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Posts Tagged ‘Oliver Wendell Holmes’

Slow toiling upward from the misty vale,
I leave the bright enamelled zones below;
No more for me their beauteous bloom shall glow,
Their lingering sweetness load the morning gale;
Few are the slender flowers, scentless, pale,
That on their ice-clad stems all trembling blow
Along the margin of unmelting snow;
Yet with unsaddened voice thy verge I hail,
White realm of peace above the flowering line;
Welcome thy frozen domes, thy rocky spines!
O’er thee undimmed the moon-girt planets shine,
On thy majestic altars fade the fires
That filled the air with smoke of vain desires,
And all the unclouded blue of heaven is thine!

 

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FESTIVAL OF THE ALUMNI, 1857

The noon of summer sheds its ray
On Harvard’s holy ground;
The Matron calls, the sons obey,
And gather smiling round.
CHORUS.
Then old and young together stand,
The sunshine and the snow,
As heart to heart, and hand in hand,
We sing before we go!

Her hundred opening doors have swung
Through every storied hall
The pealing echoes loud have rung,
‘Thrice welcome one and all!’
Then old and young together stand,
The sunshine and the snow,
As heart to heart, and hand in hand,
We sing before we go!

We floated through her peaceful bay,
To sail life’s stormy seas
But left our anchor where it lay
Beneath her green old trees.
Then old and young together stand,
The sunshine and the snow,
As heart to heart, and hand in hand,
We sing before we go!

As now we lift its lengthening chain,
That held us fast of old,
The rusted rings grow bright again,–
Their iron turns to gold.
Then old and young together stand,
The sunshine and the snow,
As heart to heart, and hand in hand,
We sing before we go!

Though scattered ere the setting sun,
As leaves when wild winds blow,
Our home is here, our hearts are one,
Till Charles forgets to flow.
Then old and young together stand,
The sunshine and the snow,
As heart to heart, and hand in hand,
We sing before we go!

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Her hands are cold; her face is white;
No more her pulses come and go;
Her eyes are shut to life and light;–
Fold the white vesture, snow on snow,
And lay her where the violets blow.

But not beneath a graven stone,
To plead for tears with alien eyes;
A slender cross of wood alone
Shall say, that here a maiden lies
In peace beneath the peaceful skies.

And gray old trees of hugest limb
Shall wheel their circling shadows round
To make the scorching sunlight dim
That drinks the greenness from the ground,
And drop their dead leaves on her mound.

When o’er their boughs the squirrels run,
And through their leaves the robins call,
And, ripening in the autumn sun,
The acorns and the chestnuts fall,
Doubt not that she will heed them all.

For her the morning choir shall sing
Its matins from the branches high,
And every minstrel-voice of Spring,
That trills beneath the April sky,
Shall greet her with its earliest cry.

When, turning round their dial-track,
Eastward the lengthening shadows pass,
Her little mourners, clad in black,
The crickets, sliding through the grass,
Shall pipe for her an evening mass.

At last the rootlets of the trees
Shall find the prison where she lies,
And bear the buried dust they seize
In leaves and blossoms to the skies.
So may the soul that warmed it rise!

If any, born of kindlier blood,
Should ask, What maiden lies below?
Say only this: A tender bud,
That tried to blossom in the snow,
Lies withered where the violets blow.

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Not charity we ask,
Nor yet thy gift refuse;
Please thy light fancy with the easy task
Only to look and choose. 

The little-heeded toy
That wins thy treasured gold
May be the dearest memory, holiest joy,
Of coming years untold. 

Heaven rains on every heart,
But there its showers divide,
The drops of mercy choosing, as they part,
The dark or glowing side. 

One kindly deed may turn
The fountain of thy soul
To love’s sweet day-star, that shall o’er thee burn
Long as its currents roll! 

The pleasures thou hast planned, –
Where shall their memory be
When the white angel with the freezing hand
Shall sit and watch by thee? 

Living, thou dost not live,
If mercy’s spring run dry;
What Heaven has lent thee wilt thou freely give,
Dying, thou shalt not die! 

He promised even so!
To thee his lips repeat, –
Behold, the tears that soothed thy sister’s woe
Have washed thy Master’s feet.

 

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We trust and fear, we question and believe,
From life’s dark threads a trembling faith to weave,
Frail as the web that misty night has spun,
Whose dew-gemmed awnings glitter in the sun.
While the calm centuries spell their lessons out,
Each truth we conquer spreads the realm of doubt;
When Sinai’s summit was Jehovah’s throne,
The chosen Prophet knew his voice alone;
When Pilate’s hall that awful question heard,
The Heavenly Captive answered not a word.

Eternal Truth! beyond our hopes and fears
Sweep the vast orbits of thy myriad spheres!
From age to age, while History carves sublime
On her waste rock the flaming curves of time,
How the wild swayings of our planet show
That worlds unseen surround the world we know.

 

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The seed that wasteful autumn cast
To waver on its stormy blast,
Long o’er the wintry desert tost,
Its living germ has never lost.
Dropped by the weary tempest’s wing,
It feels the kindling ray of spring,
And, starting from its dream of death,
Pours on the air its perfumed breath.
 

So, parted by the rolling flood,
The love that springs from common blood
Needs but a single sunlit hour
Of mingling smiles to bud and flower;
Unharmed its slumbering life has flown,
From shore to shore, from zone to zone,
Where summer’s falling roses stain
The tepid waves of Pontchartrain,
Or where the lichen creeps below
Katahdin’s wreaths of whirling snow. 

Though fiery sun and stiffening cold
May change the fair ancestral mould,
No winter chills, no summer drains
The life-blood drawn from English veins,
Still bearing whereso’er it flows
The love that with its fountain rose,
Unchanged by space, unwronged by time,
From age to age, from clime to clime!

 

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I love to hear thine earnest voice,
Wherever thou art hid,
Thou testy little dogmatist,
Thou pretty Katydid!
Thou mindest me of gentlefolks,-
Old gentlefolks are they,-
Thou say’st an undisputed thing
In such a solemn way.

Thou art a female, Katydid!
I know it by the trill
That quivers through thy piercing notes,
So petulant and shrill;
I think there is a knot of you
Beneath the hollow tree,-
A knot of spinster Katydids,-
Do Katydids drink tea?

Oh tell me where did Katy live,
And what did Katy do?
And was she very fair and young,
And yet so wicked, too?
Did Katy love a naughty man,
Or kiss more cheeks than one?
I warrant Katy did no more
Than many a Kate has done.

Dear me! I’ll tell you all about
My fuss with little Jane,
And Ann, with whom I used to walk
So often down the lane,
And all that tore their locks of black,
Or wet their eyes of blue,-
Pray tell me, sweetest Katydid,
What did poor Katy do?

Ah no! the living oak shall crash,
That stood for ages still,
The rock shall rend its mossy base
And thunder down the hill,
Before the little Katydid
Shall add one word, to tell
The mystic story of the maid
Whose name she knows so well.

Peace to the ever-murmuring race!
And when the latest one
Shall fold in death her feeble wings
Beneath the autumn sun,
Then shall she raise her fainting voice,
And lift her drooping lid,
And then the child of future years
Shall hear what Katy did.

 

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NAY, blame me not; I might have spared
Your patience many a trivial verse,
Yet these my earlier welcome shared,
So, let the better shield the worse.

And some might say, ‘Those ruder songs
Had freshness which the new have lost;
To spring the opening leaf belongs,
The chestnut-burs await the frost.’

When those I wrote, my locks were brown,
When these I write–ah, well a-day!
The autumn thistle’s silvery down
Is not the purple bloom of May.

Go, little book, whose pages hold
Those garnered years in loving trust;
How long before your blue and gold
Shall fade and whiten in the dust?

O sexton of the alcoved tomb,
Where souls in leathern cerements lie,
Tell me each living poet’s doom!
How long before his book shall die?

It matters little, soon or late,
A day, a month, a year, an age,–
I read oblivion in its date,
And Finis on its title-page.

Before we sighed, our griefs were told;
Before we smiled, our joys were sung;
And all our passions shaped of old
In accents lost to mortal tongue.

In vain a fresher mould we seek,–
Can all the varied phrases tell
That Babel’s wandering children speak
How thrushes sing or lilacs smell?

Caged in the poet’s lonely heart,
Love wastes unheard its tenderest tone;
The soul that sings must dwell apart,
Its inward melodies unknown.

Deal gently with us, ye who read
Our largest hope is unfulfilled,–
The promise still outruns the deed,–
The tower, but not the spire, we build.

Our whitest pearl we never find;
Our ripest fruit we never reach;
The flowering moments of the mind
Drop half their petals in our speech.

These are my blossoms; if they wear
One streak of morn or evening’s glow,
Accept them; but to me more fair
The buds of song that never blow.

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……The Young Girl’s Poem

Kiss mine eyelids, beauteous Morn,
Blushing into life new-born!
Lend me violets for my hair,
And thy russet robe to wear,
And thy ring of rosiest hue
Set in drops of diamond dew! 

Kiss my cheek, thou noontide ray,
From my Love so far away!
Let thy splendor streaming down
Turn its pallid lilies brown,
Till its darkening shades reveal
Where his passion pressed its seal! 

Kiss my lips, thou Lord of light,
Kiss my lips a soft good-night!
Westward sinks thy golden car;
Leave me but the evening star,
And my solace that shall be,
Borrowing all its light from thee!

 

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O Love Divine, that stooped to share
Our sharpest pang, our bitterest tear,
On Thee we cast each earth-born care,
We smile at pain while Thou art near!

Though long the weary way we tread,
And sorrow crown each lingering year,
No path we shun, no darkness dread,
Our hearts still whispering, Thou art near! 

When drooping pleasure turns to grief,
And trembling faith is changed to fear,
The murmuring wind, the quivering leaf,
Shall softly tell us, Thou art near! 

On Thee we fling our burdening woe,
O Love Divine, forever dear,
Content to suffer while we know,
Living and dying, Thou art near!

 

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