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Posts Tagged ‘Oliver Wendell Holmes’

(For the inauguration of the statue of
Governor Andrew Bingham, October 7, 1875)
 

Behold the shape our eyes have known!
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,
Even as the rooted mountain rock,
Pure as the quarry’s whitest block! 

Not his beneath the blood-red star
To win the soldier’s envied scar;
Unarmed he battled for the right,
In Duty’s never-ending 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,
First 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!
Too large his fame for her alone, –
A nation claims him as her own!

 

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For The Meeting Of The Massachusetts
…………….Medical Society, 1859
…….[In honor of Dr. Jacob Bigelow]

‘T is sweet to fight our battles o’er,
And crown with honest praise
The gray old chief, who strikes no more
The blow of better days.

Before the true and trusted sage
With willing hearts we bend,
When years have touched with hallowing age
Our Master, Guide, and Friend.

For all his manhood’s labor past,
For love and faith long tried,
His age is honored to the last,
Though strength and will have died.

But when, untamed by toil and strife,
Full in our front he stands,
The torch of light, the shield of life,
Still lifted in his hands,

 

No temple, though its walls resound

With bursts of ringing cheers,

Can hold the honors that surround

His manhood’s twice-told years!

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[written on the death of an old family servant
who died Jan.7, 1861]

Sexton! Martha’s dead and gone;
…….Toll the bell! toll the bell!
Her weary hands their labor cease;
Good night, poor Martha, – sleep in peace!
…….Toll the bell!

Sexton! Martha’s dead and gone;
…….Toll the bell! toll the bell!
For many a year has Martha said,
“I’m old and poor, – would I were dead!”
…….Toll the bell!

Sexton! Martha’s dead and gone;
…….Toll the bell! toll the bell!
She’ll bring no more, by day or night,
Her basket full of linen white,
…….Toll the bell!

Sexton! Martha’s dead and gone;
…….Toll the bell! toll the bell!
‘T is fitting she should lie below
A pure white sheet of drifted snow.
…….Toll the bell!

Sexton! Martha’s dead and gone;
…….Toll the bell! toll the bell!
Sleep, Martha, sleep, to wake in light,
Where all the robes are stainless white.
…….Toll the bell!

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Yes, dear departed, cherished days,
Could Memory’s hand restore
Your morning light, your evening rays,
From Time’s gray arm once more.
Then might this restless heart be still,
This straining eye might close,
And hope but fainting pinions fold,
While the fair phantoms rose.

But, like a child in ocean’s arms,
We strive against the stream,
Each moment farther from the shore
Where life’s young fountains gleam;
Each moment fainter wave the fields,
And wider rolls the sea;
The mist grows dark, – the sun goes down, –
Day breaks, – and where are we?

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.holmes

The friends that are, and friends that were,
What shallow waves divide!
I miss the form for many a year
Still seated at my side.

I miss him, yet I feel him still
Amidst our faithful band,
As if not death itself could chill
The warmth of friendship’s hand.

His story other lips may tell, –
For me the veil is drawn;
I only knew he loved me well,
He loved me – and is gone!

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For her golden wedding, Oct.18, 1875

“Lucy.” – The old familiar name
Is now, as always, pleasant,
Its liquid melody the same
Alike in past or present;
Let others call you what they will,
I know you’ll let me use it;
To me your name is Lucy still,
I cannot bear to lose it.

What visions of the past return
With Lucy’s image blended!
What memories from the silent urn
Of gentle lives long ended!
What dreams of childhood’s fleeting morn,
What starry aspirations,
That filled the misty days unborn
With fancy’s coruscations!

Ah, Lucy, life has swiftly sped
From April to November;
The summer blossoms all are shed
That you and I remember;
But while the vanished years we share
With mingling recollections,
How all their shadowy features wear
The hue of old affections!

Love called you.  He who stole your heart
Of sunshine half bereft us;
Our household’s garland fell apart
The morning that you left us;
The tears of tender girlhood streamed
Through sorrow’s opening sluices;
Less sweet our garden’s roses seemed,
Less blue its flower-de-luces.

That old regret is turned to smiles,
That parting sight to greeting;
I send my heart-throb fifty miles,
Though 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!

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…………To J.R. Lowell
………February 22, 1859

We will not speak of years to-night, –
For what have years to bring
But larger floods of love and light,
And sweeter songs to sing?

We will not drown in wordy praise
The kindly thoughts that rise;
If Friendship own one tender phrase,
He reads it in our eyes.

We need not waste our school-boy art
To gild this notch of Time; –
Forgive me if my wayward heart
Has throbbed in artless rhyme.

Enough for him the silent grasp
That knits us hand in hand,
And he the bracelet’s radiant clasp
That locks our circling band.

Strength to his hours of manly toil!
Peace to his starlit dreams!
Who loves alike the furrowed soil,
The music-haunted streams!

Sweet smiles to keep forever bright
The sunshine on his lips,
And faith that sees the ring of light
Round nature’s last eclipse!

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Like the tribes of Israel,
Fed on quails and manna,
Sherman and his glorious band
Journeyed through the rebel land,
Fed from Heaven’s all-bounteous hand,
Marching on Savannah!

As the moving pillar shone,
Streamed the starry banner
All day long in rosy light,
Flaming splendor all the night,
Till it swooped in eagle flight
Down on doomed Savannah!

Glory be to God on high!
Shout the loud Hosanna!
Treason’s wilderness is past,
Canaan’s shore is won at last,
Peal a nation’s trumpet-blast, –
Sherman’s in Savannah!

Soon shall Richmond’s tough old hide
Find a tough old tanner!
Soon from every rebel wall
Shall the rag of treason fall,
Till our banner flaps o’er all
As it crowns Savannah!

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I saw the curl of his waving lash,
And the glance of his knowing eye,
And I knew that he thought he was cutting a dash,
As his steed went thundering by.

And he may ride in the rattling gig,
Or flourish the Stanhope gay,
And dream that he looks exceeding big
To the people that walk in the way;

But he shall think, when the night is still,
On the stable-boy’s gathering numbers,
And the ghost of many a veteran bill
Shall hover around his slumbers;

The ghastly dun shall worry his sleep,
And constables cluster around him,
And he shall creep from the wood-hole deep
Where their spectre eyes have found him!

Ay! gather your reins, and crack your thong,
And bid your steed go faster;
He does not know, as he scrambles along,
That he has a fool for his master;

And hurry away on your lonely ride,
Nor deign from the mire to save me;
I will paddle it stoutly at your side
With the tandem that nature gave me!

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Thus I lift the sash, so long
Shut against the flight of song;
All too late for vain excuse, –
Lo, my captive rhymes are loose! 

Rhymes that, flitting through my brain,
Beat against my window-pane,
Some with gayly colored wings,
Some, alas! with venomed stings. 

Shall they bask in sunny rays?
Shall they feed on sugared praise?
Shall they stick with tangled feet
On the critic’s poisoned sheet? 

Are the outside winds too rough?
Is the world not wide enough?
Go, my winged verse, and try, –
Go like Uncle Toby’s fly!

 

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