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"The Secret of the Stars" by Oliver Wendell Holmes

The following is the complete text of "The Secret of the Stars" by Oliver Wendell Holmes. Our presentation of this poem comes from The Complete Poetical Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes (1910). The various books, short stories and poems we offer are presented free of charge with absolutely no advertising as a public service from Internet Accuracy Project.


Visit these other works by Oliver Wendell Holmes
"At the Pantomime"
"At the Saturday Club"
"A Ballad of the Boston Tea Party"
"The Broomstick Train; or, The Return of the Witches"
"Bryant's Seventieth Birthday"
A Collection of his Short Poems
"Dorothy Q: A Family Portrait"
"A Farewell to Agassiz"
"The Flaneur"
"For Whittier's Seventieth Birthday"
"Grandmother's Story of Bunker-Hill Battle"
"How the Old Horse Won the Bet"
"Iris, Her Book"
"The Last Survivor"
"Meeting of the Alumni of Harvard College"
"The Moral Bully"
"The Morning Visit"

"A Mother's Secret"
"The Old Cruiser"
"The Old Player"
"On Lending a Punch Bowl"
"Once More"
"Our Banker"
"Parson Turell's Legacy"
"The Parting Word"
"The Ploughman"
Poem read at the Dinner given April 12, 1883
"Prologue"
"Rip Van Winkle, M. D."
"The School-Boy"
"The Smiling Listener"
"Spring"
"The Study"
"To James Russell Lowell"

To see all available titles by other authors, drop by our index of free books alphabetized by author or arranged alphabetically by title.

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NOTE: We try to present these classic literary works as they originally appeared in print. As such, they sometimes contain adult themes, offensive language, typographical errors, and often utilize unconventional, older, obsolete or intentionally incorrect spelling and/or punctuation conventions.


"The Secret of the Stars" by Oliver Wendell Holmes

THE SECRET OF THE STARS

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


Is man's the only throbbing heart that hides
The silent spring that feeds its whispering tides?
Speak from thy caverns, mystery-breeding Earth,
Tell the half-hinted story of thy birth,
And calm the noisy champions who have thrown
The book of types against the book of stone!

Have ye not secrets, ye refulgent spheres,
No sleepless listener of the starlight hears?
In vain the sweeping equatorial pries
Through every world-sown corner of the skies,
To the far orb that so remotely strays
Our midnight darkness is its noonday blaze;
In vain the climbing soul of creeping man
Metes out the heavenly concave with a span,
Tracks into space the long-lost meteor's trail,
And weighs an unseen planet in the scale;
Still o'er their doubts the waneyed watchers sigh,
And Science lifts her still unanswered cry:
"Are all these worlds, that speed their circling flight,
Dumb, vacant, soulless,--bawbles of the night?
Warmed with God's smile and wafted by his breath,
To weave in ceaseless round the dance of Death?
Or rolls a sphere in each expanding zone,
Crowned with a life as varied as our own?"

Maker of earth and stars! If thou hast taught
By what thy voice hath spoke, thy hand hath wrought,
By all that Science proves, or guesses true,
More than thy Poet dreamed, thy prophet knew,--
The heavens still bow in darkness at thy feet,
And shadows veil thy cloud-pavilioned seat!
Not for ourselves we ask thee to reveal
One awful word beneath the future's seal;
What thou shalt tell us, grant us strength to bear;
What thou withholdest is thy single care.
Not for ourselves; the present clings too fast,
Moored to the mighty anchors of the past;
But when, with angry snap, some cable parts,
The sound re-echoing in our startled hearts,--
When, through the wall that clasps the harbor round,
And shuts the raving ocean from its bound,
Shattered and rent by sacrilegious hands,
The first mad billow leaps upon the sands,--
Then to the Future's awful page we turn,
And what we question hardly dare to learn.
Still let us hope! for while we seem to tread
The time-worn pathway of the nations dead,
Though Sparta laughs at all our warlike deeds,
And buried Athens claims our stolen creeds,
Though Rome, a spectre on her broken throne,
Beholds our eagle and recalls her own,
Though England fling her pennons on the breeze
And reign before us Mistress of the seas,--
While calm-eyed History tracks us circling round
Fate's iron pillar where they all were bound,
She sees new beacons crowned with brighter flame
Than the old watch-fires, like, but not the same!
Still in our path a larger curve she finds,
The spiral widening as the chain unwinds!
No shameless haste shall spot with bandit-crime
Our destined empire snatched before its time.
Wait,--wait, undoubting, for the winds have caught
From our bold speech the heritage of thought;
No marble form that sculptured truth can wear
Vies with the image shaped in viewless air;
And thought unfettered grows through speech to deeds,
As the broad forest marches in its seeds.
What though we perish ere the day is won?
Enough to see its glorious work begun!
The thistle falls before a trampling clown,
But who can chain the flying thistle-down?
Wait while the fiery seeds of freedom fly,
The prairie blazes when the grass is dry!
What arms might ravish, leave to peaceful arts,
Wisdom and love shall win the roughest hearts;
So shall the angel who has closed for man
The blissful garden since his woes began
Swing wide the golden portals of the West,
And Eden's secret stand at length confessed!


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