Verses For After-Dinner
PHI BETA KAPPA SOCIETY, 1844
I WAS thinking last night, as I sat in the cars,
With the charmingest prospect of cinders and stars,
Next Thursday is--bless me!--how hard it will be,
If that cannibal president calls upon me!
There is nothing on earth that he will not devour,
From a tutor in seed to a freshman in flower;
No sage is too gray, and no youth is too green,
And you can't be too plump, though you're never too lean.
While others enlarge on the boiled and the roast,
He serves a raw clergyman up with a toast,
Or catches some doctor, quite tender and young,
And basely insists on a bit of his tongue.
Poor victim, prepared for his classical spit,
With a stuffing of praise and a basting of wit,
You may twitch at your collar and wrinkle your brow,
But you're up on your legs, and you're in for it now.
Oh think of your friends,--they are waiting to hear
Those jokes that are thought so remarkably queer;
And all the Jack Horners of metrical buns
Are prying and fingering to pick out the puns.
Those thoughts which, like chickens, will always thrive best
When reared by the heat of the natural nest,
Will perish if hatched from their embryo dream
In the mist and the glow of convivial steam.
Oh pardon me, then, if I meekly retire,
With a very small flash of ethereal fire;
No rubbing will kindle your Lucifer match,
If the fiz does not follow the primitive scratch.
Dear friends, who are listening so sweetly the while,
With your lips double--reefed in a snug little smile,
I leave you two fables, both drawn from the deep,--
The shells you can drop, but the pearls you may keep.
. . . . . . . . . . .
The fish called the FLOUNDER, perhaps you may know,
Has one side for use and another for show;
One side for the public, a delicate brown,
And one that is white, which he always keeps down.
A very young flounder, the flattest of flats,
(And they 're none of them thicker than opera hats,)
Was speaking more freely than charity taught
Of a friend and relation that just had been caught.
'My! what an exposure! just see what a sight!
I blush for my race,--he is showing his white
Such spinning and wriggling,--why, what does he wish?
How painfully small to respectable fish!'
Then said an Old SCULPIN,--'My freedom excuse,
You're playing the cobbler with holes in your shoes;
Your brown side is up,--but just wait till you're tried
And you'll find that all flounders are white on one side.'
. . . . . . . . . .
There's a slice near the PICKEREL'S pectoral fins,
Where the thorax leaves off and the venter begins,
Which his brother, survivor of fish-hooks and lines,
Though fond of his family, never declines.
He loves his relations; he feels they'll be missed;
But that one little tidbit he cannot resist;
So your bait may be swallowed, no matter how fast,
For you catch your next fish with a piece of the last.
And thus, O survivor, whose merciless fate
Is to take the next hook with the president's bait,
You are lost while you snatch from the end of his line
The morsel he rent from this bosom of mine!
To My Old Readers
You know 'The Teacups,' that congenial set
Which round the Teapot you have often met;
The grave DICTATOR, him you knew of old,--
Knew as the shepherd of another fold
Grayer he looks, less youthful, but the same
As when you called him by a different name.
Near him the MISTRESS, whose experienced skill
Has taught her duly every cup to fill;
'Weak;' 'strong;' 'cool;' 'lukewarm;' 'hot as you can pour;'
'No sweetening;' 'sugared;' 'two lumps;' 'one lump more.'
Next, the PROFESSOR, whose scholastic phrase
At every turn the teacher's tongue betrays,
Trying so hard to make his speech precise
The captious listener finds it overnice.
Nor be forgotten our ANNEXES twain,
Nor HE, the owner of the squinting brain,
Which, while its curious fancies we pursue,
Oft makes us question, 'Are we crack-brained too?'
Along the board our growing list extends,
As one by one we count our clustering friends,--
The youthful DOCTOR waiting for his share
Of fits and fevers when his crown gets bare;
In strong, dark lines our square-nibbed pen should draw
The lordly presence of the MAN OF LAW;
Our bashful TUTOR claims a humbler place,
A lighter touch, his slender form to trace.
Mark the fair lady he is seated by,--
Some say he is her lover,--some deny,--
Watch them together,--time alone can show
If dead-ripe friendship turns to love or no.
Where in my list of phrases shall I seek
The fitting words of NUMBER FIVE to speak?
Such task demands a readier pen than mine,--
What if I steal the Tutor's Valentine?
Why should I call her gracious, winning, fair?
Why with the loveliest of her sex compare?
Those varied charms have many a Muse inspired,--
At last their worn superlatives have tired;
Wit, beauty, sweetness, each alluring grace,
All these in honeyed verse have found their place;
I need them not,--two little words I find
Which hold them all in happiest form combined;
No more with baffled language will I strive,--
All in one breath I utter: Number Five!
Now count our teaspoons--if you care to learn
How many tinkling cups were served in turn,--
Add all together, you will find them ten,--
Our young MUSICIAN joined us now and then.
Our bright DELILAH you must needs recall,
The comely handmaid, youngest of us all;
Need I remind you how the little maid
Came at a pinch to our Professor's aid,--
Trimmed his long locks with unrelenting shears
And eased his looks of half a score of years?
Sometimes, at table, as you well must know,
The stream of talk will all at once run low,
The air seems smitten with a sudden chill,
The wit grows silent and the gossip still;
This was our poet's chance, the hour of need,
When rhymes and stories we were used to read.
One day a whisper round the teacups stole,--
'No scrap of paper in the silver bowl!'
(Our 'poet's corner' may I not expect
My kindly reader still may recollect?)
'What! not a line to keep our souls alive?'
Spoke in her silvery accents Number Five.
'No matter, something we must find to read,--
Find it or make it,--yes, we must indeed!
Now I remember I have seen at times
Some curious stories in a book of rhymes,--
How certain secrets, long in silence sealed,
In after days were guessed at or revealed.
Those stories, doubtless, some of you must know,--
They all were written many a year ago;
But an old story, be it false or true,
Twice told, well told, is twice as good as new;
Wait but three sips and I will go myself,
And fetch the book of verses from its shelf.'
No time was lost in finding what she sought,--
Gone but one moment,--lo! the book is brought.
'Now, then, Professor, fortune has decreed
That you, this evening, shall be first to read,--
Lucky for us that listen, for in fact
Who reads this poem must know how to _act_.'
Right well she knew that in his greener age
He had a mighty hankering for the stage.
The patient audience had not long to wait;
Pleased with his chance, he smiled and took the bait;
Through his wild hair his coaxing fingers ran,--
He spread the page before him and began.
Poem At The Centennial Anniversary Dinner Of The Massachusetts Medical Society
JUNE 8, 1881
THREE paths there be where Learning's favored sons,
Trained in the schools which hold her favored ones,
Follow their several stars with separate aim;
Each has its honors, each its special claim.
Bred in the fruitful cradle of the East,
First, as of oldest lineage, comes the Priest;
The Lawyer next, in wordy conflict strong,
Full armed to battle for the right,--or wrong;
Last, he whose calling finds its voice in deeds,
Frail Nature's helper in her sharpest needs.
Each has his gifts, his losses and his gains,
Each his own share of pleasures and of pains;
No life-long aim with steadfast eye pursued
Finds a smooth pathway all with roses strewed;
Trouble belongs to man of woman born,--
Tread where he may, his foot will find its thorn.
Of all the guests at life's perennial feast,
Who of her children sits above the Priest?
For him the broidered robe, the carven seat,
Pride at his beck, and beauty at his feet,
For him the incense fumes, the wine is poured,
Himself a God, adoring and adored!
His the first welcome when our hearts rejoice,
His in our dying ear the latest voice,
Font, altar, grave, his steps on all attend,
Our staff, our stay, our all but heavenly friend!
Where is the meddling hand that dares to probe
The secret grief beneath his sable robe?
How grave his port! how every gesture tells
Here truth abides, here peace forever dwells;
Vex not his lofty soul with comments vain;
Faith asks no questions; silence, ye profane!
Alas! too oft while all is calm without
The stormy spirit wars with endless doubt;
This is the mocking spectre, scarce concealed
Behind tradition's bruised and battered shield.
He sees the sleepless critic, age by age,
Scrawl his new readings on the hallowed page,
The wondrous deeds that priests and prophets saw
Dissolved in legend, crystallized in law,
And on the soil where saints and martyrs trod
Altars new builded to the Unknown God;
His shrines imperilled, his evangels torn,--
He dares not limp, but ah! how sharp his thorn!
Yet while God's herald questions as he reads
The outworn dogmas of his ancient creeds,
Drops from his ritual the exploded verse,
Blots from its page the Athanasian curse,
Though by the critic's dangerous art perplexed,
His holy life is Heaven's unquestioned text;
That shining guidance doubt can never mar,--
The pillar's flame, the light of Bethlehem's star!
Strong is the moral blister that will draw
Laid on the conscience of the Man of Law
Whom blindfold Justice lends her eyes to see
Truth in the scale that holds his promised fee.
What! Has not every lie its truthful side,
Its honest fraction, not to be denied?
Per contra,--ask the moralist,--in sooth
Has not a lie its share in every truth?
Then what forbids an honest man to try
To find the truth that lurks in every lie,
And just as fairly call on truth to yield
The lying fraction in its breast concealed?
So the worst rogue shall claim a ready friend
His modest virtues boldly to defend,
And he who shows the record of a saint
See himself blacker than the devil could paint.
What struggles to his captive soul belong
Who loves the right, yet combats for the wrong,
Who fights the battle he would fain refuse,
And wins, well knowing that he ought to lose,
Who speaks with glowing lips and look sincere
In spangled words that make the worse appear
The better reason; who, behind his mask,
Hides his true self and blushes at his task,--
What quips, what quillets cheat the inward scorn
That mocks such triumph? Has he not his thorn?
Yet stay thy judgment; were thy life the prize,
Thy death the forfeit, would thy cynic eyes
See fault in him who bravely dares defend
The cause forlorn, the wretch without a friend
Nay, though the rightful side is wisdom's choice,
Wrong has its rights and claims a champion's voice;
Let the strong arm be lifted for the weak,
For the dumb lips the fluent pleader speak;--
When with warm 'rebel' blood our street was dyed
Who took, unawed, the hated hirelings' side?
No greener civic wreath can Adams claim,
No brighter page the youthful Quincy's name!
How blest is he who knows no meaner strife
Than Art's long battle with the foes of life!
No doubt assails him, doing still his best,
And trusting kindly Nature for the rest;
No mocking conscience tears the thin disguise
That wraps his breast, and tells him that he lies.
He comes: the languid sufferer lifts his head
And smiles a welcome from his weary bed;
He speaks: what music like the tones that tell,
'Past is the hour of danger,--all is well!'
How can he feel the petty stings of grief
Whose cheering presence always brings relief?
What ugly dreams can trouble his repose
Who yields himself to soothe another's woes?
Hour after hour the busy day has found
The good physician on his lonely round;
Mansion and hovel, low and lofty door,
He knows, his journeys every path explore,--
Where the cold blast has struck with deadly chill
The sturdy dweller on the storm-swept hill,
Where by the stagnant marsh the sickening gale
Has blanched the poisoned tenants of the vale,
Where crushed and maimed the bleeding victim lies,
Where madness raves, where melancholy sighs,
And where the solemn whisper tells too plain
That all his science, all his art, were vain.
How sweet his fireside when the day is done
And cares have vanished with the setting sun!
Evening at last its hour of respite brings
And on his couch his weary length he flings.
Soft be thy pillow, servant of mankind,
Lulled by an opiate Art could never find;
Sweet be thy slumber,--thou hast earned it well,--
Pleasant thy dreams! Clang! goes the midnight bell!
Darkness and storm! the home is far away
That waits his coming ere the break of day;
The snow-clad pines their wintry plumage toss,--
Doubtful the frozen stream his road must cross;
Deep lie the drifts, the slanted heaps have shut
The hardy woodman in his mountain hut,--
Why should thy softer frame the tempest brave?
Hast thou no life, no health, to lose or save?
Look! read the answer in his patient eyes,--
For him no other voice when suffering cries;
Deaf to the gale that all around him blows,
A feeble whisper calls him,--and he goes.
Or seek the crowded city,--summer's heat
Glares burning, blinding, in the narrow street,
Still, noisome, deadly, sleeps the envenomed air,
Unstirred the yellow flag that says 'Beware!'
Tempt not thy fate,--one little moment's breath
Bears on its viewless wing the seeds of death;
Thou at whose door the gilded chariots stand,
Whose dear-bought skill unclasps the miser's hand,
Turn from thy fatal quest, nor cast away
That life so precious; let a meaner prey
Feed the destroyer's hunger; live to bless
Those happier homes that need thy care no less!
Smiling he listens; has he then a charm
Whose magic virtues peril can disarm?
No safeguard his; no amulet he wears,
Too well he knows that Nature never spares
Her truest servant, powerless to defend
From her own weapons her unshrinking friend.
He dares the fate the bravest well might shun,
Nor asks reward save only Heaven's 'Well done!'
Such are the toils, the perils that he knows,
Days without rest and nights without repose,
Yet all unheeded for the love he bears
His art, his kind, whose every grief he shares.
Harder than these to know how small the part
Nature's proud empire yields to striving Art;
How, as the tide that rolls around the sphere
Laughs at the mounds that delving arms uprear,--
Spares some few roods of oozy earth, but still
Wastes and rebuilds the planet at its will,
Comes at its ordered season, night or noon,
Led by the silver magnet of the moon,--
So life's vast tide forever comes and goes,
Unchecked, resistless, as it ebbs and flows.
Hardest of all, when Art has done her best,
To find the cuckoo brooding in her nest;
The shrewd adventurer, fresh from parts unknown,
Kills off the patients Science thought her own;
Towns from a nostrum-vender get their name,
Fences and walls the cure-all drug proclaim,
Plasters and pads the willing world beguile,
Fair Lydia greets us with astringent smile,
Munchausen's fellow-countryman unlocks
His new Pandora's globule-holding box,
And as King George inquired, with puzzled grin,
'How--how the devil get the apple in?'
So we ask how,--with wonder-opening eyes,--
Such pygmy pills can hold such giant lies!
Yes, sharp the trials, stern the daily tasks
That suffering Nature from her servant asks;
His the kind office dainty menials scorn,
His path how hard,--at every step a thorn!
What does his saddening, restless slavery buy?
What save a right to live, a chance to die,--
To live companion of disease and pain,
To die by poisoned shafts untimely slain?
Answer from hoary eld, majestic shades,--
From Memphian courts, from Delphic colonnades,
Speak in the tones that Persia's despot heard
When nations treasured every golden word
The wandering echoes wafted o'er the seas,
From the far isle that held Hippocrates;
And thou, best gift that Pergamus could send
Imperial Rome, her noblest Caesar's friend,
Master of masters, whose unchallenged sway
Not bold Vesalius dared to disobey;
Ye who while prophets dreamed of dawning times
Taught your rude lessons in Salerno's rhymes,
And ye, the nearer sires, to whom we owe
The better share of all the best we know,
In every land an ever-growing train,
Since wakening Science broke her rusted chain,--
Speak from the past, and say what prize was sent
To crown the toiling years so freely spent!
List while they speak:
In life's uneven road
Our willing hands have eased our brothers' load;
One forehead smoothed, one pang of torture less,
One peaceful hour a sufferer's couch to bless,
The smile brought back to fever's parching lips,
The light restored to reason in eclipse,
Life's treasure rescued like a burning brand
Snatched from the dread destroyer's wasteful hand;
Such were our simple records day by day,
For gains like these we wore our lives away.
In toilsome paths our daily bread we sought,
But bread from heaven attending angels brought;
Pain was our teacher, speaking to the heart,
Mother of pity, nurse of pitying art;
Our lesson learned, we reached the peaceful shore
Where the pale sufferer asks our aid no more,--
These gracious words our welcome, our reward
Ye served your brothers; ye have served your Lord!
THESE hallowed precincts, long to memory dear,
Smile with fresh welcome as our feet draw near;
With softer gales the opening leaves are fanned,
With fairer hues the kindling flowers expand,
The rose-bush reddens with the blush of June,
The groves are vocal with their minstrels' tune,
The mighty elm, beneath whose arching shade
The wandering children of the forest strayed,
Greets the bright morning in its bridal dress,
And spreads its arms the gladsome dawn to bless.
Is it an idle dream that nature shares
Our joys, our griefs, our pastimes, and our cares?
Is there no summons when, at morning's call,
The sable vestments of the darkness fall?
Does not meek evening's low-voiced Ave blend
With the soft vesper as its notes ascend?
Is there no whisper in the perfumed air
When the sweet bosom of the rose is bare?
Does not the sunshine call us to rejoice?
Is there no meaning in the storm-cloud's voice?
No silent message when from midnight skies
Heaven looks upon us with its myriad eyes?
Or shift the mirror; say our dreams diffuse
O'er life's pale landscape their celestial hues,
Lend heaven the rainbow it has never known,
And robe the earth in glories not its own,
Sing their own music in the summer breeze,
With fresher foliage clothe the stately trees,
Stain the June blossoms with a livelier dye
And spread a bluer azure on the sky,--
Blest be the power that works its lawless will
And finds the weediest patch an Eden still;
No walls so fair as those our fancies build,--
No views so bright as those our visions gild!
So ran my lines, as pen and paper met,
The truant goose-quill travelling like Planchette;
Too ready servant, whose deceitful ways
Full many a slipshod line, alas! betrays;
Hence of the rhyming thousand not a few
Have builded worse--a great deal--than they knew.
What need of idle fancy to adorn
Our mother's birthplace on her birthday morn?
Hers are the blossoms of eternal spring,
From these green boughs her new-fledged birds take wing,
These echoes hear their earliest carols sung,
In this old nest the brood is ever young.
If some tired wanderer, resting from his flight,
Amid the gay young choristers alight,
These gather round him, mark his faded plumes
That faintly still the far-off grove perfumes,
And listen, wondering if some feeble note
Yet lingers, quavering in his weary throat:--
I, whose fresh voice yon red-faced temple knew,
What tune is left me, fit to sing to you?
Ask not the grandeurs of a labored song,
But let my easy couplets slide along;
Much could I tell you that you know too well;
Much I remember, but I will not tell;
Age brings experience; graybeards oft are wise,
But oh! how sharp a youngster's ears and eyes!
My cheek was bare of adolescent down
When first I sought the academic town;
Slow rolls the coach along the dusty road,
Big with its filial and parental load;
The frequent hills, the lonely woods are past,
The school-boy's chosen home is reached at last.
I see it now, the same unchanging spot,
The swinging gate, the little garden plot,
The narrow yard, the rock that made its floor,
The flat, pale house, the knocker-garnished door,
The small, trim parlor, neat, decorous, chill,
The strange, new faces, kind, but grave and still;
Two, creased with age,--or what I then called age,--
Life's volume open at its fiftieth page;
One, a shy maiden's, pallid, placid, sweet
As the first snow-drop, which the sunbeams greet;
One, the last nursling's; slight she was, and fair,
Her smooth white forehead warmed with auburn hair;
Last came the virgin Hymen long had spared,
Whose daily cares the grateful household shared,
Strong, patient, humble; her substantial frame
Stretched the chaste draperies I forbear to name.
Brave, but with effort, had the school-boy come
To the cold comfort of a stranger's home;
How like a dagger to my sinking heart
Came the dry summons, 'It is time to part;
Good-by!' 'Goo-ood-by!' one fond maternal kiss. . . .
Homesick as death! Was ever pang like this?
Too young as yet with willing feet to stray
From the tame fireside, glad to get away,--
Too old to let my watery grief appear,--
And what so bitter as a swallowed tear!
One figure still my vagrant thoughts pursue;
First boy to greet me, Ariel, where are you?
Imp of all mischief, heaven alone knows how
You learned it all,--are you an angel now,
Or tottering gently down the slope of years,
Your face grown sober in the vale of tears?
Forgive my freedom if you are breathing still;
If in a happier world, I know you will.
You were a school-boy--what beneath the sun
So like a monkey? I was also one.
Strange, sure enough, to see what curious shoots
The nursery raises from the study's roots!
In those old days the very, very good
Took up more room--a little--than they should;
Something too much one's eyes encountered then
Of serious youth and funeral-visaged men;
The solemn elders saw life's mournful half,--
Heaven sent this boy, whose mission was to laugh,
Drollest of buffos, Nature's odd protest,
A catbird squealing in a blackbird's nest.
Kind, faithful Nature! While the sour-eyed Scot--
Her cheerful smiles forbidden or forgot--
Talks only of his preacher and his kirk,--
Hears five-hour sermons for his Sunday work,--
Praying and fasting till his meagre face
Gains its due length, the genuine sign of grace,--
An Ayrshire mother in the land of Knox
Her embryo poet in his cradle rocks;--
Nature, long shivering in her dim eclipse,
Steals in a sunbeam to those baby lips;
So to its home her banished smile returns,
And Scotland sweetens with the song of Burns!
The morning came; I reached the classic hall;
A clock-face eyed me, staring from the wall;
Beneath its hands a printed line I read
YOUTH IS LIFE'S SEED-TIME: so the clock-face said:
Some took its counsel, as the sequel showed,--
Sowed,--their wild oats,--and reaped as they had sowed.
How all comes back! the upward slanting floor,--
The masters' thrones that flank the central door,--
The long, outstretching alleys that divide
The rows of desks that stand on either side,--
The staring boys, a face to every desk,
Bright, dull, pale, blooming, common, picturesque.
Grave is the Master's look; his forehead wears
Thick rows of wrinkles, prints of worrying cares;
Uneasy lie the heads of all that rule,
His most of all whose kingdom is a school.
Supreme he sits; before the awful frown
That bends his brows the boldest eye goes down;
Not more submissive Israel heard and saw
At Sinai's foot the Giver of the Law.
Less stern he seems, who sits in equal Mate
On the twin throne and shares the empire's weight;
Around his lips the subtle life that plays
Steals quaintly forth in many a jesting phrase;
A lightsome nature, not so hard to chafe,
Pleasant when pleased; rough-handled, not so safe;
Some tingling memories vaguely I recall,
But to forgive him. God forgive us all!
One yet remains, whose well-remembered name
Pleads in my grateful heart its tender claim;
His was the charm magnetic, the bright look
That sheds its sunshine on the dreariest book;
A loving soul to every task he brought
That sweetly mingled with the lore he taught;
Sprung from a saintly race that never could
From youth to age be anything but good,
His few brief years in holiest labors spent,
Earth lost too soon the treasure heaven had lent.
Kindest of teachers, studious to divine
Some hint of promise in my earliest line,
These faint and faltering words thou canst not hear
Throb from a heart that holds thy memory dear.
As to the traveller's eye the varied plain
Shows through the window of the flying train,
A mingled landscape, rather felt than seen,
A gravelly bank, a sudden flash of green,
A tangled wood, a glittering stream that flows
Through the cleft summit where the cliff once rose,
All strangely blended in a hurried gleam,
Rock, wood, waste, meadow, village, hill-side, stream,--
So, as we look behind us, life appears,
Seen through the vista of our bygone years.
Yet in the dead past's shadow-filled domain,
Some vanished shapes the hues of life retain;
Unbidden, oft, before our dreaming eyes
From the vague mists in memory's path they rise.
So comes his blooming image to my view,
The friend of joyous days when life was new,
Hope yet untamed, the blood of youth unchilled,
No blank arrear of promise unfulfilled,
Life's flower yet hidden in its sheltering fold,
Its pictured canvas yet to be unrolled.
His the frank smile I vainly look to greet,
His the warm grasp my clasping hand should meet;
How would our lips renew their school-boy talk,
Our feet retrace the old familiar walk!
For thee no more earth's cheerful morning shines
Through the green fringes of the tented pines;
Ah me! is heaven so far thou canst not hear,
Or is thy viewless spirit hovering near,
A fair young presence, bright with morning's glow,
The fresh-cheeked boy of fifty years ago?
Yes, fifty years, with all their circling suns,
Behind them all my glance reverted runs;
Where now that time remote, its griefs, its joys,
Where are its gray-haired men, its bright-haired boys?
Where is the patriarch time could hardly tire,--
The good old, wrinkled, immemorial 'squire '?
(An honest treasurer, like a black-plumed swan,
Not every day our eyes may look upon.)
Where the tough champion who, with Calvin's sword,
In wordy conflicts battled for the Lord?
Where the grave scholar, lonely, calm, austere,
Whose voice like music charmed the listening ear,
Whose light rekindled, like the morning star
Still shines upon us through the gates ajar?
Where the still, solemn, weary, sad-eyed man,
Whose care-worn face and wandering eyes would scan,--
His features wasted in the lingering strife
With the pale foe that drains the student's life?
Where my old friend, the scholar, teacher, saint,
Whose creed, some hinted, showed a speck of taint;
He broached his own opinion, which is not
Lightly to be forgiven or forgot;
Some riddle's point,--I scarce remember now,--
Homoi-, perhaps, where they said homo-ou.
(If the unlettered greatly wish to know
Where lies the difference betwixt oi and o,
Those of the curious who have time may search
Among the stale conundrums of their church.)
Beneath his roof his peaceful life I shared,
And for his modes of faith I little cared,--
I, taught to judge men's dogmas by their deeds,
Long ere the days of india-rubber creeds.
Why should we look one common faith to find,
Where one in every score is color-blind?
If here on earth they know not red from green,
Will they see better into things unseen!
Once more to time's old graveyard I return
And scrape the moss from memory's pictured urn.
Who, in these days when all things go by steam,
Recalls the stage-coach with its four-horse team?
Its sturdy driver,--who remembers him?
Or the old landlord, saturnine and grim,
Who left our hill-top for a new abode
And reared his sign-post farther down the road?
Still in the waters of the dark Shawshine
Do the young bathers splash and think they're clean?
Do pilgrims find their way to Indian Ridge,
Or journey onward to the far-off bridge,
And bring to younger ears the story back
Of the broad stream, the mighty Merrimac?
Are there still truant feet that stray beyond
These circling bounds to Pomp's or Haggett's Pond,
Or where the legendary name recalls
The forest's earlier tenant,--'Deerjump Falls'?
Yes, every nook these youthful feet explore,
Just as our sires and grand sires did of yore;
So all life's opening paths, where nature led
Their father's feet, the children's children tread.
Roll the round century's fivescore years away,
Call from our storied past that earliest day
When great Eliphalet (I can see him now,--
Big name, big frame, big voice, and beetling brow),
Then young Eliphalet,--ruled the rows of boys
In homespun gray or old-world corduroys,--
And save for fashion's whims, the benches show
The self-same youths, the very boys we know.
Time works strange marvels: since I trod the green
And swung the gates, what wonders I have seen!
But come what will,--the sky itself may fall,--
As things of course the boy accepts them all.
The prophet's chariot, drawn by steeds of flame,
For daily use our travelling millions claim;
The face we love a sunbeam makes our own;
No more the surgeon hears the sufferer's groan;
What unwrit histories wrapped in darkness lay
Till shovelling Schliemann bared them to the day!
Your Richelieu says, and says it well, my lord,
The pen is (sometimes) mightier than the sword;
Great is the goosequill, say we all; Amen!
Sometimes the spade is mightier than the pen;
It shows where Babel's terraced walls were raised,
The slabs that cracked when Nimrod's palace blazed,
Unearths Mycenee, rediscovers Troy,--
Calmly he listens, that immortal boy.
A new Prometheus tips our wands with fire,
A mightier Orpheus strains the whispering wire,
Whose lightning thrills the lazy winds outrun
And hold the hours as Joshua stayed the sun,--
So swift, in truth, we hardly find a place
For those dim fictions known as time and space.
Still a new miracle each year supplies,--
See at his work the chemist of the skies,
Who questions Sirius in his tortured rays
And steals the secret of the solar blaze;
Hush! while the window-rattling bugles play
The nation's airs a hundred miles away!
That wicked phonograph! hark! how it swears!
Turn it again and make it say its prayers!
And was it true, then, what the story said
Of Oxford's friar and his brazen head?
While wondering Science stands, herself perplexed
At each day's miracle, and asks 'What next?'
The immortal boy, the coming heir of all,
Springs from his desk to 'urge the flying ball,'
Cleaves with his bending oar the glassy waves,
With sinewy arm the dashing current braves,
The same bright creature in these haunts of ours
That Eton shadowed with her 'antique towers.'
Boy! Where is he? the long-limbed youth inquires,
Whom his rough chin with manly pride inspires;
Ah, when the ruddy cheek no longer glows,
When the bright hair is white as winter snows,
When the dim eye has lost its lambent flame,
Sweet to his ear will be his school-boy name
Nor think the difference mighty as it seems
Between life's morning and its evening dreams;
Fourscore, like twenty, has its tasks and toys;
In earth's wide school-house all are girls and boys.
Brothers, forgive my wayward fancy. Who
Can guess beforehand what his pen will do?
Too light my strain for listeners such as these,
Whom graver thoughts and soberer speech shall please.
Is he not here whose breath of holy song
Has raised the downcast eyes of Faith so long?
Are they not here, the strangers in your gates,
For whom the wearied ear impatient waits,--
The large-brained scholars whom their toils release,--
The bannered heralds of the Prince of Peace?
Such was the gentle friend whose youth unblamed
In years long past our student-benches claimed;
Whose name, illumined on the sacred page,
Lives in the labors of his riper age;
Such he whose record time's destroying march
Leaves uneffaced on Zion's springing arch
Not to the scanty phrase of measured song,
Cramped in its fetters, names like these belong;
One ray they lend to gild my slender line,--
Their praise I leave to sweeter lips than mine.
Homes of our sires, where Learning's temple rose,
While vet they struggled with their banded foes,
As in the West thy century's sun descends,
One parting gleam its dying radiance lends.
Darker and deeper though the shadows fall
From the gray towers on Doubting Castle's wall,
Though Pope and Pagan re-array their hosts,
And her new armor youthful Science boasts,
Truth, for whose altar rose this holy shrine,
Shall fly for refuge to these bowers of thine;
No past shall chain her with its rusted vow,
No Jew's phylactery bind her Christian brow,
But Faith shall smile to find her sister free,
And nobler manhood draw its life from thee.
Long as the arching skies above thee spread,
As on thy groves the dews of heaven are shed,
With currents widening still from year to year,
And deepening channels, calm, untroubled, clear,
Flow the twin streamlets from thy sacred hill--
Pieria's fount and Siloam's shaded rill!
Poem For The Two Hundred And Fiftieth Anniversary Of The Founding Of Harvard College
TWICE had the mellowing sun of autumn crowned
The hundredth circle of his yearly round,
When, as we meet to-day, our fathers met:
That joyous gathering who can e'er forget,
When Harvard's nurslings, scattered far and wide,
Through mart and village, lake's and ocean's side,
Came, with one impulse, one fraternal throng,
And crowned the hours with banquet, speech, and song?
Once more revived in fancy's magic glass,
I see in state the long procession pass
Tall, courtly, leader as by right divine,
Winthrop, our Winthrop, rules the marshalled line,
Still seen in front, as on that far-off day
His ribboned baton showed the column's way.
Not all are gone who marched in manly pride
And waved their truncheons at their leader's side;
Gray, Lowell, Dixwell, who his empire shared,
These to be with us envious Time has spared.
Few are the faces, so familiar then,
Our eyes still meet amid the haunts of men;
Scarce one of all the living gathered there,
Whose unthinned locks betrayed a silver hair,
Greets us to-day, and yet we seem the same
As our own sires and grandsires, save in name.
There are the patriarchs, looking vaguely round
For classmates' faces, hardly known if found;
See the cold brow that rules the busy mart;
Close at its side the pallid son of art,
Whose purchased skill with borrowed meaning clothes,
And stolen hues, the smirking face he loathes.
Here is the patient scholar; in his looks
You read the titles of his learned books;
What classic lore those spidery crow's-feet speak!
What problems figure on that wrinkled cheek!
For never thought but left its stiffened trace,
Its fossil footprint, on the plastic face,
As the swift record of a raindrop stands,
Fixed on the tablet of the hardening sands.
On every face as on the written page
Each year renews the autograph of age;
One trait alone may wasting years defy,--
The fire still lingering in the poet's eye,
While Hope, the siren, sings her sweetest strain,--
_Non omnis moriar_ is its proud refrain.
Sadly we gaze upon the vacant chair;
He who should claim its honors is not there,--
Otis, whose lips the listening crowd enthrall
That press and pack the floor of Boston's hall.
But Kirkland smiles, released from toil and care
Since the silk mantle younger shoulders wear,--
Quincy's, whose spirit breathes the selfsame fire
That filled the bosom of his youthful sire,
Who for the altar bore the kindled torch
To freedom's temple, dying in its porch.
Three grave professions in their sons appear,
Whose words well studied all well pleased will hear
Palfrey, ordained in varied walks to shine,
Statesman, historian, critic, and divine;
Solid and square behold majestic Shaw,
A mass of wisdom and a mine of law;
Warren, whose arm the doughtiest warriors fear,
Asks of the startled crowd to lend its ear,--
Proud of his calling, him the world loves best,
Not as the coming, but the parting guest.
Look on that form,--with eye dilating scan
The stately mould of nature's kingliest man!
Tower-like he stands in life's unfaded prime;
Ask you his name? None asks a second time
He from the land his outward semblance takes,
Where storm-swept mountains watch o'er slumbering lakes.
See in the impress which the body wears
How its imperial might the soul declares
The forehead's large expansion, lofty, wide,
That locks unsilvered vainly strive to hide;
The lines of thought that plough the sober cheek;
Lips that betray their wisdom ere they speak
In tones like answers from Dodona's grove;
An eye like Juno's when she frowns on Jove.
I look and wonder; will he be content--
This man, this monarch, for the purple meant--
The meaner duties of his tribe to share,
Clad in the garb that common mortals wear?
Ah, wild Ambition, spread thy restless wings,
Beneath whose plumes the hidden cestrum stings;
Thou whose bold flight would leave earth's vulgar crowds,
And like the eagle soar above the clouds,
Must feel the pang that fallen angels know
When the red lightning strikes thee from below!
Less bronze, more silver, mingles in the mould
Of him whom next my roving eyes behold;
His, more the scholar's than the statesman's face,
Proclaims him born of academic race.
Weary his look, as if an aching brain
Left on his brow the frozen prints of pain;
His voice far-reaching, grave, sonorous, owns
A shade of sadness in its plaintive tones,
Yet when its breath some loftier thought inspires
Glows with a heat that every bosom fires.
Such Everett seems; no chance-sown wild flower knows
The full-blown charms of culture's double rose,--
Alas, how soon, by death's unsparing frost,
Its bloom is faded and its fragrance lost!
Two voices, only two, to earth belong,
Of all whose accents met the listening throng:
Winthrop, alike for speech and guidance framed,
On that proud day a twofold duty claimed;
One other yet,--remembered or forgot,--
Forgive my silence if I name him not.
Can I believe it? I, whose youthful voice
Claimed a brief gamut,--notes not over choice,
Stood undismayed before the solemn throng,
And _propria voce_ sung that saucy song
Which even in memory turns my soul aghast,--
_Felix audacia_ was the verdict cast.
What were the glory of these festal days
Shorn of their grand illumination's blaze?
Night comes at last with all her starry train
To find a light in every glittering pane.
From 'Harvard's' windows see the sudden flash,--
Old 'Massachusetts' glares through every sash;
From wall to wall the kindling splendors run
Till all is glorious as the noonday sun.
How to the scholar's mind each object brings
What some historian tells, some poet sings!
The good gray teacher whom we all revered--
Loved, honored, laughed at, and by freshmen feared,
As from old 'Harvard,' where its light began,
From hall to hall the clustering splendors ran--
Took down his well-worn Eschylus and read,
Lit by the rays a thousand tapers shed,
How the swift herald crossed the leagues between
Mycenae's monarch and his faithless queen;
And thus he read,--my verse but ill displays
The Attic picture, clad in modern phrase.
On Ida's summit flames the kindling pile,
And Lemnos answers from his rocky isle;
From Athos next it climbs the reddening skies,
Thence where the watch-towers of Macistus rise.
The sentries of Mesapius in their turn
Bid the dry heath in high piled masses burn,
Cithoeron's crag the crimson billows stain,
Far AEgiplanctus joins the fiery train.
Thus the swift courier through the pathless night
Has gained at length the Arachnoean height,
Whence the glad tidings, borne on wings offlame,
'Ilium has fallen!' reach the royal dame.
So ends the day; before the midnight stroke
The lights expiring cloud the air with smoke;
While these the toil of younger hands employ,
The slumbering Grecian dreams of smouldering Troy.
As to that hour with backward steps I turn,
Midway I pause; behold a funeral urn!
Ah, sad memorial! known but all too well
The tale which thus its golden letters tell:
This dust, once breathing, changed its joyous life
For toil and hunger, wounds and mortal strife;
Love, friendship, learning's all prevailing charms,
For the cold bivouac and the clash of arms.
The cause of freedom won, a race enslaved
Called back to manhood, and a nation saved,
These sons of Harvard, falling ere their prime,
Leave their proud memory to the coming time.
While in their still retreats our scholars turn
The mildewed pages of the past, to learn
With endless labor of the sleepless brain
What once has been and ne'er shall be again,
We reap the harvest of their ceaseless toil
And find a fragrance in their midnight oil.
But let a purblind mortal dare the task
The embryo future of itself to ask,
The world reminds him, with a scornful laugh,
That times have changed since Prospero broke his staff.
Could all the wisdom of the schools foretell
The dismal hour when Lisbon shook and fell,
Or name the shuddering night that toppled down
Our sister's pride, beneath whose mural crown
Scarce had the scowl forgot its angry lines,
When earth's blind prisoners fired their fatal mines?
New realms, new worlds, exulting Science claims,
Still the dim future unexplored remains;
Her trembling scales the far-off planet weigh,
Her torturing prisms its elements betray,--
We know what ores the fires of Sirius melt,
What vaporous metals gild Orion's belt;
Angels, archangels, may have yet to learn
Those hidden truths our heaven-taught eyes discern;
Yet vain is Knowledge, with her mystic wand,
To pierce the cloudy screen and read beyond;
Once to the silent stars the fates were known,
To us they tell no secrets but their own.
At Israel's altar still we humbly bow,
But where, oh where, are Israel's prophets now?
Where is the sibyl with her hoarded leaves?
Where is the charm the weird enchantress weaves?
No croaking raven turns the auspex pale,
No reeking altars tell the morrow's tale;
The measured footsteps of the Fates are dumb,
Unseen, unheard, unheralded, they come,
Prophet and priest and all their following fail.
Who then is left to rend the future's veil?
Who but the poet, he whose nicer sense
No film can baffle with its slight defence,
Whose finer vision marks the waves that stray,
Felt, but unseen, beyond the violet ray?--
Who, while the storm-wind waits its darkening shroud,
Foretells the tempest ere he sees the cloud,--
Stays not for time his secrets to reveal,
But reads his message ere he breaks the seal.
So Mantua's bard foretold the coming day
Ere Bethlehem's infant in the manger lay;
The promise trusted to a mortal tongue
Found listening ears before the angels sung.
So while his load the creeping pack-horse galled,
While inch by inch the dull canal-boat crawled,
Darwin beheld a Titan from 'afar
Drag the slow barge or drive the rapid car,'
That panting giant fed by air and flame,
The mightiest forges task their strength to tame.
Happy the poet! him no tyrant fact
Holds in its clutches to be chained and racked;
Him shall no mouldy document convict,
No stern statistics gravely contradict;
No rival sceptre threats his airy throne;
He rules o'er shadows, but he reigns alone.
Shall I the poet's broad dominion claim
Because you bid me wear his sacred name
For these few moments? Shall I boldly clash
My flint and steel, and by the sudden flash
Read the fair vision which my soul descries
Through the wide pupils of its wondering eyes?
List then awhile; the fifty years have sped;
The third full century's opened scroll is spread,
Blank to all eyes save his who dimly sees
The shadowy future told in words like these.
How strange the prospect to my sight appears,
Changed by the busy hands of fifty years!
Full well I know our ocean-salted Charles,
Filling and emptying through the sands and marls
That wall his restless stream on either bank,
Not all unlovely when the sedges rank
Lend their coarse veil the sable ooze to hide
That bares its blackness with the ebbing tide.
In other shapes to my illumined eyes
Those ragged margins of our stream arise
Through walls of stone the sparkling waters flow,
In clearer depths the golden sunsets glow,
On purer waves the lamps of midnight gleam,
That silver o'er the unpolluted stream.
Along his shores what stately temples rise,
What spires, what turrets, print the shadowed skies!
Our smiling Mother sees her broad domain
Spread its tall roofs along the western plain;
Those blazoned windows' blushing glories tell
Of grateful hearts that loved her long and well;
Yon gilded dome that glitters in the sun
Was Dives' gift,--alas, his only one!
These buttressed walls enshrine a banker's name,
That hallowed chapel hides a miser's shame;
Their wealth they left,--their memory cannot fade
Though age shall crumble every stone they laid.
Great lord of millions,--let me call thee great,
Since countless servants at thy bidding wait,--
Richesse oblige: no mortal must be blind
To all but self, or look at human kind
Laboring and suffering,--all its want and woe,--
Through sheets of crystal, as a pleasing show
That makes life happier for the chosen few
Duty for whom is something not to do.
When thy last page of life at length is filled,
What shall thine heirs to keep thy memory build?
Will piles of stone in Auburn's mournful shade
Save from neglect the spot where thou art laid?
Nay, deem not thus; the sauntering stranger's eye
Will pass unmoved thy columned tombstone by,
No memory wakened, not a teardrop shed,
Thy name uncared for and thy date unread.
But if thy record thou indeed dost prize,
Bid from the soil some stately temple rise,--
Some hall of learning, some memorial shrine,
With names long honored to associate thine:
So shall thy fame outlive thy shattered bust
When all around thee slumber in the dust.
Thus England's Henry lives in Eton's towers,
Saved from the spoil oblivion's gulf devours;
Our later records with as fair a fame
Have wreathed each uncrowned benefactor's name;
The walls they reared the memories still retain
That churchyard marbles try to keep in vain.
In vain the delving antiquary tries
To find the tomb where generous Harvard lies
Here, here, his lasting monument is found,
Where every spot is consecrated ground!
O'er Stoughton's dust the crumbling stone decays,
Fast fade its lines of lapidary praise;
There the wild bramble weaves its ragged nets,
There the dry lichen spreads its gray rosettes;
Still in yon walls his memory lives unspent,
Nor asks a braver, nobler monument.
Thus Hollis lives, and Holden, honored, praised,
And good Sir Matthew, in the halls they raised;
Thus live the worthies of these later times,
Who shine in deeds, less brilliant, grouped in rhymes.
Say, shall the Muse with faltering steps retreat,
Or dare these names in rhythmic form repeat?
Why not as boldly as from Homer's lips
The long array, of Argive battle-ships?
When o'er our graves a thousand years have past
(If to such date our threatened globe shall last)
These classic precincts, myriad feet have pressed,
Will show on high, in beauteous garlands dressed,
Those honored names that grace our later day,--
Weld, Matthews, Sever, Thayer, Austin, Gray,
Sears, Phillips, Lawrence, Hemenway,--to the list
Add Sanders, Sibley,--all the Muse has missed.
Once more I turn to read the pictured page
Bright with the promise of the coming age.
Ye unborn sons of children yet unborn,
Whose youthful eyes shall greet that far-off morn,
Blest are those eyes that all undimmed behold
The sights so longed for by the wise of old.
From high-arched alcoves, through resounding halls,
Clad in full robes majestic Science calls,
Tireless, unsleeping, still at Nature's feet,
Whate'er she utters fearless to repeat,
Her lips at last from every cramp released
That Israel's prophet caught from Egypt's priest.
I see the statesman, firm, sagacious, bold,
For life's long conflict cast in amplest mould;
Not his to clamor with the senseless throng
That shouts unshamed, 'Our party, right or wrong,'
But in the patriot's never-ending fight
To side with Truth, who changes wrong to right.
I see the scholar; in that wondrous time
Men, women, children, all can write in rhyme.
These four brief lines addressed to youth inclined
To idle rhyming in his notes I find:
Who writes in verse that should have writ in prose
Is like a traveller walking on his toes;
Happy the rhymester who in time has found
The heels he lifts were made to touch the ground.
I see gray teachers,--on their work intent,
Their lavished lives, in endless labor spent,
Had closed at last in age and penury wrecked,
Martyrs, not burned, but frozen in neglect,
Save for the generous hands that stretched in aid
Of worn-out servants left to die half paid.
Ah, many a year will pass, I thought, ere we
Such kindly forethought shall rejoice to see,--
Monarchs are mindful of the sacred debt
That cold republics hasten to forget.
I see the priest,--if such a name he bears
Who without pride his sacred vestment wears;
And while the symbols of his tribe I seek
Thus my first impulse bids me think and speak:
Let not the mitre England's prelate wears
Next to the crown whose regal pomp it shares,
Though low before it courtly Christians bow,
Leave its red mark on Younger England's brow.
We love, we honor, the maternal dame,
But let her priesthood wear a modest name,
While through the waters of the Pilgrim's bay
A new-born Mayflower shows her keels the way.
Too old grew Britain for her mother's beads,--
Must we be necklaced with her children's creeds?
Welcome alike in surplice or in gown
The loyal lieges of the Heavenly Crown!
We greet with cheerful, not submissive, mien
A sister church, but not a mitred Queen!
A few brief flutters, and the unwilling Muse,
Who feared the flight she hated to refuse,
Shall fold the wings whose gayer plumes are shed,
Here where at first her half-fledged pinions spread.
Well I remember in the long ago
How in the forest shades of Fontainebleau,
Strained through a fissure in a rocky cell,
One crystal drop with measured cadence fell.
Still, as of old, forever bright and clear,
The fissured cavern drops its wonted tear,
And wondrous virtue, simple folk aver,
Lies in that teardrop of la roche qui pleure.
Of old I wandered by the river's side
Between whose banks the mighty waters glide,
Where vast Niagara, hurrying to its fall,
Builds and unbuilds its ever-tumbling wall;
Oft in my dreams I hear the rush and roar
Of battling floods, and feel the trembling shore,
As the huge torrent, girded for its leap,
With bellowing thunders plunges down the steep.
Not less distinct, from memory's pictured urn,
The gray old rock, the leafy woods, return;
Robed in their pride the lofty oaks appear,
And once again with quickened sense I hear,
Through the low murmur of the leaves that stir,
The tinkling teardrop of _la roche qui pleure_.
So when the third ripe century stands complete,
As once again the sons of Harvard meet,
Rejoicing, numerous as the seashore sands,
Drawn from all quarters,--farthest distant lands,
Where through the reeds the scaly saurian steals,
Where cold Alaska feeds her floundering seals,
Where Plymouth, glorying, wears her iron crown,
Where Sacramento sees the suns go down;
Nay, from the cloisters whence the refluent tide
Wafts their pale students to our Mother's side,--
Mid all the tumult that the day shall bring,
While all the echoes shout, and roar, and ring,
These tinkling lines, oblivion's easy prey,
Once more emerging to the light of day,
Not all unpleasing to the listening ear
Shall wake the memories of this bygone year,
Heard as I hear the measured drops that flow
From the gray rock of wooded Fontainebleau.
Yet, ere I leave, one loving word for all
Those fresh young lives that wait our Mother's call:
One gift is yours, kind Nature's richest dower,--
Youth, the fair bud that holds life's opening flower,
Full of high hopes no coward doubts enchain,
With all the future throbbing in its brain,
And mightiest instincts which the beating heart
Fills with the fire its burning waves impart.
O joyous youth, whose glory is to dare,--
Thy foot firm planted on the lowest stair,
Thine eye uplifted to the loftiest height
Where Fame stands beckoning in the rosy light,
Thanks for thy flattering tales, thy fond deceits,
Thy loving lies, thy cheerful smiling cheats
Nature's rash promise every day is broke,--
A thousand acorns breed a single oak,
The myriad blooms that make the orchard gay
In barren beauty throw their lives away;
Yet shall we quarrel with the sap that yields
The painted blossoms which adorn the fields,
When the fair orchard wears its May-day suit
Of pink-white petals, for its scanty fruit?
Thrice happy hours, in hope's illusion dressed,
In fancy's cradle nurtured and caressed,
Though rich the spoils that ripening years may bring,
To thee the dewdrops of the Orient cling,--
Not all the dye-stuffs from the vats of truth
Can match the rainbow on the robes of youth!
Dear unborn children, to our Mother's trust
We leave you, fearless, when we lie in dust:
While o'er these walls the Christian banner waves
From hallowed lips shall flow the truth that saves;
While o'er those portals Veritas you read
No church shall bind you with its human creed.
Take from the past the best its toil has won,
But learn betimes its slavish ruts to shun.
Pass the old tree whose withered leaves are shed,
Quit the old paths that error loved to tread,
And a new wreath of living blossoms seek,
A narrower pathway up a loftier peak;
Lose not your reverence, but unmanly fear
Leave far behind you, all who enter here!
As once of old from Ida's lofty height
The flaming signal flashed across the night,
So Harvard's beacon sheds its unspent rays
Till every watch-tower shows its kindling blaze.
Caught from a spark and fanned by every gale,
A brighter radiance gilds the roofs of Yale;
Amherst and Williams bid their flambeaus shine,
And Bowdoin answers through her groves of pine;
O'er Princeton's sands the far reflections steal,
Where mighty Edwards stamped his iron heel;
Nay, on the hill where old beliefs were bound
Fast as if Styx had girt them nine times round,
Bursts such a light that trembling souls inquire
If the whole church of Calvin is on fire!
Well may they ask, for what so brightly burns
As a dry creed that nothing ever learns?
Thus link by link is knit the flaming chain
Lit by the torch of Harvard's hallowed plain.
Thy son, thy servant, dearest Mother mine,
Lays this poor offering on thy holy shrine,
An autumn leaflet to the wild winds tost,
Touched by the finger of November's frost,
With sweet, sad memories of that earlier day,
And all that listened to my first-born lay.
With grateful heart this glorious morn I see,--
Would that my tribute worthier were of thee!
A Rhymed Lesson (Urania)
Yes, dear Enchantress,â€”Âwandering far and long,
In realms unperfumed by the breath of song,
Where flowers ill-flavored shed their sweets around,
And bitterest roots invade the ungenial ground,
Whose gems are crystals from the Epsom mine,
Whose vineyards flow with antimonial wine,
Whose gates admit no mirthful feature in,
Save one gaunt mocker, the Sardonic grin,
Whose pangs are real, not the woes of rhyme
That blue-eyed misses warble out of time;â€”Â
Truant, not recreant to thy sacred claim,
Older by reckoning, but in heart the same,
Freed for a moment from the chains of toil,
I tread once more thy consecrated soil;
Here at thy feet my old allegiance own,
Thy subject still, and loyal to thy throne!
My dazzled glance explores the crowded hall;
Alas, how vain to hope the smiles of all!
I know my audience. All the gay and young
Love the light antics of a playful tongue;
And these, remembering some expansive line
My lips let loose among the nuts and wine,
Are all impatience till the opening pun
Proclaims the witty shamfight is begun.
Two fifths at least, if not the total half,
Have come infuriate for an earthquake laugh;
I know full well what alderman has tied
His red bandanna tight about his side;
I see the mother, who, aware that boys
Perform their laughter with superfluous noise,
Beside her kerchief brought an extra one
To stop the explosions of her bursting son;
I know a tailor, once a friend of mine,
Expects great doings in the button line,â€”Â
For mirthâ€™s concussions rip the outward case,
And plant the stitches in a tenderer place.
I know my audience,â€”Âthese shall have their due;
A smile awaits them ere my song is through!
I know myself. Not servile for applause,
My Muse permits no deprecating clause;
Modest or vain, she will not be denied
One bold confession due to honest pride;
And well she knows the drooping veil of song
Shall save her boldness from the cavillerâ€™s wrong.
Her sweeter voice the Heavenly Maid imparts
To tell the secrets of our aching hearts
For this, a suppliant, captive, prostrate, bound,
She kneels imploring at the feet of sound;
For this, convulsed in thoughtâ€™s maternal pains,
She loads her arms with rhymeâ€™s resounding chains;
Faint though the music of her fetters be,
It lends one charm,â€”Âher lips are ever free!
Think not I come, in manhoodâ€™s fiery noon,
To steal his laurels from the stage buffoon;
His sword of lath the harlequin may wield;
Behold the star upon my lifted shield
Though the just critic pass my humble name,
And sweeter lips have drained the cup of fame,
While my gay stanza pleased the banquetâ€™s lords,
The soul within was tuned to deeper chords!
Say, shall my arms, in other conflicts taught
To swing aloft the ponderous mace of thought,
Lift, in obedience to a school-girlâ€™s law,
Mirthâ€™s tinsel wand or laughterâ€™s tickling straw?
Say, shall I wound with satireâ€™s rankling spear
The pure, warm hearts that bid me welcome here?
No! while I wander through the land of dreams,
To strive with great and play with trifling themes,
Let some kind meaning fill the varied line.
You have your judgment; will you trust to mine?
Between two breaths what crowded mysteries lie,â€”Â
The first short gasp, the last and long-drawn sigh!
Like phantoms painted on the magic slide,
Forth from the darkness of the past we glide,
As living shadows for a moment seen
In airy pageant on the eternal screen,
Traced by a ray from one unchanging flame,
Then seek the dust and stillness whence we came.
But whence and why, our trembling souls inquire,
Caught these dim visions their awakening fire?
Oh, who forgets when first the piercing thought
Through childhoodâ€™s musings found its way unsought?
I am;â€”ÂI live. The mystery and the fear
When the dread question, what has brought me here?
Burst through lifeâ€™s twilight, as before the sun
Roll the deep thunders of the morning gun!
Are angel faces, silent and serene,
Bent on the conflicts of this little scene,
Whose dream-like efforts, whose unreal strife,
Are but the preludes to a larger life?
Or does lifeâ€™s summer see the end of all,
These leaves of being mouldering as they fall,
As the old poet vaguely used to deem,
As WESLEY questioned in his youthful dream?
Oh, could such mockery reach our souls indeed,
Give back the Pharaohsâ€™ or the Athenianâ€™s creed;
Better than this a Heaven of manâ€™s device,â€”Â
The Indianâ€™s sports, the Moslemâ€™s paradise!
Or is our beingâ€™s only end and aim
To add new glories to our Makerâ€™s name,
As the poor insect, shrivelling in the blaze,
Lends a faint sparkle to its streaming rays?
Does earth send upward to the Eternalâ€™s ear
The mingled discords of her jarring sphere
To swell his anthem, while creation rings
With notes of anguish from its shattered strings?
Is it for this the immortal Artist means
These conscious, throbbing, agonized machines?
Dark is the soul whose sullen creed can bind
In chains like these the all-embracing Mind;
No! two-faced bigot, thou dost ill reprove
The sensual, selfish, yet benignant Jove,
And praise a tyrant throned in lonely pride,
Who loves himself, and cares for naught beside;
Who gave thee, summoned from primeval night,
A thousand laws, and not a single right,â€”Â
A heart to feel, and quivering nerves to thrill,
The sense of wrong, the death-defying will;
Who girt thy senses with this goodly frame,
Its earthly glories and its orbs of flame,
Not for thyself, unworthy of a thought,
Poor helpless victim of a life unsought,
But all for him, unchanging and supreme,
The heartless centre of thy frozen scheme.
Trust not the teacher with his lying scroll,
Who tears the charter of thy shuddering soul;
The God of love, who gave the breath that warms
All living dust in all its varied forms,
Asks not the tribute of a world like this
To fill the measure of his perfect bliss.
Though winged with life through all its radiant shores,
Creation flowed with unexhausted stores
Cherub and seraph had not yet enjoyed;
For this he called thee from the quickening void!
Nor this alone; a larger gift was thine,
A mightier purpose swelled his vast design
Thought,â€”Âconscience,â€”Âwill,â€”Â to make them all thine own,
He rent a pillar from the eternal throne!
Made in his image, thou must nobly dare
The thorny crown of sovereignty to share.
With eye uplifted, it is thine to view,
From thine own centre, Heavenâ€™s oâ€™erarching blue;
So round thy heart a beaming circle lies
No fiend can blot, no hypocrite disguise;
From all its orbs one cheering voice is heard,
Full to thine ear it bears the Fatherâ€™s word,
Now, as in Eden where his first-born trod
â€œSeek thine own welfare, true to man and God!â€
Think not too meanly of thy low estate;
Thou hast a choice; to choose is to create!
Remember whose the sacred lips that tell,
Angels approve thee when thy choice is well;
Remember, One, a judge of righteous men,
Swore to spare Sodom if she held but ten!
Use well the freedom which thy Master gave,
(Thinkâ€™st thou that Heaven can tolerate a slave?)
And He who made thee to be just and true
Will bless thee, love thee,â€”Âay, respect thee too!
Nature has placed thee on a changeful tide,
To breast its waves, but not without a guide;
Yet, as the needle will forget its aim,
Jarred by the fury of the electric flame,
As the true current it will falsely feel,
Warped from its axis by a freight of steel;
So will thy conscience lose its balanced truth
If passionâ€™s lightning fall upon thy youth,
So the pure effluence quit its sacred hold
Girt round too deeply with magnetic gold.
Go to yon tower, where busy science plies
Her vast antennae, feeling through the skies
That little vernier on whose slender lines
The midnight taper trembles as it shines,
A silent index, tracks the planetsâ€™ march
In all their wanderings through the ethereal arch;
Tells through the mist where dazzled Mercury burns,
And marks the spot where Uranus returns.
So, till by wrong or negligence effaced,
The living index which thy Maker traced
Repeats the line each starry Virtue draws
Through the wide circuit of creationâ€™s laws;
Still tracks unchanged the everlasting ray
Where the dark shadows of temptation stray,
But, once defaced, forgets the orbs of light,
And leaves thee wandering oâ€™er the expanse of night.
â€œWhat is thy creed?â€ a hundred lips inquire;
â€œThou seekest God beneath what Christian spire?â€
Nor ask they idly, for uncounted lies
Float upward on the smoke of sacrifice;
When manâ€™s first incense rose above the plain,
Of earthâ€™s two altars one was built by Cain!
Uncursed by doubt, our earliest creed we take;
We love the precepts for the teacherâ€™s sake;
The simple lessons which the nursery taught
Fell soft and stainless on the buds of thought,
And the full blossom owes its fairest hue
To those sweet tear-drops of affectionâ€™s dew.
Too oft the light that led our earlier hours
Fades with the perfume of our cradle flowers;
The clear, cold question chills to frozen doubt;
Tired of beliefs, we dread to live without
Oh then, if Reason waver at thy side,
Let humbler Memory be thy gentle guide;
Go to thy birthplace, and, if faith was there,
Repeat thy fatherâ€™s creed, thy motherâ€™s prayer!
Faith loves to lean on Timeâ€™s destroying arm,
And age, like distance, lends a double charm;
In dim cathedrals, dark with vaulted gloom,
What holy awe invests the saintly tomb!
There pride will bow, and anxious care expand,
And creeping avarice come with open hand;
The gay can weep, the impious can adore,
From mornâ€™s first glimmerings on the chancel floor
Till dying sunset sheds his crimson stains
Through the faint halos of the irised panes.
Yet there are graves, whose rudely-shapen sod
Bears the fresh footprints where the sexton trod;
Graves where the verdure has not dared to shoot,
Where the chance wild-flower has not fixed its root,
Whose slumbering tenants, dead without a name,
The eternal record shall at length proclaim
Pure as the holiest in the long array
Of hooded, mitred, or tiaraed clay!
Come, seek the air; some pictures we may gain
Whose passing shadows shall not be in vain;
Not from the scenes that crowd the strangerâ€™s soil,
Not from our own amidst the stir of toil,
But when the Sabbath brings its kind release,
And Care lies slumbering on the lap of Peace.
The air is hushed, the street is holy ground;
Hark! The sweet bells renew their welcome sound
As one by one awakes each silent tongue,
It tells the turret whence its voice is flung.
The Chapel, last of sublunary things
That stirs our echoes with the name of Kings,
Whose bell, just glistening from the font and forge,
Rolled its proud requiem for the second George,
Solemn and swelling, as of old it rang,
Flings to the wind its deep, sonorous clang;
The simpler pile, that, mindful of the hour
When Howeâ€™s artillery shook its half-built tower,
Wears on its bosom, as a bride might do,
The iron breastpin which the â€œRebelsâ€ threw,
Wakes the sharp echoes with the quivering thrill
Of keen vibrations, tremulous and shrill;
Aloft, suspended in the morningâ€™s fire,
Crash the vast cymbals from the Southern spire;
The Giant, standing by the elm-clad green,
His white lance lifted oâ€™er the silent scene,
Whirling in air his brazen goblet round,
Swings from its brim the swollen floods of sound;
While, sad with memories of the olden time,
Throbs from his tower the Northern Minstrelâ€™s chime,â€”Â
Faint, single tones, that spell their ancient song,
But tears still follow as they breathe along.
Child of the soil, whom fortune sends to range
Where man and nature, faith and customs change,
Borne in thy memory, each familiar tone
Mourns on the winds that sigh in every zone.
When Ceylon sweeps thee with her perfumed breeze
Through the warm billows of the Indian seas;
Whenâ€”Âship and shadow blended both in oneâ€”Â
Flames oâ€™er thy mast the equatorial sun,
From sparkling midnight to refulgent noon
Thy canvas swelling with the still monsoon;
When through thy shrouds the wild tornado sings,
And thy poor sea-bird folds her tattered wings,â€”Â
Oft will delusion oâ€™er thy senses steal,
And airy echoes ring the Sabbath peal
Then, dim with grateful tears, in long array
Rise the fair town, the island-studded bay,
Home, with its smiling board, its cheering fire,
The half-choked welcome of the expecting sire,
The motherâ€™s kiss, and, still if aught remain,
Our whispering hearts shall aid the silent strain.
Ah, let the dreamer oâ€™er the taffrail lean
To muse unheeded, and to weep unseen;
Fear not the tropicâ€™s dews, the eveningâ€™s chills,
His heart lies warm among his triple hills!
Turned from her path by this deceitful gleam,
My wayward fancy half forgets her theme.
See through the streets that slumbered in repose
The living current of devotion flows,
Its varied forms in one harmonious band
Age leading childhood by its dimpled hand;
Want, in the robe whose faded edges fall
To tell of rags beneath the tartan shawl;
And wealth, in silks that, fluttering to appear,
Lift the deep borders of the proud cashmere.
See, but glance briefly, sorrow-worn and pale,
Those sunken cheeks beneath the widowâ€™s veil;
Alone she wanders where with him she trod,
No arm to stay her, but she leans on God.
While other doublets deviate here and there,
What secret handcuff binds that pretty pair?
Compactest couple! pressing side to side,â€”Â
Ah, the white bonnet that reveals the bride!
By the white neckcloth, with its straitened tie,
The sober hat, the Sabbath-speaking eye,
Severe and smileless, he that runs may read
The stern disciple of Genevaâ€™s creed
Decent and slow, behold his solemn march;
Silent he enters through yon crowded arch.
A livelier bearing of the outward man,
The light-hued gloves, the undevout rattan,
Now smartly raised or half profanely twirled,â€”Â
A bright, fresh twinkle from the week-day world,â€”Â
Tell their plain story; yes, thine eyes behold
A cheerful Christian from the liberal fold.
Down the chill street that curves in gloomiest shade
What marks betray yon solitary maid?
The cheekâ€™s red rose that speaks of balmier air,
The Celtic hue that shades her braided hair,
The gilded missal in her kerchief tied,â€”Â
Poor Nora, exile from Killarneyâ€™s side!
Sister in toil, though blanched by colder skies,
That left their azure in her downcast eyes,
See pallid Margaret, Laborâ€™s patient child,
Scarce weaned from home, the nursling of the wild,
Where white Katahdin oâ€™er the horizon shines,
And broad Penobscot dashes through the pines.
Still, as she hastes, her careful fingers hold
The unfailing hymn-book in its cambric fold.
Six days at drudgeryâ€™s heavy wheel she stands,
The seventh sweet morning folds her weary hands.
Yes, child of suffering, thou mayst well be sure
He who ordained the Sabbath loves the poor!
This weekly picture faithful Memory draws,
Nor claims the noisy tribute of applause;
Faint is the glow such barren hopes can lend,
And frail the line that asks no loftier end.
Trust me, kind listener, I will yet beguile
Thy saddened features of the promised smile.
This magic mantle thou must well divide,
It has its sable and its ermine side;
Yet, ere the lining of the robe appears,
Take thou in silence what I give in tears.
Dear listening soul, this transitory scene
Of murmuring stillness, busily serene,â€”Â
This solemn pause, the breathing-space of man,
The halt of toilâ€™s exhausted caravan,â€”Â
Comes sweet with music to thy wearied ear;
Rise with its anthems to a holier sphere!
Deal meekly, gently, with the hopes that guide
The lowliest brother straying from thy side
If right, they bid thee tremble for thine own;
If wrong, the verdict is for God alone.
What though the champions of thy faith esteem
The sprinkled fountain or baptismal stream;
Shall jealous passions in unseemly strife
Cross their dark weapons oâ€™er the waves of life?
Let my free soul, expanding as it can,
Leave to his scheme the thoughtful Puritan;
But Calvinâ€™s dogma shall my lips deride?
In that stern faith my angel Mary died;
Or ask if mercyâ€™s milder creed can save,
Sweet sister, risen from thy new-made grave?
True, the harsh founders of thy church reviled
That ancient faith, the trust of Erinâ€™s child;
Must thou be raking in the crumbled past
For racks and fagots in her teeth to cast?
See from the ashes of Helvetiaâ€™s pile
The whitened skull of old Servetus smile!
Round her young heart thy â€œRomish Upasâ€ threw
Its firm, deep fibres, strengthening as she grew;
Thy sneering voice may call them â€œPopish tricks,â€
Her Latin prayers, her dangling crucifix,
But De Profundis blessed her fatherâ€™s grave,
That â€œidolâ€ cross her dying mother gave!
What if some angel looks with equal eyes
On her and thee, the simple and the wise,
Writes each dark fault against thy brighter creed,
And drops a tear with every foolish bead!
Grieve, as thou must, oâ€™er historyâ€™s reeking page;
Blush for the wrongs that stain thy happier age;
Strive with the wanderer from the better path,
Bearing thy message meekly, not in wrath;
Weep for the frail that err, the weak that fall,
Have thine own faith,â€”Âbut hope and pray for all!
Faith; Conscience; Love. A meaner task remains,
And humbler thoughts must creep in lowlier strains.
Shalt thou be honest? Ask the worldly schools,
And all will tell thee knaves are busier fools;
Prudent? Industrious? Let not modern pens
Instruct â€œPoor Richardâ€™sâ€ fellow-citizens.
Be firm! One constant element in luck
Is genuine solid old Teutonic pluck.
See yon tall shaft; it felt the earthquakeâ€™s thrill,
Clung to its base, and greets the sunrise still.
Stick to your aim: the mongrelâ€™s hold will slip,
But only crowbars loose the bulldogâ€™s grip;
Small as he looks, the jaw that never yields
Drags down the bellowing monarch of the fields!
Yet in opinions look not always back,â€”Â
Your wake is nothing, mind the coming track;
Leave what youâ€™ve done for what you have to do;
Donâ€™t be â€œconsistent,â€ but be simply true.
Donâ€™t catch the fidgets; you have found your place
Just in the focus of a nervous race,
Fretful to change and rabid to discuss,
Full of excitements, always in a fuss.
Think of the patriarchs; then compare as men
These lean-cheeked maniacs of the tongue and pen!
Run, if you like, but try to keep your breath;
Work like a man, but donâ€™t be worked to death;
And with new notions,â€”Âlet me change the rule,â€”Â
Donâ€™t strike the iron till it â€™s slightly cool.
Choose well your set; our feeble nature seeks
The aid of clubs, the countenance of cliques;
And with this object settle first of all
Your weight of metal and your size of ball.
Track not the steps of such as hold you cheap,
Too mean to prize, though good enough to keep;
The â€œreal, genuine, no-mistake Tom Thumbsâ€
Are little people fed on great menâ€™s crumbs.
Yet keep no followers of that hateful brood
That basely mingles with its wholesome food
The tumid reptile, which, the poet said,
Doth wear a precious jewel in his head.
If the wild filly, â€œProgress,â€ thou wouldst ride,
Have young companions ever at thy side;
But wouldst thou stride the stanch old mare, â€œSuccess,â€
Go with thine elders, though they please thee less.
Shun such as lounge through afternoons and eves,
And on thy dial write, â€œBeware of thieves!â€
Felon of minutes, never taught to feel
The worth of treasures which thy fingers steal,
Pick my left pocket of its silver dime,
But spare the right,â€”Âit holds my golden time!
Does praise delight thee? Choose some ultra side,â€”Â
A sure old recipe, and often tried;
Be its apostle, congressman, or bard,
Spokesman or jokesman, only drive it hard;
But know the forfeit which thy choice abides,
For on two wheels the poor reformer rides,â€”Â
One black with epithets the anti throws,
One white with flattery painted by the pros.
Though books on MANNERS are not out of print,
An honest tongue may drop a harmless hint.
Stop not, unthinking, every friend you meet,
To spin your wordy fabric in the street;
While you are emptying your colloquial pack,
The fiend Lumbago jumps upon his back.
Nor cloud his features with the unwelcome tale
Of how he looks, if haply thin and pale;
Health is a subject for his child, his wife,
And the rude office that insures his life.
Look in his face, to meet thy neighborâ€™s soul,
Not on his garments, to detect a hole;
â€œHow to observeâ€ is what thy pages show,
Pride of thy sex, Miss Harriet Martineau!
Oh, what a precious book the one would be
That taught observers what they â€™re not to see!
I tell in verseâ€”Ââ€™t were better done in proseâ€”Â
One curious trick that everybody knows;
Once form this habit, and itâ€™s very strange
How long it sticks, how hard it is to change.
Two friendly people, both disposed to smile,
Who meet, like others, every little while,
Instead of passing with a pleasant bow,
And â€œHow dâ€™ ye do?â€ or â€œHow â€™s your uncle now?â€
Impelled by feelings in their nature kind,
But slightly weak and somewhat undefined,
Rush at each other, make a sudden stand,
Begin to talk, expatiate, and expand;
Each looks quite radiant, seems extremely struck,
Their meeting so was such a piece of luck;
Each thinks the other thinks he â€™s greatly pleased
To screw the vice in which they both are squeezed;
So there they talk, in dust, or mud, or snow,
Both bored to death, and both afraid to go!
Your hat once lifted, do not hang your fire,
Nor, like slow Ajax, fighting still, retire;
When your old castor on your crown you clap,
Go off; youâ€™ve mounted your percussion cap.
Some words on language may be well applied,
And take them kindly, though they touch your pride.
Words lead to things; a scale is more precise,â€”Â
Coarse speech, bad grammar, swearing, drinking, vice.
Our cold Northeasterâ€™s icy fetter clips
The native freedom of the Saxon lips;
See the brown peasant of the plastic South,
How all his passions play about his mouth!
With us, the feature that transmits the soul,
A frozen, passive, palsied breathing-hole.
The crampy shackles of the ploughboyâ€™s walk
Tie the small muscles when he strives to talk;
Not all the pumice of the polished town
Can smooth this roughness of the barnyard down;
Rich, honored, titled, he betrays his race
By this one mark,â€”Âheâ€™s awkward in the face;â€”Â
Natureâ€™s rude impress, long before he knew
The sunny street that holds the sifted few.
It canâ€™t be helped, though, if weâ€™re taken young,
We gain some freedom of the lips and tongue;
But school and college often try in vain
To break the padlock of our boyhoodâ€™s chain
One stubborn word will prove this axiom true,â€”Â
No quondam rustic can enunciate view.
A few brief stanzas may be well employed
To speak of errors we can all avoid.
Learning condemns beyond the reach of hope
The careless lips that speak of soâ€™ap for soap;
Her edict exiles from her fair abode
The clownish voice that utters roâ€™ad for road
Less stern to him who calls his coat a coâ€™at,
And steers his boat, believing it a boâ€™at,
She pardoned one, our classic cityâ€™s boast,
Who said at Cambridge moâ€™st instead of most,
But knit her brows and stamped her angry foot
To hear a Teacher call a root a roâ€™ot.
Once more: speak clearly, if you speak at all;
Carve every word before you let it fall;
Donâ€™t, like a lecturer or dramatic star,
Try over-hard to roll the British R;
Do put your accents in the proper spot;
Donâ€™t,â€”Âlet me beg you,â€”Âdonâ€™t say â€œHow?â€ for â€œWhat?â€
And when you stick on conversationâ€™s burs,
Donâ€™t strew your pathway with those dreadful urs.
From little matters let us pass to less,
And lightly touch the mysteries of dress;
The outward forms the inner man reveal,â€”Â
We guess the pulp before we cut the peel.
I leave the broadcloth,â€”Âcoats and all the rest,â€”Â
The dangerous waistcoat, called by cockneys â€œvest,â€
The things named â€œpantsâ€ in certain documents,
A word not made for gentlemen, but â€œgents;â€
One single precept might the whole condense
Be sure your tailor is a man of sense;
But add a little care, a decent pride,
And always err upon the sober side.
Three pairs of boots one pair of feet demands,
If polished daily by the ownerâ€™s hands;
If the dark menialâ€™s visit save from this,
Have twice the number,â€”Âfor he â€™ll sometimes miss.
One pair for critics of the nicer sex,
Close in the instepâ€™s clinging circumflex,
Long, narrow, light; the Gallic boot of love,
A kind of cross between a boot and glove.
Compact, but easy, strong, substantial, square,
Let native art compile the medium pair.
The third remains, and let your tasteful skill
Here show some relics of affection still;
Let no stiff cowhide, reeking from the tan,
No rough caoutchoue, no deformed brogan,
Disgrace the tapering outline of your feet,
Though yellow torrents gurgle through the street.
Wear seemly gloves; not black, nor yet too light,
And least of all the pair that once was white;
Let the dead party where you told your loves
Bury in peace its dead bouquets and gloves;
Shave like the goat, if so your fancy bids,
But be a parent,â€”Âdonâ€™t neglect your kids.
Have a good hat; the secret of your looks
Lives with the beaver in Canadian brooks;
Virtue may flourish in an old cravat,
But man and nature scorn the shocking hat.
Does beauty slight you from her gay abodes?
Like bright Apollo, you must take to Rhoades,â€”Â
Mount the new castor,â€”Âice itself will melt;
Boots, gloves, may fail; the hat is always felt.
Be shy of breastpins; plain, well-ironed white,
With small pearl buttons,â€”Âtwo of them in sight,â€”Â
Is always genuine, while your gems may pass,
Though real diamonds, for ignoble glass.
But spurn those paltry Cisatlantic lies
That round his breast the shabby rustic ties;
Breathe not the name profaned to hallow things
The indignant laundress blushes when she brings!
Our freeborn race, averse to every check,
Has tossed the yoke of Europe from its neck;
From the green prairie to the sea-girt town,
The whole wide nation turns its collars down.
The stately neck is manhoodâ€™s manliest part;
It takes the life-blood freshest from the heart.
With short, curled ringlets close around it spread,
How light and strong it lifts the Grecian head!
Thine, fair Erechtheus of Minervaâ€™s wall;
Or thine, young athlete of the Louvreâ€™s hall,
Smooth as the pillar flashing in the sun
That filled the arena where thy wreaths were won,
Firm as the band that clasps the antlered spoil
Strained in the winding anacondaâ€™s coil
I spare the contrast; it were only kind
To be a little, nay, intensely blind.
Choose for yourself: I know it cuts your ear;
I know the points will sometimes interfere;
I know that often, like the filial John,
Whom sleep surprised with half his drapery on,
You show your features to the astonished town
With one side standing and the other down;â€”Â
But, O, my friend! my favorite fellow-man!
If Nature made you on her modern plan,
Sooner than wander with your windpipe bare,â€”Â
The fruit of Eden ripening in the air,â€”Â
With that lean head-stalk, that protruding chin,
Wear standing collars, were they made of tin!
And have a neckclothâ€”Âby the throat of Jove!â€”Â
Cut from the funnel of a rusty stove!
The long-drawn lesson narrows to its close,
Chill, slender, slow, the dwindled current flows;
Tired of the ripples on its feeble springs,
Once more the Muse unfolds her upward wings.
Land of my birth, with this unhallowed tongue,
Thy hopes, thy dangers, I perchance had sung;
But who shall sing, in brutal disregard
Of all the essentials of the â€œnative bardâ€?
Lake, sea, shore, prairie, forest, mountain, fall,
His eye omnivorous must devour them all;
The tallest summits and the broadest tides
His foot must compass with its giant strides,
Where Ocean thunders, where Missouri rolls,
And tread at once the tropics and the poles;
His food all forms of earth, fire, water, air,
His home all space, his birthplace everywhere.
Some grave compatriot, having seen perhaps
The pictured page that goes in Worcesterâ€™s Maps,
And, read in earnest what was said in jest,
â€œWho drives fat oxenâ€â€”Âplease to add the rest,â€”Â
Sprung the odd notion that the poetâ€™s dreams
Grow in the ratio of his hills and streams;
And hence insisted that the aforesaid â€œbard,â€
Pink of the future, fancyâ€™s pattern-card,
The babe of nature in the â€œgiant West,â€
Must be of course her biggest and her best.
Oh! when at length the expected bard shall come,
Land of our pride, to strike thine echoes dumb,
(And many a voice exclaims in prose and rhyme,
Itâ€™s getting late, and heâ€™s behind his time,)
When all thy mountains clap their hands in joy,
And all thy cataracts thunder, â€œThat â€™s the boy,â€â€”Â
Say if with him the reign of song shall end,
And Heaven declare its final dividend!
Becalm, dear brother! whose impassioned strain
Comes from an alley watered by a drain;
The little Mincio, dribbling to the Po,
Beats all the epics of the Hoang Ho;
If loved in earnest by the tuneful maid,
Donâ€™t mind their nonsense,â€”Ânever be afraid!
The nurse of poets feeds her winged brood
By common firesides, on familiar food;
In a low hamlet, by a narrow stream,
Where bovine rustics used to doze and dream,
She filled young Williamâ€™s fiery fancy full,
While old John Shakespeare talked of beeves and wool!
No Alpine needle, with its climbing spire,
Brings down for mortals the Promethean fire,
If careless nature have forgot to frame
An altar worthy of the sacred flame.
Unblest by any save the goatherdâ€™s lines,
Mont Blanc rose soaring through his â€œsea of pines;â€
In vain the rivers from their ice-caves flash;
No hymn salutes them but the Ranz des Vaches,
Till lazy Coleridge, by the morningâ€™s light,
Gazed for a moment on the fields of white,
And lo! the glaciers found at length a tongue,
Mont Blanc was vocal, and Chamouni sung!
Children of wealth or want, to each is given
One spot of green, and all the blue of heaven!
Enough if these their outward shows impart;
The rest is thine,â€”Âthe scenery of the heart.
If passionâ€™s hectic in thy stanzas glow,
Thy heartâ€™s best life-blood ebbing as they flow;
If with thy verse thy strength and bloom distil,
Drained by the pulses of the fevered thrill;
If soundâ€™s sweet effluence polarize thy brain,
And thoughts turn crystals in thy fluid strain,â€”Â
Nor rolling ocean, nor the prairieâ€™s bloom,
Nor streaming cliffs, nor rayless cavernâ€™s gloom,
Needâ€™st thou, young poet, to inform thy line;
Thy own broad signet stamps thy song divine!
Let others gaze where silvery streams are rolled,
And chase the rainbow for its cup of gold;
To thee all landscapes wear a heavenly dye,
Changed in the glance of thy prismatic eye;
Nature evoked thee in sublimer throes,
For thee her inmost Arethusa flows,â€”Â
The mighty motherâ€™s living depths are stirred,â€”Â
Thou art the starred Osiris of the herd!
A few brief lines; they touch on solemn chords,
And hearts may leap to hear their honest words;
Yet, ere the jarring bugle-blast is blown,
The softer lyre shall breathe its soothing tone.
New England! proudly may thy children claim
Their honored birthright by its humblest name
Cold are thy skies, but, ever fresh and clear,
No rank malaria stains thine atmosphere;
No fungous weeds invade thy scanty soil,
Scarred by the ploughshares of unslumbering toil.
Long may the doctrines by thy sages taught,
Raised from the quarries where their sires have wrought,
Be like the granite of thy rock-ribbed land,â€”Â
As slow to rear, as obdurate to stand;
And as the ice that leaves thy crystal mine
Chills the fierce alcohol in the Creoleâ€™s wine,
So may the doctrines of thy sober school
Keep the hot theories of thy neighbors cool!
If ever, trampling on her ancient path,
Cankered by treachery or inflamed by wrath,
With smooth â€œResolvesâ€ or with discordant cries,
The mad Briareus of disunion rise,
Chiefs of New England! by your siresâ€™ renown,
Dash the red torches of the rebel down!
Flood his black hearthstone till its flames expire,
Though your old Sachem fanned his council-fire!
But if at last, her fading cycle run,
The tongue must forfeit what the arm has won,
Then rise, wild Ocean! roll thy surging shock
Full on old Plymouthâ€™s desecrated rock!
Scale the proud shaft degenerate hands have hewn,
Where bleeding Valor stained the flowers of June!
Sweep in one tide her spires and turrets down,
And howl her dirge above Monadnockâ€™s crown!
List not the tale; the Pilgrimâ€™s hallowed shore,
Though strewn with weeds, is granite at the core;
Oh, rather trust that He who made her free
Will keep her true as long as faith shall be!
Farewell! yet lingering through the destined hour,
Leave, sweet Enchantress, one memorial flower!
An Angel, floating oâ€™er the waste of snow
That clad our Western desert, long ago,
(The same fair spirit who, unseen by day,
Shone as a star along the Mayflowerâ€™s way,)â€”Â
Sent, the first herald of the Heavenly plan,
To choose on earth a resting-place for man,â€”Â
Tired with his flight along the unvaried field,
Turned to soar upwards, when his glance revealed
A calm, bright bay enclosed in rocky bounds,
And at its entrance stood three sister mounds.
The Angel spake: â€œThis threefold hill shall be
The home of Arts, the nurse of Liberty!
One stately summit from its shaft shall pour
Its deep-red blaze along the darkened shore;
Emblem of thoughts that, kindling far and wide,
In dangerâ€™s night shall be a nationâ€™s guide.
One swelling crest the citadel shall crown,
Its slanted bastions black with battleâ€™s frown,
And bid the sons that tread its scowling heights
Bare their strong arms for man and all his rights!
One silent steep along the northern wave
Shall hold the patriarchâ€™s and the heroâ€™s grave;
When fades the torch, when oâ€™er the peaceful scene
The embattled fortress smiles in living green,
The cross of Faith, the anchor staff of Hope,
Shall stand eternal on its grassy slope;
There through all time shall faithful Memory tell,
â€™Here Virtue toiled, and Patriot Valor fell;
Thy free, proud fathers slumber at thy side;
Live as they lived, or perish as they died!â€™â€