By Oliver Wendell Holmes
(1809 - 1894)
 
 
After a Lecture on Keats
 
“Purpureos spargam flores.”
 
 
THE WREATH that star-crowned Shelley gave
Is lying on thy Roman grave,
Yet on its turf young April sets
Her store of slender violets;
Though all the Gods their garlands shower,
I too may bring one purple flower.
Alas! what blossom shall I bring,
That opens in my Northern spring?
The garden beds have all run wild,
So trim when I was yet a child;
Flat plantains and unseemly stalks
Have crept across the gravel walks;
The vines are dead, long, long ago,
The almond buds no longer blow.
No more upon its mound I see
The azure, plume-bound fleur-de-lis;
Where once the tulips used to show,
In straggling tufts the pansies grow;
The grass has quenched my white-rayed gem,
The flowering “Star of Bethlehem,”
Though its long blade of glossy green
And pallid stripe may still be seen.
Nature, who trends her nobles down,
And gives their birthright to the clown,
Has sown her base-born weedy things
Above the garden’s queens and kings.
Yet one sweet flower of ancient race
Springs in the old familiar place.
When snows were melting down the vale,
And Earth unlaced her icy mail,
And March his stormy trumpet blew,
And tender green came peeping through,
I loved the earliest one to seek
That broke the soil with emerald beak,
And watch the trembling bells so blue
Spread on the column as it grew.
Meek child of earth! thou wilt not shame
The sweet, dead poet’s holy name;
The God of music gave thee birth,
Called from the crimson-spotted earth,
Where, sobbing his young life away,
His own fair Hyacinthus lay.
The hyacinth my garden gave
Shall lie upon that Roman grave!
 
 
Bill and Joe
 
 
COME, dear old comrade, you and I
Will steal an hour from days gone by,
The shining days when life was new,
And all was bright with morning dew,
The lusty days of long ago,
When you were Bill and I was Joe.
 
Your name may flaunt a titled trail
Proud as a cockerel’s rainbow tail,
And mine as brief appendix wear
As Tam O’Shanter’s luckless mare;
To-day, old friend, remember still
That I am Joe and you are Bill.
 
You ’ve won the great world’s envied prize,
And grand you look in people’s eyes,
With H O N. and LL. D.
In big brave letters, fair to see,—
Your fist, old fellow! off they go!—
How are you, Bill? How are you, Joe?
 
You ’ve worn the judge’s ermined robe;
You ’ve taught your name to half the globe;
You ’ve sung mankind a deathless strain;
You ’ve made the dead past live again:
The world may call you what it will,
But you and I are Joe and Bill.
 
The chaffing young folks stare and say
“See those old buffers, bent and gray,—
They talk like fellows in their teens!
Mad, poor old boys! That ’s what it means,”—
And shake their heads; they little know
The throbbing hearts of Bill and Joe!—
 
How Bill forgets his hour of pride,
While Joe sits smiling at his side;
How Joe, in spite of time’s disguise,
Finds the old schoolmate in his eyes,—
Those calm, stern eyes that melt and fill
As Joe looks fondly up at Bill.
 
Ah, pensive scholar, what is fame?
A fitful tongue of leaping flame;
A giddy whirlwind’s fickle gust,
That lifts a pinch of mortal dust;
A few swift years, and who can show
Which dust was Bill and which was Joe?
 
The weary idol takes his stand,
Holds out his bruised and aching hand,
While gaping thousands come and go,—
How vain it seems, this empty show!
Till all at once his pulses thrill;—
’T is poor old Joe’s “God bless you, Bill!”
 
And shall we breathe in happier spheres
The names that pleased our mortal ears,
In some sweet lull of harp and song
For earth-born spirits none too long,
Just whispering of the world below
Where this was Bill and that was Joe?
 
No matter; while our home is here
No sounding name is half so dear;
When fades at length our lingering day,
Who cares what pompous tombstones say?
Read on the hearts that love us still,
Hic jacet Joe. Hic jacet Bill.
 
 
Cacoëthes Scribendi
 
 
IF all the trees in all the woods were men;
And each and every blade of grass a pen;
If every leaf on every shrub and tree
Turned to a sheet of foolscap; every sea
Were changed to ink, and all earth’s living tribes
Had nothing else to do but act as scribes,
And for ten thousand ages, day and night,
The human race should write, and write, and write,
Till all the pens and paper were used up,
And the huge inkstand was an empty cup,
Still would the scribblers clustered round its brink
Call for more pens, more paper, and more ink.
 
 
Dorothy Q.
 
A Family Portrait
 
 
GRANDMOTHER’S mother: her age, I guess,
Thirteen summers, or something less;
Girlish bust, but womanly air;
Smooth, square forehead with uprolled hair;
Lips that lover has never kissed;
Taper fingers and slender wrist;
Hanging sleeves of stiff brocade;
So they painted the little maid.
 
On her hand a parrot green
Sits unmoving and broods serene.
Hold up the canvas full in view,—
Look! there ’s a rent the light shines through,
Dark with a century’s fringe of dust,—
That was a Red-Coat’s rapier-thrust!
Such is the tale the lady old,
Dorothy’s daughter’s daughter, told.
 
Who the painter was none may tell,—
One whose best was not over well;
Hard and dry, it must be confessed,
Flat as a rose that has long been pressed;
Yet in her cheek the hues are bright,
Dainty colors of red and white,
And in her slender shape are seen
Hint and promise of stately mien.
 
Look not on her with eyes of scorn,—
Dorothy Q. was a lady born!
Ay! since the galloping Normans came,
England’s annals have known her name;
And still to the three-hilled rebel town
Dear is that ancient name’s renown,
For many a civic wreath they won,
The youthful sire and the gray-haired son.
 
O Damsel Dorothy! Dorothy Q.!
Strange is the gift that I owe to you;
Such a gift as never a king
Save to daughter or son might bring,—
All my tenure of heart and hand,
All my title to house and land;
Mother and sister and child and wife
And joy and sorrow and death and life!
 
What if a hundred years ago
Those close-shut lips had answered No,
When forth the tremulous question came
That cost the maiden her Norman name,
And under the folds that look so still
The bodice swelled with the bosom’s thrill?
Should I be I, or would it be
One tenth another, to nine tenths me?
 
Soft is the breath of a maiden’s Yes:
Not the light gossamer stirs with less;
But never a cable that holds so fast
Through all the battles of wave and blast,
And never an echo of speech or song
That lives in the babbling air so long!
There were tones in the voice that whispered then
You may hear to-day in a hundred men.
 
O lady and lover, how faint and far
Your images hover,—and here we are,
Solid and stirring in flesh and bone,—
Edward’s and Dorothy’s—all their own,—
A goodly record for Time to show
Of a syllable spoken so long ago!—
Shall I bless you, Dorothy, or forgive
For the tender whisper that bade me live?
 
It shall be a blessing, my little maid!
I will heal the stab of the Red-Coat’s blade,
And freshen the gold of the tarnished frame,
And gild with a rhyme your household name;
So you shall smile on us brave and bright
As first you greeted the morning’s light,
And live untroubled by woes and fears
Through a second youth of a hundred years.
 
 
Epilogue to the Breakfast Table Series
 
Autocrat—Professor—Poet (At a Bookstore, Anno Domini 1972)
 
 
A CRAZY bookcase, placed before
A low-price dealer’s open door;
Therein arrayed in broken rows
A ragged crew of rhyme and prose,
The homeless vagrants, waifs, and strays
Whose low estate this line betrays
(Set forth the lesser birds to lime)
YOUR CHOICE AMONG THESE BOOKS 1 DIME!
 
Ho! dealer; for its motto’s sake
This scarecrow from the shelf I take;
Three starveling volumes bound in one,
Its covers warping in the sun.
Methinks it hath a musty smell,
I like its flavor none too well,
But Yorick’s brain was far from dull,
Though Hamlet pah! ’d, and dropped his skull.
 
Why, here comes rain! The sky grows dark,—
Was that the roll of thunder? Hark!
The shop affords a safe retreat,
A chair extends its welcome seat,
The tradesman has a civil look
(I ’ve paid, impromptu, for my book),
The clouds portend a sudden shower,—
I ’ll read my purchase for an hour.
 
What have I rescued from the shelf?
A Boswell, writing out himself!
For though he changes dress and name,
The man beneath is still the same,
Laughing or sad, by fits and starts,
One actor in a dozen parts,
And whatsoe’er the mask may be,
The voice assures us, This is he.
 
I say not this to cry him down;
I find my Shakespeare in his clown,
His rogues the selfsame parent own;
Nay! Satan talks in Milton’s tone!
Where’er the ocean inlet strays,
The salt sea wave its source betrays;
Where’er the queen of summer blows,
She tells the zephyr, “I ’m the rose!”
 
And his is not the playwright’s page;
His table does not ape the stage;
What matter if the figures seen
Are only shadows on a screen,
He finds in them his lurking thought,
And on their lips the words he sought,
Like one who sits before the keys
And plays a tune himself to please.
 
And was he noted in his day?
Read, flattered, honored? Who shall say?
Poor wreck of time the wave has cast
To find a peaceful shore at last,
Once glorying in thy gilded name
And freighted deep with hopes of fame,
Thy leaf is moistened with a tear,
The first for many a long, long year!
 
For be it more or less of art
That veils the lowliest human heart
Where passion throbs, where friendship glows,
Where pity’s tender tribute flows,
Where love has lit its fragrant fire,
And sorrow quenched its vain desire,
For me the altar is divine,
Its flame, its ashes,—all are mine!
 
And thou, my brother, as I look
And see thee pictured in thy book,
Thy years on every page confessed
In shadows lengthening from the west,
Thy glance that wanders, as it sought
Some freshly opening flower of thought,
Thy hopeful nature, light and free,
I start to find myself in thee!
 
Come, vagrant, outcast, wretch forlorn
In leather jerkin stained and torn,
Whose talk has filled my idle hour
And made me half forget the shower,
I ’ll do at least as much for you,
Your coat I ’ll patch, your gilt renew,
Read you—perhaps—some other time.
Not bad, my bargain! Price one dime!
 
 
From “The Iron Gate”
 
 
AS on the gauzy wings of fancy flying
  From some far orb I track our watery sphere,
Home of the struggling, suffering, doubting, dying,
  The silvered globule seems a glistening tear.
 
But Nature lends her mirror of illusion
  To win from saddening scenes our age-dimmed eyes,
And misty day-dreams blend in sweet confusion
  The wintry landscape and the summer skies.
 
So when the iron portal shuts behind us,
  And life forgets us in its noise and whirl,
Visions that shunned the glaring noonday find us,
  And glimmering starlight shows the gates of pearl.
 
I come not here your morning hour to sadden,
  A limping pilgrim, leaning on his staff,—
I, who have never deemed it sin to gladden
  This vale of sorrows with a wholesome laugh.
 
If word of mine another’s gloom has brightened,
  Through my dumb lips the heaven-sent message came;
If hand of mine another’s task has lightened,
  It felt the guidance that it dares not claim.
 
But, O my gentle sisters, O my brothers,
  These thick-sown snow-flakes hint of toil’s release;
These feebler pulses bid me leave to others
  The tasks once welcome; evening asks for peace.
 
Time claims his tribute; silence now is golden;
  Let me not vex the too long suffering lyre;
Though to your love untiring still beholden,
  The curfew tells me—cover up the fire.
 
 
Hymn of Trust
 
 
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 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 suffer while we know,
  Living and dying, Thou art near!
 
 
La Grisette
 
 
AH, Clemence! when I saw thee last
  Trip down the Rue de Seine,
And turning, when thy form had past,
  I said, “We meet again,”—
I dreamed not in that idle glance
  Thy latest image came,
And only left to memory’s trance
  A shadow and a name.
 
The few strange words my lips had taught
  Thy timid voice to speak,
Their gentler signs, which often brought
  Fresh roses to thy cheek,
The trailing of thy long loose hair
  Bent o’er my couch of pain,
All, all returned, more sweet, more fair;
  Oh, had we met again!
 
I walked where saint and virgin keep
  The vigil lights of Heaven,
I knew that thou hadst woes to weep,
  And sins to be forgiven;
I watched where Genevieve was laid,
  I knelt by Mary’s shrine,
Beside me low, soft voices prayed;
  Alas! but where was thine?
 
And when the morning sun was bright,
  When wind and wave were calm,
And flamed, in thousand-tinted light,
  The rose of Notre Dame,
I wandered through the haunts of men,
  From Boulevard to Quai,
Till, frowning o’er Saint Etienne,
  The Pantheon’s shadow lay.
 
In vain, in vain; we meet no more,
  Nor dream what fates befall;
And long upon the stranger’s shore
  My voice on thee may cell,
When years have clothed the line in moss
  That tells thy name and days,
And withered, on thy simple cross,
  The wreaths of Père-la-Chaise!
 
 
Old Ironsides
 
 
AY, tear her tattered ensign down!
    Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
    That banner in the sky;
Beneath it rung the battle shout,
    And burst the cannon’s roar;—
The meteor of the ocean air
    Shall sweep the clouds no more.
 
Her deck, once red with heroes’ blood,
    Where knelt the vanquished foe,
When winds were hurrying o’er the flood,
    And waves were white below,
No more shall feel the victor’s tread,
    Or know the conquered knee;
The harpies of the shore shall pluck
    The eagle of the sea!
 
O, better that her shattered hulk
    Should sink beneath the wave;
Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
    And there should be her grave;
Nail to the mast her holy flag,
    Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,
    The lightning and the gale!
 
 
On Lending a Punch-Bowl
 
 
THIS ancient silver bowl of mine, it tells of good old times,
Of joyous days and jolly nights, and merry Christmas chimes;
They were a free and jovial race, but honest, brave, and true,
Who dipped their ladle in the punch when this old bowl was new.
 
A Spanish galleon brought the bar,—so runs the ancient tale;
’T was hammered by an Antwerp smith, whose arm was like a flail;
And now and then between the strokes, for fear his strength should fail,
He wiped his brow and quaffed a cup of good old Flemish ale.
 
’T was purchased by an English squire to please his loving dame,
Who saw the cherubs, and conceived a longing for the same;
And oft as on the ancient stock another twig was found,
’T was filled caudle spiced and hot, and handed smoking round.
 
But, changing hands, it reached at length a Puritan divine,
Who used to follow Timothy, and take a little wine,
But hated punch and prelacy; and so it was, perhaps,
He went to Leyden, where he found conventicles and schnapps.
 
And then, of course, you know what ’s next: it left the Dutchman’s shore
With those that in the Mayflower came,—a hundred souls and more,—
Along with all the furniture, to fill their new adobes,—
To judge by what is still on hand, at least a hundred load.
 
’T was on a dreary winter’s eve, the night was closing dim,
When brave Miles Standish took the bowl, and filled it to the brim;
The little Captain stood and stirred the posset with his sword,
And all his sturdy men-at-arms were ranged about the board.
 
He poured the fiery Hollands in,—the man that never feared,—
He took a long and solemn draught, and wiped his yellow beard;
And one by one the musketeers—the men that fought and prayed—
All drank as ’t were their mother’s milk, and not a man afraid.
 
That night, affrighted from his nest, the screaming eagle flew,
He heard the Pequot’s ringing whoop, the soldier’s wild halloo;
And there the sachem learned the rule he taught to kith and kin:
“Run from the white man when you find he smells of Hollands gin!”
 
A hundred years, and fifty more, had spread their leaves and snows,
A thousand rubs had flattened down each little cherub’s nose,
When once again the bowl was filled, but not in mirth or joy,—
’T was mingled by a mother’s hand to cheer her parting boy.
 
“Drink, John,” she said, “’t will do you good,—poor child, you ’ll never bear
This working in the dismal trench, out in the midnight air;
And if—God bless me!—you were hurt, ’t would keep away the chill.”
So John did drink,—and well he wrought that night at Bunker’s Hill!
 
I tell you, there was generous warmth in good old English cheer;
I tell you, ’t was a pleasant thought to bring its symbol here:
’T is but the fool that loves excess; has thou a drunken soul?
Thy bane is in thy shallow skull, not in my silver bowl!
 
I love the memory of the past,—its pressed yet fragrant flowers,—
The moss that clothes its broken walls, the ivy on its towers;
Nay, this poor bauble it bequeathed,—my eyes grow moist and dim,
To think of all the vanished joys that danced around its brim.
 
Then fill a fair and honest cup, and bear it straight to me;
The goblet hallows all it holds, whate’er the liquid be;
And may the cherubs on its face protect me from the sin
That dooms one to those dreadful words,—“My dear, where have you been?”
 
 
The Chambered Nautilus
 
 
THIS is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
    Sails the unshadowed main,—
    The venturous bark that flings
On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,
    And coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.
 
Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl;
    Wrecked is the ship of pearl!
    And every chambered cell,
Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell,
As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell,
    Before thee lies revealed,—
Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!
 
Year after year beheld the silent toil
    That spread his lustrous coil;
    Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year’s dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
    Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.
 
Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
    Child of the wandering sea,
    Cast from her lap, forlorn!
From thy dead lips a clearer note is born
Than ever Triton blew from wreathëd horn!
    While on mine ear it rings,
Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:—
 
Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
    As the swift seasons roll!
    Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
    Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!
 
 
The Height of the Ridiculous
 
 
I WROTE some lines once on a time
    In wondrous merry mood,
And thought, as usual, men would say
    They were exceeding good.
 
They were so queer, so very queer,
    I laughed as I would die;
Albeit, in the general way,
    A sober man am I.
 
I called my servant, and he came;
    How kind it was of him
To mind a slender man like me,
    He of the mighty limb.
 
“These to the printer,” I exclaimed,
    And, in my humorous way,
I added (as a trifling jest,)
    “There ’ll be the devil to pay.”
 
He took the paper, and I watched,
    And saw him peep within;
At the first line he read, his face
    Was all upon the grin.
 
He read the next; the grin grew broad,
    And shot from ear to ear;
He read the third; a chuckling noise
    I now began to hear.
 
The fourth; he broke into a roar;
    The fifth; his waistband split;
The sixth; he burst five buttons off,
    And tumbled in a fit.
 
Ten days and nights, with sleepless eye,
    I watched that wretched man,
And since, I never dare to write
    As funny as I can.
 
 
The Last Leaf
 
 
I SAW him once before,
As he passed by the door,
    And again
The pavement stones resound,
As he totters o’er the ground
    With his cane.
 
They say that in his prime,
Ere the pruning-knife of Time
    Cut him down,
Not a better man was found
By the Crier on his round
    Through the town.
 
But now he walks the streets,
And he looks at all he meets
    Sad and wan,
And he shakes his feeble head,
That it seems as if he said,
    “They are gone.”
 
The mossy marbles rest
On the lips that he has prest
    In their bloom,
And the names he loved to hear
Have been carved for many a year
    On the tomb.
 
My grandmamma has said—
Poor old lady, she is dead
    Long ago—
That he had a Roman nose,
And his cheek was like a rose
    In the snow;
 
But now his nose is thin,
And it rests upon his chin
    Like a staff,
And a crook is in his back,
And a melancholy crack
    In his laugh.
 
I know it is a sin
For me to sit and grin
    At him here;
But the old three-cornered hat,
And the breeches, and all that,
    Are so queer!
 
And if I should live to be
The last leaf upon the tree
    In the spring,
Let them smile, as I do now,
At the old forsaken bough
    Where I cling.
 
 
The Living Temple
 
 
NOT in the world of light alone,
Where God has built his blazing throne,
Nor yet alone in earth below,
With belted seas that come and go,
And endless isles of sunlit green,
Is all thy Maker’s glory seen:
Look in upon thy wondrous frame,—
Eternal wisdom still the same!
 
The smooth, soft air with pulse-like waves
Flows murmuring through its hidden caves,
Whose streams of brightening purple rush,
Fired with a new and livelier blush,
While all their burden of decay
The ebbing current steals away,
And red with Nature’s flame they start
From the warm fountains of the heart.
 
No rest that throbbing slave may ask,
Forever quivering o’er his task,
While far and wide a crimson jet
Leaps forth to fill the woven net
Which in unnumbered crossing tides
The flood of burning life divides,
Then, kindling each decaying part,
Creeps back to find the throbbing heart.
 
But warmed with that unchanging flame
Behold the outward moving frame,
Its living marbles jointed strong
With glistening band and silvery thong,
And linked to reason’s guiding reins
By myriad rings in trembling chains,
Each graven with the threaded zone
Which claims it as the master’s own.
 
See how yon beam of seeming white
Is braided out of seven-hued light,
Yet in those lucid globes no ray
By any chance shall break astray.
Hark how the rolling surge of sound,
Arches and spirals circling round,
Wakes the hushed spirit through thine ear
With music it is heaven to hear.
 
Then mark the cloven sphere that holds
All thought in its mysterious folds;
That feels sensation’s faintest thrill,
And flashes forth the sovereign will;
Think on the stormy world that dwells
Locked in its dim and clustering cells!
The lightning gleams of power it sheds
Along its hollow glassy threads!
 
O Father! grant thy love divine
To make these mystic temples thine!
When wasting age and wearying strife
Have sapped the leaning walls of life,
When darkness gathers over all,
And the last tottering pillars fall,
Take the poor dust thy mercy warms,
And mould it into heavenly forms!
 
 
The Strong Heroic Line
 
 
FRIENDS of the Muse, to you of right belong
The first staid footsteps of my square-toed song;
Full well I know the strong heroic line
Has lost its fashion since I made it mine;
But there are tricks old singers will not learn,
And this grave measure still must serve my turn.
So the old bird resumes the selfsame note
His first young summer wakened in his throat;
The selfsame tune the old canary sings,
And all unchanged the bobolink’s carol rings;
When the tired songsters of the day are still
The thrush repeats his long-remembered trill;
Age alters not the crow’s persistent caw,
The Yankee’s “Haow,” the stammering Briton’s “Haw;”
And so the hand that takes the lyre for you
Plays the old tune on strings that once were new.
Nor let the rhymester of the hour deride
The straight-backed measure with its stately stride:
It gave the mighty voice of Dryden scope;
It sheathed the steel-bright epigrams of Pope;
In Goldsmith’s verse it learned a sweeter strain;
Byron and Campbell wore its clanking chain;
I smile to listen while the critic’s scorn
Flouts the proud purple kings have nobly worn;
Bid each new rhymer try his dainty skill
And mould his frozen phrases as he will;
We thank the artist for his neat device;
The shape is pleasing, though the stuff is ice.
 
Fashions will change—the new costume allures,
Unfading still the better type endures;
While the slashed doublet of the cavalier
Gave the old knight the pomp of chanticleer,
Our last-hatched dandy with his glass and stick
Recalls the semblance of a new-born chick;
(To match the model he is aiming at
He ought to wear an eggshell for a hat).
He ought to wear an eggshell for a hat).
Which of these objects would a painter choose,
And which Velasquez or Van Dyck refuse?
 
 
The Voiceless
 
 
WE count the broken lyres that rest
  Where the sweet wailing singers slumber,
But o’er their silent sister’s breast
  The wild-flowers who will stoop to number?
A few can touch the magic string,
  And noisy Fame is proud to win them:—
Alas for those that never sing,
  But die with all their music in them!
 
Nay, grieve not for the dead alone
  Whose song has told their hearts’ sad story,—
Weep for the voiceless, who have known
  The cross without the crown of glory!
Not where Leucadian breezes sweep
  O’er Sappho’s memory-haunted billow,
But where the glistening night-dews weep
  On nameless sorrow’s churchyard pillow.
 
O hearts that break and give no sign
  Save whitening lip and fading tresses,
Till Death pours out his longed-for wine
  Slow-dropped from Misery’s crushing presses,—
If singing breath or echoing chord
  To every hidden pang were given,
What endless melodies were poured,
  As sad as earth, as sweet as heaven!
 
 
Under the Violets
 
 
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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