Oliver Wendell Holmes.

The writings of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Volume 13 online

. (page 2 of 14)
Online LibraryOliver Wendell HolmesThe writings of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Volume 13 → online text (page 2 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


I send my heart-throb fifty miles, -^

Through every line 't is beating ;
God grant you many and happy years.

Till when the last has crowned you
The dawn of endless day appears.

And heaven is shining round you I
Oetober 11, 1876.



Digitized by LjOOQIC



HYMN 17



HYMN



FOB THB mAUOURATIOK OF THE STATUK OF OOYEBNOB
ANDBBW, HINGHAM, OCTOBEB 7, 1875

Behold the sliape our eyes have known t
It lives once more in changeless stone ;
So looked in mortal face and form
Our guide through peril's deadly storm.

But hushed the beating heart we knew,
That heart so tender, brave, and true.
Firm as the rooted mountain rock,
Pure as the quarry's whitest block I

Not his beneath the blood-red star
To win the soldier's envied scar ;
Unarmed he battled for the right.
In Duty's never^nding fight

Unconquered will, unslumbering eye,
Faith such as bids the martyr die,
The prophet's glance, the master's hand
To mould the work his foresight planned.

These were his gifts ; what Heaven had lent
For justice, mercy, truth, he spent,
ilrst to avenge the traitorous blow.
And first to lift the vanquished foe.

Lo, thus he stood ; in danger's strait
The pilot of the Pilgrim State I



Digitized by LjOOQIC



18 A MEMORIAL TRIBUTE

Too large his fame for her alcme, —
A nation daims him as her own I



A MEMORIAL TRIBUTE

BlfiAD AT THE MBBnNG HELD AT HUSIO HALL, FEBBU-
ABT 8, 1876, IN MBMOBT OF DR. SAMX7EL G. HOWE



TiKAi>KR of armies, Israel's God,

Thy soldier's fight is won !
Master, whose lowly path he trod.

Thy servant's work is done I

No voice is heard from Sinai's steep
Onr wandering feet to guide ;

From Horeb's rock no waters leap ;
No Jordan's waves divide ;

No prophet cleaves our western sl^
On wheels of whirling fire ;

No shepherds hear the song on high
Of heaven's angelic choir :

Yet here aa to the patriarch's tent

God's angel comes a gaest;
He comes on heaven's high errand sent.

In earth's i)oor raiment drest.

We see no halo round his brow
Till love its own recalls.



Digitized by LjOOQIC



A MEMORIAL TRIBUTE 19

And, like a leaf that quits the bough.
The mortal yeetnie falls.

In autumn's chill declining day,

Eie winter's killing frost,
The message came ; so passed away

The friend our earth has lost

Still, Father, in thy love we trust ;

Forgive us if we mourn
The saddening hour that laid in dust

His robe of flesh outworn.

n.

How long the wreck-strewn journey seems

To reach the far-off past
That woke his youth from peaceful dreams

With Freedom's trumpet-blast !

Along her classic hillsides rung

The Paynim's battle-ciy,
And like a red-cross knight he sprung

For her to live or die.

No trustier service claimed the wreath

For Sparta's bravest son ;
No truer soldier sleeps beneath

The mound of Marathon ;

Tet not for him the warrior's grave

In front of angry foes ;
To lift, to shield, to help, to save,

The holier task he chose.



Digitized by LjOOQIC



20 A MEMORIAL TRIBUTE

He touched the eyelids of the blind.

And lo I the veil withdrawn,
As o'er the midnight of the mind

He led the light of dawn.

He asked not whence the fountains roll

No traveller's foot has found,
But mapped the desert of the soul

XJntracked by sight or sound.

What prayers have reached the sapphire throne,

By silent fingers spelt,
For him who first through depths unknown

His doubtful pathway felt,

Wlio sought the sljambering sense that lay

Close shut with bolt and bar.
And showed awakening thought the ray

Of reason's morning star I

Where'er he moved, his shadowy form

The sightless orbs would seek,
And smttes of welcome light and warm

The lips that could not speak.

No labored line, no sculptor's art.

Such hallowed memory needs ;
His tablet is the human heart,

His record loving deeds.

m.

The rest that earth denied is thine, —
Ah, is it rest ? we ask.



Digitized by LjOOQIC



JOSEPH WARREN, M. D. 21

Or, traced by knowledge more divine,
Some larger, nobler task?

Had but those boundless fields of bine
One darkened sphere like this ;

But what has heaven for thee to do
In realms of perfect bliss?

No doud to lift, no mind to dear.

No rugged path to smooth,
No straggling soul to help and cheer.

No mortal grief to soothe I

Enough ; is there a world of love.

No more we ask to know ;
The hand will guide thy ways above

That shaped thy task below.



JOSEPH WABREN, M. D.

Trained in the holy art whose lifted shield
Wards off the darts a neveivslumbering foe.
By hearth and wayside lurking, waits to throw.

Oppression taught his helpful arm to wield

The slayer's weapon : on the murderous field
The fiery bolt he challenged laid him low.
Seeking its noblest victim. Even so

The charter of a nation must be sealed !

The healer's brow the hero's honors crowned.

From lowliest duty called to loftiest deed.
Living, the oak-leaf wreath his temples bound ;



Digitized by LjOOQIC



2 OLD CAMBRIDGE

Dying, the oonqueior's laurel was his meed,
Last on the broken ramparts' tarf to bleed
Where Freedom's victory in defeat was found.
JuM 11, 1876.



OLD CAMBBID6E

JULT 8, 1875

And can it be you Ve found a place
Within this consecrated space,

That makes so fine a show,
For one of Rip Van Winkle's race ?

And is it really so?
Who wants an old receipted bill ?
Who fishes in the Frog-pond still ?
Who digs last year's potato hill ? —

That 's what he 'd like to know I

And were it any spot on earth

Save this dear home that gave him birth

Some scores of years ago,
He had not come to spoil your mirth

And chill your festive glow ;
But round his baby-nest he strays,
With tearful eye the scene surveys,
His heart unchanged by changing days, -

That 's what he 'd have you know.

Can you whose eyes not yet are dim
Live o'er the buried past with him,
And see the roses blow



Digitized by LjOOQIC



OLD CAMBRIDGE 21

When white-haired men were Joe and Jim

Untouched by winter's snow ?
Or roll the years back one by one
As Judah's monarch backed the sun.
And see the century just begun ? —

That 's what he'd like to know !

I come, but as the swallow dips,
Just touching with her feather-tips

The shining wave below,
To sit with pleasure-murmuring lips

And listen to the flow
Of Elmwood's sparkling Hippocrene,
To tread once more my native green.
To sigh unheard, to smile unseen, —

That 's what I 'd have you know.

But since the common lot I 've shared
(We all are sitting ^^ unprepared,"

Lake culprits in a row,
Whose heads are down, whose necks are bared

To wait the headsman's blow),
I 'd like to shift my task to you,
By asking just a thing or two
About the good old times I knew, —

Here 's what I want to know :

The yellow meetin' house — can you tell
Just where it stood before it fell

Prey of the vandal foe, —
Our dear old temple, loved so well.

By ruthless hands laid low ?



Digitized by LjOOQIC



24 OLD CAMBRIDGE

Wheie, tell me, was tihe Deaoon^s pew?
Whose hair was braided in a queue ?
(For there were pig-taals not a few,) —
That's what I'd like to know.

The bell — can you recall its dang?
And how the seats would slam and bang ?

The Toioes high and low?
The basso's trump before he sang?

The viol and its bow ?
Where was it old Judge Winthrop sat ?
Who wore the last three-cornered hat?
Was Israel Porter lean or fat? —

That's what I 'd like to know.

Tell where the market used to be
That stood beside the murdered tree ?

Whose dog to church would go?
Old Marcus Beemie, who was he?

Who were the brothers Snow?
Does not your memory slightly fail
About that great September gale ? —
Whereof one told a moving tale,

As Cambridge boys should know.

When Cambridge was a simple town,
Say just when Deacon William Brown

(Last door in yonder row),
For honest silver counted down,

His groceries would bestow ? —
For those were days when money meant
Something that jingled aa you went, —



Digitized by LjOOQIC



OLD CAMBRIDGE 26

No hybrid like the nickel oent,
I 'd have you all to know.

But quarter, ninepence, pistareen,
And f ourpenoe hapennies in between.

All metal fit to show.
Instead of rags in stagnant green.

The somn of debts we owe ;
How sad to think suoh stuff should be
Our Wendell's cure-all recipe, —
Not Wendell H., but Wendell P., —

The one you all must know I

I question — but you answer not *-
Dear me I and have I quite forgot

How fivescore years ago.
Just on this very blessed spot.

The summer leaves below.
Before his homespun ranks arrayed
In green New England's elmbough shade
The great Virginian drew the blade

King Oeorge full soon should know !

O George the Third ! you found it true
Our George was more than double you^

For nature made him so.
Not much an empire's crown can do

If brains are scant and slow, —
Ah, not like that his laurel crown
Whose presence gilded with renown
Our brave old Academic town.

As all her children know I



Digitized by LjOOQIC



WELCOME TO THE NATIONS

So here we meet with loud aoclaim
To tell mankind that here he came,

With hearts that throb and glow ;
Ours is a portion of his fame

Our trmnpets needs must blow !
On yonder hill the Lion fell,
But here was chipped the eagle's shell, —
That little hatchet did it well,

As all the world shall know I



WELCOME TO THE NATIONS

PHILABELPHIA, JULT 4, 1876

Bbight on the banners of lily and rose
Lo I the last sun of our century sets I

Wreathe the black cannon that scowled on our foes,
All but her friendships the nation forgets I
All but her friends and their welcome forgets I

These are around her ; but where are her foes?
Lo, while the sun of her century sets,

Peace with her garlands of lily and rose I

Welcome I a shout like the war trumpets swell

Wakes the wild echoes that slumber around !
Welcome I it quivers £rom Liberty's bell ;

Welcome I the walls of her temple resound !

Hark ! the gray walls of her temple resound I
Fade the far voices o'er hillside and dell ;

Welcome ! still whisper the echoes around ;
Welcome I still trembles on Liberty's bell I



Digitized by LjOOQIC



A FAMILIAR LETTER 27

Thrones of the oontanentB I isles of the sea I

Yours are the garlands of peaoe we entwine ;
Welcome, onoe more, to the land of the free.

Shadowed alike by the palm and the pine ;

Softly they murmur, the palm and the pine,
^'Hushed is our strife, in the land of the free " ;

Over your children their branches entwine,
Thrones of the continents I isles of the sea !



A FAMILIAR LETTER

TO SIEVEBAL COBRBSPONDEITCS

Yes, write, if you want to, there 's nothing like try-
ing;
Who knows what a treasure your casket may
hold?
I ni show you that rhyming 's as easy as lying,
If you '11 listen to me while the art I unfold.

Here 's a book full of words ; one can choose as he
fancies,

As a painter his tint, as a workman his tool ;
Just think I all the poems and plays and romances

Were drawn out of this, like the fish from apool I

You can wander at will through its syllabled mazes.
And take all you want, — not a copper they
cost, —

What is there to hinder your picking out phrases
For an epic as clever as ^^ Paradise Lost '' ?



Digitized by LjOOQIC



28 A FAMILIAR LETTER

Don't mind if the index of sense is at zero,
Use words that run smoothly, whatever they
mean;
Leander and Lilian and Lillibnllero
Are much the same thing in the rhyming
machine.

There are words so delioions their sweetness will
smother
That boarding-school flavor of which we 're
afraid, —
There is ^ lush " is a good one, and ^' swirl " is
another, —
Pnt both in one stanza, its fortune is made.

With musical murmurs and rhythmical closes
You can cheat us of smiles when you 've nothing
to tell;
You hand us a nosegay of milliner's roses.

And we cry with delight, ^' Oh, how sweet they
c^osmeUI"

Perhaps you will answer all needful conditions
For winning the laureb to which you aspire,

By docking the tails of the two prepositions
I' the style o' the bards you so greatly admire.

As for subjects of verse, they are only too plenty
For ringing the changes on metrical chimes ;

A maiden, a moonbeam, a lover of twenty

Have filled that great basket with bushels of



Digitized by LjOOQIC



A FAMILIAR LETTER 29

Let me show 70a a picture — 'tis far from irre-
leyant —
By a famous old hand in the arts of design ;
'T is only a photographed sketch of an elephant, —
The name of the draughtsman was Bembrandt
of Shine.

How easy I no troublesome colors to lay on,

It can't have fatigued him, — no, not in the
least, —
A dash here and there with a hap-hazard crayon,
And there stands the wrinkled-skinned, baggy-
limbed beast.

Just so with your verse, — 't is as easy as sketch-
ing,—
You can reel off a song without knitting your
brow,
As lightly as Bembrandt a drawing or etching ;
It is nothing at all, if you only know how.

Well; imagine you've printed your volume of
verses:
Your forehead is wreathed with the garland of
fame.
Your poems the eloquent school-boy rehearses,
Her album the school-girl presents for your name ;

Each morning the post brings you autograph let-
ters;
You '11 answer them promptly, — an hour is n't
much



Digitized by LjOOQIC



80 A FAMILIAR LETTER

For the honor of sharing a {Mige with your betters,
With magistrates, members of Congress, and
such.

Of course you're delighted to serve the commit-



That come with requests from the country all
round.
You would grace the occasion with poems and dit-
ties

When they 've got a new schoolhouse, or poor-
house, or pound.

With a hymn for the saints and a song for the
sinners,
You go and are welcome wherever you please ;
You 're a privileged g^est at all manner of dinners.
You 've a seat on the platform among the gran-
dees.

At length your mere presence becomes a sensation.
Your cup of enjoyment is filled to its brim

With the pleasure Horatian of digitmonstration.
As the whisper runs round of ^^ That 's he I " or
"That's him!"

But remember, O dealer in phrases sonorous,

So daintily chosen, so tunefully matched.
Though you soar with the wings of the cherubim
o'er us,
The owim was human from which you were
hatched.



Digitized by LjOOQIC



UNSATISFIED 81

No will of your own with its puny compulsion
Can summon the spirit that quickens the lyre ;

It comes, if at all, like the Sibyl's convulsion
And touches the brain with a finger of fire.

So perhaps, after all, it 's as well to be quiet.
If you Ve nothing you think is worth saying in
prose,

As to furnish a meal of their cannibal diet
To the critics, by publishing, as you propose.

But it 's all of no use, and I 'm sorry I Ve writ-
ten, —
I shall see your thin volume some day on my
shelf;
For the rhyming tarantula surely has bitten.
And music must cure you, so pipe it yourself.



UNSATISFIED

^^Onlt a housemaid I'' She looked from the
kitchen, —

Neat was the kitchen and tidy was she ;
There at her window a sempstress sat stitching ;

" Were I a sempstress, how happy I 'd be ! "

^* Only a Queen t " She looked over the waters, —
Fair was her kingdom and mighty was she ;

There sat an Empress, with Queens for her daugh-
ters;
^* Were I an Empress, how happy I 'd be I "



Digitized by LjOOQIC



82 HOW THE OLD HORSE WON THE BET

Still tiie old frailty they all of them trip inl
Eve in her daughters is ever the same ;

Give her all Eden, she sighs for a pippin ;
Give her an Empire, she pines for a name t
M»7 8, 1876.



HOW TBDE OLD HORSE WON THE BET

DBDIOATED BY A CONTBIBUTOB TO THE COLLBGIAN,
1880, TO THK KDITOBS OF THE HABYARD ADYOOATB,
1876.

'T WAS on the famous trotting-gromid,

The betting men were gathered round

From far and near ; the ** cracks " were there

Whose deeds the sporting prints declare :

The swift g. m., Old Hiram's nag,

The fleet s. h., Dan Pfeiffer*s brag,

With these a third — and who is he

That stands beside his fast b. g. ?

Budd Doble, whose catarrhal name

So fills the nasal trump of fame.

There too stood many a noted steed

Of Messenger and Morgan breed ;

Green horses also, not a few ;

Unknown as yet what they could do ;

And all the hacks that know so well

The soourgings of the Sunday swell.

Blue are the skies of opening day ;
The bordering turf is green with May ;
The sunshine's golden gleam is thrown



Digitized by LjOOQIC



HOW THE OLD HORSE WON THE BET 88

On sorrel, chestnut, bay, and roan;

The horses paw and pranoe and neigh.

Fillies and oolts like kittens play.

And danoe and toes their rippled manes

Shining and soft as silken skeins ;

Wagons and gigs are ranged about,

And fashion flaunts her gay torn-out ;

Here stands — each youthful Jehu's dream —

The jointed tandem, ticklish team t

And there in ampler breadth expand

The splendors of the four-in-hand ;

On faultless ties and glossy tiles

The lovely bonnets beam tiieir smiles ;

(The style 's the num, so books avow;

The style 's the woman, anyhow) ;

From flounces frothed with creamy lace

Peeps out the pug-dog's smutty face.

Or spaniel roUs his liquid eye,

Or stares the wiry pet of Skye, —

woman, in your hours of ease
So shy with us, so free with thesel

^' Come on I I 'U bet you two to one
I '11 make him do iti" "WiHyou? Donel"

What was it who was bound to do ?

1 did not hear and can't teU you, —
Pray listen till my story 's tlurough.

Scarce noticed, back behind the rest,
By cart and wagon rudely prest,
The parson's lean and bony bay



Digitized by LjOOQIC



84 HOW THE OLD HORSE WON THE BET

Stood hameaaed in his one-hone ahay —
Lent to his sexton for the day ;
(A foneral — so the sexton said;
His mother's nnde's wife was dead.)

like Lassams bid to Dives' feast,
So looked the poor forlorn old beast ;
His ooat was rough, his tail was bare.
The gray was sprinkled in his hair ;
Sportsmen and jockeys knew him not,
And yet they say he once could trot
Among the fleetest of the town,
Till something cracked and broke him down, -
The steed's, the statesman's, common lot I
^ And are we then so soon forgot ? "
Ah me I I doubt if one of you
Ebs ever heard the name ^^Old Blue,"
Whose &me through all this region rung
In those old days when I was young I

** Bring forth the horse ! " Alas ! he showed
Not like the one Mazeppa rode ;
Scant-maned, sharp-backed, and shaky-kneed,
The wreck of what was once a steed.
Lips thin, eyes hollow, stiff in joints ;
Yet not without his knowing points.
The sexton laughing in his sleeve.
As if 't were all a make-believe,
Led forth the horse, and as he laughed
Unhitched the breeching from a shaft,
Unclasped the rusty belt beneath,
Drew forth the snaffle fnnn his teeth.



Digitized by LjOOQIC



HOW THE OLD HORSE WON THE BET 86

Slipped off his head-stall, set him free
From strap and rein, — a sight to seel

So worn, so lean in every limb,
It can't be they are saddling him I
It is I his back the pig-skin strides
And flaps his lank, rhenmatic sides ;
With look of mingled scorn and mirth
They buckle round the saddle-girth ;
With horsey wink and sauoy toss
A youngster throws his leg across.
And so, his rider on his back,
They lead him, limping, to the track.
Far up behind the starting-point,
To limber out each stiffened joint.

As through the jeering crowd he past,

One pitying look Old Hiram cast ;
" Go it, ye cripple, while ye can 1 "

Cried out unsentimental Dan ;
'*• A Fast-Day dinner for the crows I •*

Budd Doble's scoffing shout arose.

Slowly, as when the walking-beam
First feels the gathering head of steam,
With warning cough and threatening wheese
The stiff old charger crooks his knees ;
At first with cautious step sedate,
As if he dragged a coach of state ;
He's not a colt ; he knows full well
That time is weight and sure to tell ;
No horse so sturdy but he fears
The handicap of twenty years.



Digitized by LjOOQIC



86 HOW THE OLD HORSE WON THE BET

As through the throng on either hand
The old horse nears the judges^ stand,
Beneath his jockey's feather-weight
He warms a little to his gait,
And now and then a step is tried
That hints of something like a stride.

^^ Gfol " — Through his ear the summons stung
As if a battle-tmmp had rung ;
The slumbering instincts long unstirred
Start at the old familiar word ;
It thrills like flame through every limb, —
What mean his twenty years to him ?
The savage blow his rider dealt
Fell on his hollow flanks unf elt ;
The spur that pricked his staring hide
Unheeded tore his bleeding side ;
Alike to him are spur and rein, —
He steps a five-year^ld again !

Before the quarter pole was past.

Old Hiram said, ^^ He 's going fast.''

Long ere the quarter was a half.

The chuckling crowd had ceased to laugh ;

Tighter his frightened jockey clung

As in a mighty stride he swung,

The gravel flying in his track.

His neck stretched out, his ears laid back.

His tail extended all the while

Behind him like a rat-tail file I

Off went a shoe, — away it spun.

Shot like a bullet from a gon ;



Digitized by LjOOQIC



HOW TUB OLD HORSE WON THE BET 87

The quaking jockey shapes a prayer

From scraps of oaths he used to swear;

He drops his whip, he drops his rein,

He dutches fiercely for a mane ;

He 'II lose his hold — he sways and reels -^

He 'U slide beneath those trampling heels I

The knees of many a horseman qnake,

The flowers on many a bonnet shake,

And shouts arise from left and right,

''Stick on! Stick onl" ''Hould tightl Honld

tight I"
'^ Cling round his neck and don't let go —
'^ That pace can't hold — there I steady I whoa I "
But like the sable steed that bore
The spectral lover of Lenore,
His nostrils snorting foam and fire,
No stretch his bony limbs can tire ;
And now the stand he rushes by.
And '* Stop him I — stop him I " is the cry.
Stand back I he 's only just begun —
He 's having out three heats in one I

^ Don't rush in front I he 'U smash your brains ;

But follow up and grab the reins ! "

Old Hiram spoke. Dan Pfeiffer heard,

And sprang impatient at the word ;

Budd Doble started on his bay.

Old Hiram followed on his gray,

And off they spring, and round they go.

The fast ones doing *' all they know."

Look I twice they follow at his heels,

As round the circling course he wheels.



Digitized by LjOOQIC



88 HOW THE OLD HORSE WON THE BET

And whirls with him that clinging boy
like Hector round the walls of Troy ;
Still on, and on, the third time ronnd I
They 're tailing off I they 're losing ground I
Budd Doble's nag begins to fail I
Dan Pf eiffer's sorrel whisks his tail I
And see I in spite of whip and shout,
Old EQram's mare is giving out I
Now for the finish I at the turn,
The old horse — all the rest astern —
Comes swinging in, with easy trot ;
By Jove! he 's distanced all the lot I

That trot no mortal could explain ;
Some said, ^^ Old Dutchman come again I "
Some took his time, — at least they tried.
But what it was could none decide ;
One said he could n't understand
What happened to his second hand ;
One said 2.10 ; that could n't be —
More like two twenty-two or three ;
Old Hiram settled it at last ;
*^ The time was two — too dee-vel-ish fast ! "

The parson's horse had won the bet ;
It cost him something of a sweat ;
Back in the one-horse shay he went ;
The parson wondered what it meant.
And murmured, with a mild surprise
And pleasant twinkle of the eyes,
^ That funeral must have been a trick.
Or corpses drive at double-quick;



Digitized by LjOOQIC



AN APPEAL FOR « THE OLD SOUTH " 89

I ahould n't wonder, I declare,

K brother — Jehu — made the prayer ! *'

And this is all I have to say
About that tough old trotting bay,
Huddnp I Huddup I O'lang I (Jood day I

Moral for which this tale is told :
A horse can trot, for all he 's old.



AN APPEAL FOR "THE OLD SOUTH"

^ While stands tha Coliseum, Rome shaU stand;
When falls the Golisenm, Rome shall lalL"

Full sevenscore years our city's pride —

The comely Southern spire —
Ebs cast its shadow, and defied

The storm, the foe, the fire ;
Sad is the sight our eyes behold ;

Woe to the three-hilled town.
When through the land the tale is told —

** The brave *01d South' is down!"

Let darkness blot the starless dawn

That hears our children tell,
^* Here rose the walls, now wrecked and gone.

Our fathers loved so well ;
Here, while his brethren stood aloof.

The herald's blast was blown
That shook St. Stephen's pillared roof

And rocked King George's throne I



Digitized by LjOOQIC



40 AN APPEAL FOR « THE OLD SOUTH "^


2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryOliver Wendell HolmesThe writings of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Volume 13 → online text (page 2 of 14)