Oliver Wendell Holmes.

The writings of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Volume 13 online

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And chills sad autumn's last chrysanthemum;

Yet would I find one blossom, if I might.

Ere the dark loom that weaves the robe of white

Hides all the wrecks of summer out of sight.

Sometimes in dim November's narrowing day,
Wben all the season's pride has passed away.
As mid the blackened stems and leaves we stray,

We spy in sheltered nook or rocky deft
A starry disk the hurrying winds have left.
Of all its blooming sisterhood bereft:

Some pansy, with its wondering baby eyes —
Poor wayside nursling ! — fixed in blank surprise
At the rough welcome of unfriendly skies;



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KINCrS CHAPEL 168

Or golden daisy, — will it dare disclaim
The lion's tooth, to wear this gentler name?
Or blood-red salvia, with its lips aflame :

The storms have stripped the lily and the rose.
Still on its cheek the flush of summer glows.
And all its heart-leaves kindle as it blows.

So had I looked some bud of song to And
The careless winds of autumn left behind,
With these of earlier seasons' growth to bind.

Ah me! my skies are dark with sudden grief,
A flower lies faded on my garnered sheaf;
Yet let the sunshine gild this virgin leaf, —

The joyous, blessed sunshine of the past.

Still with me, though the heavens are overcast, -*

The light that shines while life and memory last.

Oo, pictured rhymes, for loving readers meant;
Bring back the smiles your jocund morning lent.
And warm their hearts with sunbeams yet unspent I

BsvxBLT Fabkb, July 24, 1884.



KING'S CHAPEL

BBAD AT THB TWO HX7NDBEDTH ANNIVBBSAB7

Is it a weanling's weakness for the past

That in the stormy, rebel-breeding town,
Swept dean of relics by the levelling blast,



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164 BEFORE THE CURFEW

Still keeps our gray old chapel's name of ^^Eing's/'
Still to its outworn symbols fondly clings, — >
Its unchurched mitres and its empty crown?

Poor harmless emblems I All has shrunk away
That made fliem gorgons in the patriot's eyes;

The priestly plaything harms us not to-day;

The gilded crown is but a pleasing show,

An old-world heirloom, left from long ago.
Wreck of the past that memory bids us priie.

Lightly we glance the fresh-cut marbles o'er;

Those two of earlier date our eyes enthrall:
The proud old Briton's by the western door.
And hers, the Lady of Colonial days.
Whose Tirtues live in long-drawn classic phrase, —

The fair Erancesca of the southern wall.

Ayl those were goodly men that Beynolds drew.
And stately dames our Copley's canvas holds.
To flieir old Church, their Bqyal Master, true,
Proud of the claim their valiant sires had earned.
That *^ gentle blood," not lightly to be spumed.
Save by the churl ungenerous Nature moulds.

All vanished ! It were idle to complain
That ere the fruits shall come the flowers must
fall;
Yet somewhat we have lost amidst our gain.
Some rare ideals time may not restore, —
The charm of courtly breeding, seen no more.
And reverence, dearest ornament of all.



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KINCrS CHAPEL 166

Thus nmsing, to the western wall I oame,
Departing: lo t a tablet fresh and fair,
Where glistened many a youth's remembered name
In golden letters on flie snow-white stone, —
Young lives these aisles and arohes once have
known.
Their country's bleeding altar might not spare.

These died that we might daim a soil unstained.
Save by the blood of heroes; their bequests

A realm unsevered and a race unchained.

Has purer blood through Norman veins come down

From the rough knights that clutched the Saxon's
crown
Than warmed the pulses in these faithful breasts?

These, too, shall live in history's deathless page,
High on the slow-wrought pedestals of fame.

Banged with the heroes of remoter age;

They could not die who left their nation free.

Firm as the rock, unfettered as the sea.

Its heaven unshadowed by the cloud of shame.

While on the storied past our memory dwells.
Our grateful tribute shall not be denied, —

The wreath, tlie cross of rustling immortelles;

And willing hands shall clear each darkening bust.

As year by year sifts down the clinging dust
On Shirley's beauty and on Vassall's pride.

But for our own, our loved and lost, we bring
With throbbing hearts and tears that still must
flow,



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166 BEFORE THE CURFEW

In full-heaped hands, the opening flowers of spring.
Lilies half -blown, and budding roses, red
As their young cheeks, before the blood was shed
That lent their morning bloom its generous glow.

Ah, who shall count a rescued nation's debt.

Or sum in words our martyrs' silent claims?
Who shall our heroes' dread exchange forget, —
All life, youth, hope, could promise to allure
For all that soul could brave or flesh endure?
They shaped our future ; we but carve their names.



HYMN

lOB THB SAME OOOASION

SCira BT THB OOiraBBGATIOK TO THB TUBB OF TAIJJB'S
BVBNIKa HYHN

O'ebshadowed by the walls that climb.
Piled up in air by living hands,

A rock amid the waves of time.
Our gray old house of worship stands.

High o'er the pillared aisles we love
The symbols of the past look down;

Unharmed, unharming, throned above.
Behold the mitre and the crown I

Let not our younger faith forget
The loyal souls that held them dear;

The prayers we read their tears have wet,
The hymns we sing they loved to hear.



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THE WORD OF PROMISE 167

The memory of their earthly throne

Still to our holy temple clings,
But here the kneeling suppliants own

One only Lord, the King of kings.

Hark I while our hymn of grateful praise
The solemn echoing vaults prolong,

The far-off voice of earlier days

Blends with our own in hallowed song:

To Him who ever lives and reigns,
Whom all the hosts of heaven adore.

Who lent the life His breath sustains.
Be glory now and evermore !



HYMN.— THE WORD OF PROMISE

(by supposition)

An Hymn set forth to be sang by the Great Assembly
at Newtown, [Mass.] Mo. 12. 1. 1636.

[Written by Oliver Wenbkix Holmes, eldest son of Bev.
AsnfiL Holmes, eighth Pastor of the First Choroh in
Cambridge, Maasaohnsetts.]

LoBD, Thou hast led us as of old
Thine Arm led forth the chosen Saoe

Through Foes that raged, through Floods that
roll'd,
To Canaan's far-off Dwelling-Place.



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168 BEFORE TEE CURFEW

Here is Thy bonnteouB Table spread.

Thy Manna falls on every Field,
Thy Graoe onr hungering Souls hath fed,

Thy Might hath been our Spear and Shield.

Lift high Thy Buckler, Lord of Hosts t
Guard Thou Thy Servants, Sons and Sires,

While on the Godless heathen Coasts
They light Thine Israel's Altar-fires 1

The salvage Wilderness remote

Shall hear Thy Works and Wonders sung;
So from the Bock that Moses smote

The Fountain of the Desart sprung.

Soon shall the slumbering Mom awake.
From wandering Stars of Errour freed.

When Christ the Bread of Heaven shall break
For Saints that own a common Creed.

The Walls that fence His Flocks apart

Shall crack and crumble in Decay,
And every Tongue and every Heart

Shall welcome in the new-bom Day.

Then shall His glorious Church rejoice

His Word of Promise to recall, —
One sheltebino Fold, one Shepherd's Voicb,

One God and Father over all I



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DEDICATION HYMN 169



HYMN

BBAD AT THB DBDICATION OF 1!HB OLIVBB WKNDBLL
H0LICB9 HOfiFTTAIi AT HTTDSOK, WI8COK8IN

JUKI 7, 1877

Akgsl of loTe, for every grief
Its soodiing balm thy mercy brings,

For every pang its healing leaf.

For homeless want, thine outspread wings.

Enough for thee the pleading eye,
The knitted brow of silent pain;

The portals open to a sigh

Without the dank of bolt or chain.

Who is our brother? He that lies
Left at the wayside, bruised and sore :

His need our open hand supplies.
His welcome waits him at our door.

Not ours to ask in freezing tones
His race, his calling, or his creed;

Each heart the tie of kinship owns,

When those are human veins that bleed.

Here stand the champions to defend
From eveiy wound that flesh can feel;

Here science, patience, skill, shall blend
To save, to calm, to help, to heal.



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170 BEFORE THE CURFEW

Fatiher of Meicies ! Weak and f lail.
Thy guiding hand Thy children ask;

Let not the Great Physician fail
To aid us in our holy task.

Source of all truth, and love, and light,
That warm and cheer our earthly days,

Be ours to serve Thy will aright,
Be Thine the gloiy and the praise I



ON THE DEATH OF PRESIDENT GARFIELD

L

Fallen with autunm's falling leaf
Ere yet his summer's noon was past,

Our friend, our guide, our trusted chief, —
What words can match a woe so vast !

And whose the chartered claim to speak
The sacred grief where all have part.

Where sorrow saddens every cheek
And broods in every aching heart?

Yet Nature prompts the burning phrase
That thrills the hushed and shrouded hall,

The loud lament, the sorrowing praise.
The silent tear that love lets fall.

In loftiest verse, in lowliest rhyme.

Shall strive unbhuned the minstrel choir, — ^



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DEATH OF PRESIDENT GARFIELD 171

Th6 singeTB of tihe new-bom time,
And trembling age with outworn lyre.

No room for pride, no place for blame, —
We fling our blosaoms on the grave.

Pale, — scentless, — faded, — all we claim,
This only, — what we had we gave.

Ah, could the grief of all who mourn
Blend in one voice its bitter ciy.

The wail to heaven's high arches borne
Would echo through the cavemed Aj.

IL

O happiest land, whose peaceful choice
Fills with a breath its empty throne !

Ood, speaking through thy people's voice.
Has made that voice for once His own.

No angry passion shakes the state
Whose weary servant seeks for rest;

And who could fear that scowling hate
Would strike at that unguarded breast?

He stands, unconscious of his doom.
In manly strength, erect, serene;

Around him Summer spreads her bloom;
He falls, — what horror clothes the scene !

How swift the sudden flash of woe

Where all was bright as childhood's dream I
As if from heaven's ethereal bow

Had leaped the lightning's arrowy gleam.



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172 BEFORE THE CURFEW

Blot the foul deed from histoiy's page;

Let not the all-betrayiag sun
Blush for the day that stains an age

Wlien murder's blackest wreath was won.

m.

Pale on his oouch the sufferer lies,
The weaiy battle-ground of pain:

Love tends his pillow; Science tries
Her every art, alas ! in vain.

The strife endures how long I how long I
Life, death, seem balanced in the scale,

While round his bed a viewless throng
Await each morrow's changing tale.

In realms the desert ocean parts

What myriads vratch with tear-filled eyes.
His pulse-beats echoing in their liearts.

His brealMngs counted with their sighsl

Slowly the stores of life are spent.
Yet hope still battles with despair ;

Will Heaven not yield when knees are bent?
Answer, O thou that hearest prayer I

But silent is the brazen sky ;

On sweeps the meteor's threatening train.
Unswerving Nature's mute reply.

Bound in her adamantine chain.

Not ours theyerdict to decide

Whom death shall daim or skill shall save;



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THE GOLDEN FLOWER 178

The hero's life diongh Heaven denied,
It gave onr Lind a martyr's grave.

Nor count the teaching vainly sent

How human hearts their griefs may share, —
The lesson woman's love has lent,

What hope may do, what faith can bearl

Farewell ! the leaf -strown earth enfolds
Our stay, our pride, our hopes, our fears,

And autumn's golden sun beholds
A nation bowed, a world in teanu



THE GOLDEN FLOWEB

When Advent dawns with lessening days,

While earth awaits the angels' hymn ;
When bare as branching coral sways

In whistling winds each leafless limb ;
When spring is but a spendthrift's dream.

And summer's wealth a wasted dower,
Nor dews nor sunshine may redeem, —

Then autumn coins his Gk>Iden Flower.

Soft was the violef s vernal hue,

PVesh was the rose's morning red,
FuU-orbed the stately dahlia grew, —

All gone I their short-lived splendors shed.
The shadows, lengthening, stretch at noon ;

The fields are stripped, the groves are dumb ;
The frost-flowers greet the icy moon, —

Then blooms the bright chrysanthemunL



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174 BEFORE THE CURFEW

The stiflFening turf is white with snow,

Yet still its radiant disks are seen
Where soon the hallowed mom will show

The wreath and cross of Christmas green ;
As if in autumn's djring days

It heard the heavenly song afar,
And opened all its glowing rays,

The herald lamp of Bethlehem's star.

Orphan of summer, kindly sent

To cheer the fading year's decline.
In all that pitying Heaven has lent

No fairer pledge of hope than liine.
Yes I June lies hid beneath the snow.

And winter's unborn heir shall claim
For every seed that sleeps below

A spark that kindles into flame.

Thy smile the scowl of winter braves

Last of the bright-robed, flowery train.
Soft sighing o'er the garden graves,

^^ Farewdl I farewell I we meet again I "
So may life's chill November bring

Hope's golden flower, the last of all.
Before we hear the angels sing

Where blossoms never fade and fall !



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HAIL, COLUMBIA t 176

HAIL, COLUMBIAI

1796
THE FIBST VEBSB OF THE SONQ

BT JOflBPH HOFKniBOV

*HAii»GQliimbiaI Hi^pjlandl
Haily ye heroes, heayen-bom bend,

Who fought and bled in FMedom's oanse^

Who fought and bled in Freedom's eaose.
And when the storm of war was gone
finjoy'd the peace jonr valor won.

Let independence be oar boast.

Ever mindfol what it cost ;

Eyer gratefol for the prize,

Let its altar reach the skies.

"Firm — nnited — let ns be,
Rallying ronnd our Liberty ;
As a band of brothers join'd.
Peace and safety we shall find."



ADDITIONAL VERSES



WJU ' lTim AT THB BBQDB8T OF THB OOMKITTKB FOB THB OOK-
STTrunONAIi GXHTXMinAL OKTiBRHATlON AT Pfm.ADWT.FHTA,

1887

Look our ransomed shores aronnd.

Peace and safety we have found I
Welcome, friends who once were foes I
Welcome, friends who once were foes,

To all the conquering years have gained, —

A nation's rights, a race unchained I



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176 BEFORE THE CURFEW

Children of tihe day new-bom.
Mindful of its glorious mom.
Let the pledge our fathers signed
Heart to heart forever bind I

While the stars of heaven shall bum.
While the ocean tides return,
Ever may the circling sun
Find the Many still are Onel

Graven deep with edge of steel.
Crowned with Yiotoiy's crimson seal.
All the world their names shall read I
All the world their names shall read.
Enrolled with his, the Chief that led
The hosts whose blood for us was shed.
Pay our sires their children's debt,
Love and honor, nor forget
Only Union's golden key
Guards the Ark of Liberty !

While the stars of heaven shall bum.
While the ocean tides return.
Ever may the circling sun
Find the Many still are One I

Hail, Columbia I strong and free,
Throned in hearts from sea to seal

Thy march triumphant still pursue!

Thy march triumphant still pursue
With peaceful stride from zone to zone,
Till Freedom finds the world her own I



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FOUNTAIN AT STRATFORD-ON-AVON 177

Blest in Union's holy ties,
Let onr grateful song arise,
Every voice its tribute lend.
All in loving chorus blendl

While the stars in heaven shall bum.
While the ocean tides return.
Ever shall the circling sun
Find the Many still are One I



POEM

VOB 1!HB DBDICATION OF THE FOUNTAIN AT STRAT-
FOBD-ON-AVON, FBBSBNTBD B7 GBOBfiOB W. OHILDS,

OF phuadblphia

Welcome, thrice welcome is thy silvery gleam.

Thou long-imprisoned stream !
Welcome the tinkle of thy crystal beads
As plashing raindrops to the flowery meads.
As siunmer's breath to Avon's whispering reeds I
From rock-walled channels, drowned in rayless

night,
Leap forth to life and light ;
Wake from the darkness of thy troubled dream.
And greet with answering smile the morning's

beami

No purer lymph the white-limbed Naiad knows

Than from thy chalice flows ;
Not the bright spring of Afric's simny shores,



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178 BEFORE THE CURFEW

Starry with spangles washed from golden ores,
Nor glassy stream Bandusia's f oontain pours,
Nor wave translucent where Sabrina fair

Braids her loose-flowing hair.
Nor the swift current, stainless as it rose
Where chill Arveiron steals from Alpine snows.

Here shall the traveller stay his weary feet

To seek thy calm retreat ;
Here at high noon the brown-armed reaper rest ;
Here, when the shadows, lengthening firom the

west.
Call the mute song-bird to his leafy nest.
Matron and maid shall chat the cares away

That brooded o'er the day,
While flocking round them troops of children

meet.
And all the arches ring with laughter sweet.

Here shall the steed, his patient life who spends

In toil that never ends.
Hot from his thirsty tramp o'er hill and plain.
Plunge his red nostrils, while the torturing rein
Drops in loose loops beside his floating mane ;
Nor the poor brute that shares his master's lot

Find his small needs forgot, —
Truest of humble, long-enduring friends.
Whose presence cheers, whose guardian care
defends !

Here lark and thrush and nightingale shall sip.
And skimming swallows dip.



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FOUNTAIN A T STRA TFORD-ON-A VON 179

And starange shy wanderers fold their InstroiiB

plumes
Fragrant from bowers that lent their sweet per-

fomes
Where P»stnm's rose or Persia's lilac blooms ;
Here bom his cloud the eagle stoop to drink

At the full basin's brink,
And whet his beak against its rounded lip,
His glossy feathers glistening as they drip.

Here shall the dreaming poet linger long,

Far boxn. his listening throng, —
Nor lute nor lyre his trembling hand shall bring;
Here no frail Muse shall imp her crippled wing,
No faltering minstrel strain his throat to sing!
These hallowed echoes who shall dare to daim

Whose tuneless voice would shame,
Whose jangling chords with jarring notes would

wrong
The nymphs that heard the Swan of Avon's
song?

What visions greet the pilgrim's raptured eyes !

What ghosts made real rise I
The dead return, — they breathe, — they live again,
Joined by the host of Fancy's airy train.
Fresh from the springs of Shakespeare's quicken-
ing brain!
The stream that slakes the soul's diviner thirst

Here found the sunbeams first ;
Bich with his fame, not less shall memory prize
The gracious gift that humbler wants supplies.



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180 BEFORE THE CURFEW

O'er the wide waters reached the haad that gave

To all this boanteous wave,
With health and strength and joyous beauty

fraught;
Blest be the generous pledge of friendship, brought
Fiom the &r home of brothers' love, unbought I
Long may fair Avon's fountain flow, enrolled

With storied shrines of old,
Castalia's spring, Egeria's dewy cave.
And Horeb's rock the Grod of Israel clave I

Land of our fathers, ocean makes us two.

But heart to heart is true I
Proud is your towering daughter in the West,
Yet in her burning life-blood reign conf est
Her mother's pulses beating in her breast.
This holy fount, whose rills from heaven descend.

Its gracious drops shall lend, —
Both foreheads bathed in that baptismal dew.
And love make one the old home and the new I
August 29, 1887.

TO THE POETS WHO ONLY READ AND
LISTEN

When evening's shadowy fingers fold

The flowers of every hue,
Some shy, half-opened bud will hold

Its drop of morning's dew.

Sweeter with every sunlit hour
The trembling sphere has grown,



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DEDICATION OF NEW CITY LIBRARY 181

Till all the fragranoe of the flower
Becomes at last its own.

We tiiat have song perchance may find

Our little meed of praise,
And round our paUid temples bind

The wreath of fading bays :

Ah, Poet, who liast never spent

Thy breath in idle strains.
For thee the dewdrop morning lent

Still in thy heart remains ;

Unwasted, in its perfumed cell

It waits the evening gale ;
Then to the azure whence it fell

Its lingering sweets exhale.



FOB THE DEDICATION OF THE NEW CITY
LIBRARY, BOSTON

Proudly, beneath her glittering dome.
Our three-hilled city greets the mom ;

Here Freedom found her virgin home, —
The Bethlehem where her babe was bom.

The lordly roofs of traffic rise

Amid the smoke of household fires ;

High o'er them in the peaceful skies

Faith points to heaven her clustering spires.



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182 BEFORE THE CURFEW

Can Freedom breathe if ignorance reign ?

Shall Conuneroe thrive where anarchs role ?
WiU Faith her half-fledged brood retain

If darkening counsels cloud the school ?

Let in the light I firom every age

Some gleams of garnered wisdom pour.

And, fixed on thought's electric page,
Wait all their radiance to restore.

Let in the light I in diamond mines
Their gems invite the hand that delves ;

So learning's treasured jewels shine
Banged on the alcove's ordered shelves.

From history's scroll the splendor streams,
From science leaps the living ray ;

Flashed from the poet's glowing dreams
The opal fires of f ancr^ play.

Let in the light I these windowed walls
Shall brook no shadowing colonnades,

But day shall flood the silent halls
Till o'er yon hills the sunset fades.

Behind the ever open gate

No pikes shall fence a crumbling throne.
No lackeys cringe, no courtiers wait, —

This palace is the people's own !

Heirs of our narrow-girdled past.
How fair the prospect we survey.



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JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL 188

Where howled unheard the wintry blast,
And rolled unchecked the stormHswept bay I

These chosen precincts, set apart

For learned toil and holy shrines,
Yield willing homes to every art

That trains, or strengthens, or refines.

Here shall the sceptred mistress reign
Who heeds her meanest subject's call.

Sovereign of all their vast domain,
The queen, the handmaid of them all I
November 26, 1888.



FOB THE WINDOW IN ST. MARGARETS

TS MBMOBY OF A SON OF ABOHDEACON FASRAB

Afar he sleeps whose name is graven here.

Where loving hearts his early doom deplore ;
Youth, promise, virtue, all that made him dear
Heaven lent, earth borrowed, sorrowing to re-
store.
BosTOK, April 12, 1891.

JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL

1819-1891

Thou shouldst have sung the swan-song for the
choir
That filled our groves with music tiU the day



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184 BEFORE THE CURFEW

Lit the last hilltop with its reddening fire,
And evening listened for thy lingering lay.

But thou hast found thy Yoioe in realms afar
Where strains celestial blend their notes with
thine ;

Some cloudless sphere beneath a happier star
Wdoomes the bright-winged spirit we resign.

How Nature mourns thee in the still retreat
Where passed in peace thy love-enchanted hours I

Where shall she find an eye like thine to greet
Spring's earliest footprints on her opening
flowers?

Have the pale wayside weeds no fond regret
For him who read the secrets they enfold ?

Shall the proud spangles of the field forget
The verse that lent new glory to their gold ?

And ye whose carols wooed his infant ear,

Whose chants with answering woodnotes he re-
paid.

Have ye no song his spirit still may hear

From Elmwood's vaults of overarching shade?

Friends of his studious hours, who thronged to
teach

The deep-read scholar all your varied lore.
Shall he no longer seek your shelves to reach

The treasiue missing from his world-wide store ?



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JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL 186

This singer whom we long have held so dear
Was Nature's darling, shapely, strong, and fair ;

Of keenest wit, of judgment crystal-clear,
Easy of converse, courteous, debonair,

Fit for the loftiest or the lowliest lot,

Self-poised, imperial, yet of simplest ways ;

At home alike in castle or in cot,
True to his aim, let others blame or praise.

Freedom he found an heirloom firom his sires ;

Song, letters, statecraft, shared his years in turn ;
All went to feed the nation's altar-fires

Whose mourning children wreathe his funeral
urn.

He loved New England, — people, language, soil,
TJnweaned by exile from her arid breast.

Farewell awhile, white-handed son of toil,
Gro with her brown-armed laborers to thy rest.

Peace to thy slumber in the forest shade I
Poet and patriot, every gift was thine ;

Thy name shall live while summers bloom and fade.
And grateful Memory guard thy leafy shrine I



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POEMS FROM OVER THE TEACUPS



TO THE ELEVEN LADIES

WHO PRESENTED MS WITH A SILVKB LOYXNG CUP ON


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Online LibraryOliver Wendell HolmesThe writings of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Volume 13 → online text (page 9 of 14)