first gleam of morning to the gray, ziiL 118.

IVom this fair home behold on either side, ziiL 190.

Fall serensoore years oar city's pride, ziiL 39.

Full well I know the froaen hand has come, ziiL 162.

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Ghrer of all that erowns onr days, xiL 227.

Go seek thina earth-bom listen, — thus the VoIm, liL 150.

God Ueaa our Fathen' Land I zL 281.

Gxandmotfaer's mother ; her age, I gneai, xu. 205.

Hang oat our bannen on the itately tower I zu. 287.

Has there any old fellow got mixed with the boys ? ziL 17.

HaTS yon heard of the wondeifnl one-hoas >hay, ziL 181.

He aleepe not here ; in hope and prayer, zii 149.

He was all snnshuie ; in his faee, zL 260.

Her hands are cold ; her face is white, zii. 142.

Here ! sweep these foolish leaves away, zii. 154.

Here 's the old cmiser, 'Twenty-nine, ziL 46.

His birthday. — Nay, we need not speak, zL 271.

How beanteoos is the bond, ziiL 187.

How long will this harp which yon onoe lored to hear, zii. 86.

'* How many have gone ? " was the qnestion of old, ziL 87.

How sweet the saored legend — if nnblamed, ziiL 225.

How the moontaiiM talked together, ziL 254.

How to address him ? awkward, it is tme, ziiL 46.

I am not hnmble ; I was shown my plaoe, ziL 176.

I belieTe that the oopies of yeises I 'ts spmi, ziiL 74

I bring the simplest pledge of lore, ziiL 86.

I olaim the right of knowing whom I serre, ziL 180.

I don't think I feel mnoh older; I'm aware I'm rather gray,

I giye yon the health of the oldest friend, ziL 88.
I hare oome with my Terses — I think I may claim, ziL 68.
I hold a letter in my hand, zL 154.
I like, at times, to hear the steeples' chimes, ziL 78.
I like yon met I Lore yoo, face to f aoe, ziiL 189.
I lore all sights of earth and skies, ziiL 157.
I lore to hear thine earnest Toioe, zL 9.
I may not rightly call thy name, zL 250.
I must leaye thee, lady sweet I zL 101.
I pray thee by the soul of her that bore thee, zii. 147.
I remember — why, yes I God blefls me! and was it ao long

ago? zL 278.
I saw him onoe before, zL 8.
I saw the enrl of his waTing lash, zL 14

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I BametiniMi nt beneath a tree, zL 88.

I stood on Samm's treeleea plain, zii. lOL

I enppoae it 'a myaelf that yon *Te maVing alliiflion to, ziiL 12.

I thank yon, Mb. Pbbsidxht, yon 'to kindly brake the iee, zi268.

I was Bitting with my mieroacope, npon my parlor mg, zL 84.

I waa thinking last night, aa I eat in the ears, zi. 89.

I wrote some lines onee on a time, zL 82.

If all the trees in all the woods were men, ziiL 188i

If erery tongue that speaks her praise, ziii 128.

If sometimes in the dark bine eye, ziiL 274.

I'm ashamed, — that 's the faet, —it's a pitiful case, zii 19.

I 'm not a ehicken ; I haye seen, zL 29.

In candent ire the solar splendor flames, zii. 180.

In narrowest girdle, O reluctant Muse, zL 184.

In poisonous dens, where traitors hide, ziL 222.

In the hour of twilight shadows, zL 00.

In the little southern parlor of the house you may haTe seen, ziL

Is it a weanling's weakness for the past, ziii 168.
Is man's the only throbbing heart that hides, ziii. 280.
Is thy name Mary, maiden fair ? ziii 268.
It is a pity and a shame —alas I alas I I know it is, ziL 67«
It is not what we say or ring, zii 89.
It may be so, — perhaps thou hast, ziiL 266.
It may be, yes, it must be. Time that brings, zii 60.
It was a tall young oysUmn an lived by the xirei^side, ziii. 268.
It was not many centuries since, zxiL 286.
It was the stalwart butcher man, ziii 244

Kiss mine eyelids, beanteous Mom, ziL 168.

Lady, life's sweetest lesson wouldst thou learn, ziii 18&

Land where the banners waye last in the sun, ziL 281.

Leader of armies, Israel's God, ziii. 18.

Let greener lands and bluer skies, ziii. 267.

Let me retraoe the record of the yeaa, ziL 178.

Like the tribes of Israel, zii. 85.

Listen, young heroes I your country is calling! zii. 224

Little I ask ; my wants are few, ziL 128.

Look our ransomed shores around, ziiL 175.

Look out I Look out, boys I Clear the track I zilL 191.

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LordofaUbeniir! thioMd afitt, zii 144.
Lord, Hum hast led us m of old, zui 1G7.
^ Liiey." — The old {amiliar name, zm. 16.

My aamt I my dear umnanied aont I zL 12.

Nay, Uame me not; I might haTe apaxed, zL iz.

New England, we love thee ; no time can enue, zi 287.

No fear leet praise ahonld make ns proud I ziL 151.

No life worth naming oyer oomee to good, zi 207.

No more the summer floweret ohanns, zi 75.

No mystlo charm, no mortal art, ziL 277.

No I neyer sneh a draught was poured, zii 215.

Not bed-time yet ! The night-winds Uow, zii 91.

Not ohaztty we ask, zL 249.

Not in the world of light alone, zi 252.

Not to myself this breath of Tesper song, ziii 48.

Not with the anguish of hearts that are breaking, zii 288.

Now, by the blessed Paphian queen, zi 11.

Now, men of the North! will you join in the strife, zii 82.

Now, smiling friends and shipmates all, zii 257.

Now, while our sdldiera are fitting our battles, zii 285.

eren-handed Nature ! we confess, zii 260.

O God I in danger's darkest hour, zii 228.

O Lord of Hosts! Almighty King ! zii 282.

O Lore Divine, that stooped to share, zii 144

O my lost beauty I — hast thou folded quite, zii 109.

O thou of soul and sense and breath, zii. 266.

O'ershadowed by the walls that dimb, ziii 166.

Oh for one hour of youthful joy ! zii 9.

Oh! I did lore her dearly, ziii 260.

Oh, there are times, zi 15.

Old Rip Van Winkle had a grandson, Rip, zi 159.

Old Time, in whose bank we deposit our notes, zii 64

Onoe more Orion and the aster Se^en, ziii 180.

Onee more, ye sacred towers, zii 285.

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