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A Collection of Short Poems by Oliver Wendell Holmes

Below you'll find a variety of shorter poems by Oliver Wendell Holmes. This assortment includes, "Army Hymn," "At the Unitarian Festival," "Boston to Florence," "Cacoethes Scribendi," "Departed Days," "Fantasia," "Farewell to J. R. Lowell," "Freedom, Our Queen," "God Save the Flag," "Hymn after the Emancipation Proclamation," "Hymn for the Class-Meeting," "An Impromptu," "J. D. R.," "Joseph Warren, M. D." "Nearing the Snow Line," "No Time Like the Old Time," "Non-Resistance," "Old Ironsides," "Opening the Window," "Our Limitations," "The Ship of State," "A Sentiment," "A Sun-day Hymn," "To an English Friend," "To George Peabody," "To John Greenleaf Whittier," "To the Teachers of America," "A Toast to Wilkie Collins," "Unsatisfied" and others. Our presentation of these poems comes from The Complete Poetical Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes (1910).


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"
"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 Secret of the Stars"
"The Smiling Listener"
"Spring"
"The Study"



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

Potential uses for the free books, stories and prose we offer
* Rediscovering an old favorite book, poem or story.
* Bibliophiles expanding their collection of public domain eBooks at no cost.
* Teachers trying to locate a free online copy of a classic poem or short story for use in the classroom.


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.


"Army Hymn" by Oliver Wendell Holmes

ARMY HYMN

"OLD HUNDRED."

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


O LORD of Hosts! Almighty King!
Behold the sacrifice we bring
To every arm Thy strength impart,
Thy spirit shed through every heart!

Wake in our breasts the living fires,
The holy faith that warmed our sires;
Thy hand hath made our Nation free;
To die for her is serving Thee.

Be Thou a pillared flame to show
The midnight snare, the silent foe;
And when the battle thunders loud,
Still guide us in its moving cloud.

God of all Nations! Sovereign Lord!
In Thy dread name we draw the sword,
We lift the starry flag on high
That fills with light our stormy sky.

From treason's rent, from murder's stain,
Guard Thou its folds till Peace shall reign,--
Till fort and field, till shore and sea,
Join our loud anthem, PRAISE TO THEE!


"At the Unitarian Festival" by Oliver Wendell Holmes

AT THE UNITARIAN FESTIVAL

MARCH 8, 1882.

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


THE waves unbuild the wasting shore;
Where mountains towered the billows sweep,
Yet still their borrowed spoils restore,
And build new empires from the deep.
So while the floods of thought lay waste
The proud domain of priestly creeds,
Its heaven-appointed tides will haste
To plant new homes for human needs.
Be ours to mark with hearts unchilled
The change an outworn church deplores;
The legend sinks, but Faith shall build
A fairer throne on new-found shores.


"Boston to Florence" by Oliver Wendell Holmes

BOSTON TO FLORENCE

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

Sent to "The Philological Circle" of Florence for its meeting in commemoration of Dante, January 27, 1881, anniversary of his first condemnation.

PROUD of her clustering spires, her new-built towers,
Our Venice, stolen from the slumbering sea,
A sister's kindliest greeting wafts to thee,
Rose of Val d' Arno, Queen of all its flowers!
Thine exile's shrine thy sorrowing love embowers,
Yet none with truer homage bends the knee,
Or stronger pledge of fealty brings, than we,
Whose poets make thy dead Immortal ours.
Lonely the height, but ah, to heaven how near!
Dante, whence flowed that solemn verse of thine
Like the stern river from its Apennine
Whose name the far-off Scythian thrilled with fear:
Now to all lands thy deep-toned voice is dear,
And every language knows the Song Divine!


"Cacoethes Scribendi" by Oliver Wendell Holmes

CACOETHES SCRIBENDI

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


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.


"Departed Days" by Oliver Wendell Holmes

DEPARTED DAYS

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


YES, dear departed, cherished days,
Could Memory's hand restore
Your morning light, your evening rays,
From Time's gray urn once more,--
Then might this restless heart be still,
This straining eye might close,
And Hope her fainting pinions fold,
While the fair phantoms rose.

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


"Fantasia" by Oliver Wendell Holmes

FANTASIA

THE YOUNG GIRL'S POEM

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


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

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

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


"Farewell to J. R. Lowell" by Oliver Wendell Holmes

FAREWELL

TO J. R. LOWELL

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


FAREWELL, for the bark has her breast to the tide,
And the rough arms of Ocean are stretched for his bride;
The winds from the mountain stream over the bay;
One clasp of the hand, then away and away!

I see the tall mast as it rocks by the shore;
The sun is declining, I see it once more;
To-day like the blade in a thick-waving field,
To-morrow the spike on a Highlander's shield.

Alone, while the cloud pours its treacherous breath,
With the blue lips all round her whose kisses are death;
Ah, think not the breeze that is urging her sail
Has left her unaided to strive with the gale.

There are hopes that play round her, like fires on the mast,
That will light the dark hour till its danger has past;
There are prayers that will plead with the storm when it raves,
And whisper "Be still!" to the turbulent waves.

Nay, think not that Friendship has called us in vain
To join the fair ring ere we break it again;
There is strength in its circle,--you lose the bright star,
But its sisters still chain it, though shining afar.

I give you one health in the juice of the vine,
The blood of the vineyard shall mingle with mine;
Thus, thus let us drain the last dew-drops of gold,
As we empty our hearts of the blessings they hold.


April 29, 1855.

"For the Window in St. Margaret's"

FOR THE WINDOW IN ST. MARGARET'S

IN MEMORY OF A SON OF ARCHDEACON FARRAR

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


AFAR he sleeps whose name is graven here,
Where loving hearts his early doom deplore;
Youth, promise, virtue, all that made him dear
Heaven lent, earth borrowed, sorrowing to restore.


BOSTON, April 12, 1891.

"Freedom, Our Queen" by Oliver Wendell Holmes
0
FREEDOM, OUR QUEEN

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


LAND where the banners wave last in the sun,
Blazoned with star-clusters, many in one,
Floating o'er prairie and mountain and sea;
Hark! 't is the voice of thy children to thee!

Here at thine altar our vows we renew
Still in thy cause to be loyal and true,--
True to thy flag on the field and the wave,
Living to honor it, dying to save!

Mother of heroes! if perfidy's blight
Fall on a star in thy garland of light,
Sound but one bugle-blast! Lo! at the sign
Armies all panoplied wheel into line!

Hope of the world! thou hast broken its chains,--
Wear thy bright arms while a tyrant remains,
Stand for the right till the nations shall own
Freedom their sovereign, with Law for her throne!

Freedom! sweet Freedom! our voices resound,
Queen by God's blessing, unsceptred, uncrowned!
Freedom, sweet Freedom, our pulses repeat,
Warm with her life-blood, as long as they beat!

Fold the broad banner-stripes over her breast,--
Crown her with star-jewels Queen of the West!
Earth for her heritage, God for her friend,
She shall reign over us, world without end!


"God Save the Flag!" by Oliver Wendell Holmes
1
GOD SAVE THE FLAG!

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


WASHED in the blood of the brave and the blooming,
Snatched from the altars of insolent foes,
Burning with star-fires, but never consuming,
Flash its broad ribbons of lily and rose.

Vainly the prophets of Baal would rend it,
Vainly his worshippers pray for its fall;
Thousands have died for it, millions defend it,
Emblem of justice and mercy to all:

Justice that reddens the sky with her terrors,
Mercy that comes with her white-handed train,
Soothing all passions, redeeming all errors,
Sheathing the sabre and breaking the chain.

Borne on the deluge of old usurpations,
Drifted our Ark o'er the desolate seas,
Bearing the rainbow of hope to the nations,
Torn from the storm-cloud and flung to the breeze!

God bless the Flag and its loyal defenders,
While its broad folds o'er the battle-field wave,
Till the dim star-wreath rekindle its splendors,
Washed from its stains in the blood of the brave!

1865.


"Harvard" by Oliver Wendell Holmes
2
HARVARD

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

Read at Commencement Dinner, July 1, 1880.

CHANGELESS in beauty, rose-hues on her cheek,
Old walls, old trees, old memories all around
Lend her unfading youth their charm antique
And fill with mystic light her holy ground.
Here the lost dove her leaf of promise found
While the new morning showed its blushing streak
Far o'er the waters she had crossed to seek
The bleak, wild shore in billowy forests drowned.
Mother of scholars! on thy rising throne
Thine elder sisters look benignant down;
England's proud twins, and they whose cloisters own
The fame of Abelard, the scarlet gown
That laughing Rabelais wore, not yet outgrown
And on thy forehead place the New World's crown.


"Hymn written for the Great Central Fair in Philadelphia, 1864"
3
HYMN WRITTEN FOR THE GREAT CENTRAL FAIR IN PHILADELPHIA, 1864

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


Father, send on Earth again
Peace and good-will to men;
Yet, while the weary track of life
Leads thy people through storm and strife,
Help us to walk therein.

Guide us through the perilous path;
Teach us love that tempers wrath;
Let the fountain of mercy flow
Alike for helpless friend and foe,
Children all of Thine.

God of grace, hear our call;
Bless our gifts, Giver of all;
The wounded heal, the captive restore,
And make us a nation evermore
Faithful to Freedom and Thee.


"Hymn after the Emancipation Proclamation"
4
HYMN AFTER THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


GIVER of all that crowns our days,
With grateful hearts we sing thy praise;
Through deep and desert led by thee,
Our promised land at last we see.

Ruler of Nations, judge our cause!
If we have kept thy holy laws,
The sons of Belial curse in vain
The day that rends the captive's chain.

Thou God of vengeance! Israel's Lord!
Break in their grasp the shield and sword,
And make thy righteous judgments known
Till all thy foes are overthrown!

Then, Father, lay thy healing hand
In mercy on our stricken land;
Lead all its wanderers to the fold,
And be their Shepherd as of old.

So shall one Nation's song ascend
To thee, our Ruler, Father, Friend,
While Heaven's wide arch resounds again
With Peace on earth, good-will to men!

1865.


"Hymn for the Class-Meeting"
5
HYMN FOR THE CLASS-MEETING

1869

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


THOU Gracious Power, whose mercy lends
The light of home, the smile of friends,
Our gathered flock thine arms infold
As in the peaceful days of old.

Wilt thou not hear us while we raise,
In sweet accord of solemn praise,
The voices that have mingled long
In joyous flow of mirth and song?

For all the blessings life has brought,
For all its sorrowing hours have taught,
For all we mourn, for all we keep,
The hands we clasp, the loved that sleep;

The noontide sunshine of the past,
These brief, bright moments fading fast,
The stars that gild our darkening years,
The twilight ray from holier spheres;

We thank thee, Father! let thy grace
Our narrowing circle still embrace,
Thy mercy shed its heavenly store,
Thy peace be with us evermore!


"I Like You and I Love You"
6
I LIKE YOU AND I LOVE YOU

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


I LIKE YOU met I LOVE YOU, face to face;
The path was narrow, and they could not pass.
I LIKE YOU smiled; I LOVE YOU cried, Alas!
And so they halted for a little space.

"Turn thou and go before," I LOVE YOU said,
"Down the green pathway, bright with many a flower;
Deep in the valley, lo! my bridal bower
Awaits thee." But I LIKE YOU shook his head.

Then while they lingered on the span-wide shelf
That shaped a pathway round the rocky ledge,
I LIKE YOU bared his icy dagger's edge,
And first he slew I LOVE YOU,--then himself.


"An Impromptu" by Oliver Wendell Holmes
7
AN IMPROMPTU

Not premeditated

1853

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


THE clock has struck noon; ere it thrice tell the hours
We shall meet round the table that blushes with flowers,
And I shall blush deeper with shame-driven blood
That I came to the banquet and brought not a bud.

Who cares that his verse is a beggar in art
If you see through its rags the full throb of his heart?
Who asks if his comrade is battered and tanned
When he feels his warm soul in the clasp of his hand?

No! be it an epic, or be it a line,
The Boys will all love it because it is mine;
I sung their last song on the morn of the day
That tore from their lives the last blossom of May.

It is not the sunset that glows in the wine,
But the smile that beams over it, makes it divine;
I scatter these drops, and behold, as they fall,
The day-star of memory shines through them all!

And these are the last; they are drops that I stole
From a wine-press that crushes the life from the soul,
But they ran through my heart and they sprang to my brain
Till our twentieth sweet summer was smiling again!


"J. D. R." by Oliver Wendell Holmes
8
J. D. R.

1862

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


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

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

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


"Joseph Warren, M. D." by Oliver Wendell Holmes
9
JOSEPH WARREN, M. D.

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


TRAINED in the holy art whose lifted shield
Wards off the darts a never-slumbering foe,
By hearth and wayside lurking, waits to throw,
Oppression taught his helpful arm to wield
The slayer's weapon: on the murderous field
The fiery bolt he challenged laid him low,
Seeking its noblest victim. Even so
The charter of a nation must be sealed!
The healer's brow the hero's honors crowned,
From lowliest duty called to loftiest deed.
Living, the oak-leaf wreath his temples bound;
Dying, the conqueror's laurel was his meed,
Last on the broken ramparts' turf to bleed
Where Freedom's victory in defeat was found.


June 11, 1875.

"La Maison d'Or" by Oliver Wendell Holmes
0
LA MAISON D'OR

(BAR HARBOR)

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


From this fair home behold on either side
The restful mountains or the restless sea:
So the warm sheltering walls of life divide
Time and its tide from still eternity.

Look on the waves: their stormy voices teach
That not on earth may toil and struggle cease.
Look on the mountains; better far than speech
Their silent promise of eternal peace.


"Nearing the Snow-Line" by Oliver Wendell Holmes
1
NEARING THE SNOW-LINE

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


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

1870.


"No Time Like the Old Time"
2
NO TIME LIKE THE OLD TIME

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


THERE is no time like the old time, when you and I were young,
When the buds of April blossomed, and the birds of spring-time sung!
The garden's brightest glories by summer suns are nursed,
But oh, the sweet, sweet violets, the flowers that opened first!

There is no place like the old place, where you and I were born,
Where we lifted first our eyelids on the splendors of the morn
From the milk-white breast that warmed us, from the clinging arms that bore,
Where the dear eyes glistened o'er us that will look on us no more!

There is no friend like the old friend, who has shared our morning days,
No greeting like his welcome, no homage like his praise:
Fame is the scentless sunflower, with gaudy crown of gold;
But friendship is the breathing rose, with sweets in every fold.

There is no love like the old love, that we courted in our pride;
Though our leaves are falling, falling, and we 're fading side by side,
There are blossoms all around us with the colors of our dawn,
And we live in borrowed sunshine when the day-star is withdrawn.

There are no times like the old times,--they shall never be forgot!
There is no place like the old place,--keep green the dear old spot!
There are no friends like our old friends,--may Heaven prolong their lives!
There are no loves like our old loves,--God bless our loving wives!

1865.


"Non-Resistance" by Oliver Wendell Holmes
3
NON-RESISTANCE

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


PERHAPS too far in these considerate days
Has patience carried her submissive ways;
Wisdom has taught us to be calm and meek,
To take one blow, and turn the other cheek;
It is not written what a man shall do,
If the rude caitiff smite the other too!

Land of our fathers, in thine hour of need
God help thee, guarded by the passive creed!
As the lone pilgrim trusts to beads and cowl,
When through the forest rings the gray wolf's howl;
As the deep galleon trusts her gilded prow
When the black corsair slants athwart her bow;
As the poor pheasant, with his peaceful mien,
Trusts to his feathers, shining golden-green,
When the dark plumage with the crimson beak
Has rustled shadowy from its splintered peak,--
So trust thy friends, whose babbling tongues would charm
The lifted sabre from thy foeman's arm,
Thy torches ready for the answering peal
From bellowing fort and thunder-freighted keel!


"Old Ironsides" by Oliver Wendell Holmes
4
OLD IRONSIDES

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


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!


"Opening the Window" by Oliver Wendell Holmes
5
OPENING THE WINDOW

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


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

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

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

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


"Our Limitations" by Oliver Wendell Holmes
6
OUR LIMITATIONS

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


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

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


"The Peau de Chagrin of State Street"
7
THE PEAU DE CHAGRIN OF STATE STREET

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


How beauteous is the bond
In the manifold array
Of its promises to pay,
While the eight per cent it gives
And the rate at which one lives
Correspond!

But at last the bough is bare
Where the coupons one by one
Through their ripening days have run,
And the bond, a beggar now,
Seeks investment anyhow,
Anywhere!


"Rhymes of a Life-Time" by Oliver Wendell Holmes
8
RHYMES OF A LIFE-TIME

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


FROM the first gleam of morning to the gray
Of peaceful evening, lo, a life unrolled!
In woven pictures all its changes told,
Its lights, its shadows, every flitting ray,
Till the long curtain, falling, dims the day,
Steals from the dial's disk the sunlight's gold,
And all the graven hours grow dark and cold
Where late the glowing blaze of noontide lay.
Ah! the warm blood runs wild in youthful veins,--
Let me no longer play with painted fire;
New songs for new-born days! I would not tire
The listening ears that wait for fresher strains
In phrase new-moulded, new-forged rhythmic chains,
With plaintive measures from a worn-out lyre.


August 2, 1881.

"The Rose and the Fern" by Oliver Wendell Holmes
9
THE ROSE AND THE FERN

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


Lady, life's sweetest lesson wouldst thou learn,
Come thou with me to Love's enchanted bower:
High overhead the trellised roses burn;
Beneath thy feet behold the feathery fern,--
A leaf without a flower.

What though the rose leaves fall? They still are sweet,
And have been lovely in their beauteous prime,
While the bare frond seems ever to repeat,
"For us no bud, no blossom, wakes to greet
The joyous flowering time!"

Heed thou the lesson. Life has leaves to tread
And flowers to cherish; summer round thee glows;
Wait not till autumn's fading robes are shed,
But while its petals still are burning red
Gather life's full-blown rose!


"A Sentiment" (May 1, 1855)
0
A SENTIMENT

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


A TRIPLE health to Friendship, Science, Art,
From heads and hands that own a common heart!
Each in its turn the others' willing slave,--
Each in its season strong to heal and save.

Friendship's blind service, in the hour of need,
Wipes the pale face--and lets the victim bleed.
Science must stop to reason and explain;
ART claps his finger on the streaming vein.

But Art's brief memory fails the hand at last;
Then SCIENCE lifts the flambeau of the past.
When both their equal impotence deplore,--
When Learning sighs, and Skill can do no more,--
The tear of FRIENDSHIP pours its heavenly balm,
And soothes the pang no anodyne may calm!


May 1, 1855.

"The Ship of State" by Oliver Wendell Holmes
1
THE SHIP OF STATE

A SENTIMENT

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


THE Ship of State! above her skies are blue,
But still she rocks a little, it is true,
And there are passengers whose faces white
Show they don't feel as happy as they might;
Yet on the whole her crew are quite content,
Since its wild fury the typhoon has spent,
And willing, if her pilot thinks it best,
To head a little nearer south by west.
And this they feel: the ship came too near wreck,
In the long quarrel for the quarter-deck,
Now when she glides serenely on her way,
--The shallows past where dread explosives lay,--
The stiff obstructive's churlish game to try:
Let sleeping dogs and still torpedoes lie!
And so I give you all the Ship of State;
Freedom's last venture is her priceless freight;
God speed her, keep her, bless her, while she steers
Amid the breakers of unsounded years;
Lead her through danger's paths with even keel,
And guide the honest hand that holds her wheel!


WOODSTOCK, CONN., July 4, 1877.

"A Sun-day Hymn" by Oliver Wendell Holmes
2
A SUN-DAY HYMN

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


LORD of all being! throned afar,
Thy glory flames from sun and star;
Centre and soul of every sphere,
Yet to each loving heart how near!

Sun of our life, thy quickening ray
Sheds on our path the glow of day;
Star of our hope, thy softened light
Cheers the long watches of the night.

Our midnight is thy smile withdrawn;
Our noontide is thy gracious dawn;
Our rainbow arch thy mercy's sign;
All, save the clouds of sin, are thine!

Lord of all life, below, above,
Whose light is truth, whose warmth is love,
Before thy ever-blazing throne
We ask no lustre of our own.

Grant us thy truth to make us free,
And kindling hearts that burn for thee,
Till all thy living altars claim
One holy light, one heavenly flame!


"To an English Friend" by Oliver Wendell Holmes
3
TO AN ENGLISH FRIEND

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


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

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

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

1852.


"To George Peabody" by Oliver Wendell Holmes
4
TO GEORGE PEABODY

DANVERS, 1866.

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


BANKRUPT! our pockets inside out!
Empty of words to speak his praises!
Worcester and Webster up the spout!
Dead broke of laudatory phrases!
Yet why with flowery speeches tease,
With vain superlatives distress him?
Has language better words than these?
THE FRIEND OF ALL HIS RACE, GOD BLESS HIM!

A simple prayer--but words more sweet
By human lips were never uttered,
Since Adam left the country seat
Where angel wings around him fluttered.
The old look on with tear-dimmed eyes,
The children cluster to caress him,
And every voice unbidden cries,
THE FRIEND OF ALL HIS RACE, GOD BLESS HIM!


"To John Greenleaf Whittier" by Oliver Wendell Holmes
5
TO JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER

ON HIS EIGHTIETH BIRTHDAY

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


FRIEND, whom thy fourscore winters leave more dear
Than when life's roseate summer on thy cheek
Burned in the flush of manhood's manliest year,
Lonely, how lonely! is the snowy peak
Thy feet have reached, and mine have climbed so near!
Close on thy footsteps 'mid the landscape drear
I stretch my hand thine answering grasp to seek,
Warm with the love no rippling rhymes can speak!
Look backwards! From thy lofty height survey
Thy years of toil, of peaceful victories won,
Of dreams made real, largest hopes outrun!
Look forward! Brighter than earth's morning ray
Streams the pure light of Heaven's unsetting sun,
The unclouded dawn of life's immortal day!


"To the Teachers of America"
6
TO THE TEACHERS OF AMERICA

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


February 23, 1893

TEACHERS of teachers! Yours the task,
Noblest that noble minds can ask,
High up Aonia's murmurous mount,
To watch, to guard the sacred fount
That feeds the streams below;
To guide the hurrying flood that fills
A thousand silvery rippling rills
In ever-widening flow.

Rich is the harvest from the fields
That bounteous Nature kindly yields,
But fairer growths enrich the soil
Ploughed deep by thought's unwearied toil
In Learning's broad domain.
And where the leaves, the flowers, the fruits,
Without your watering at the roots,
To fill each branching vein?

Welcome! the Author's firmest friends,
Your voice the surest Godspeed lends.
Of you the growing mind demands
The patient care, the guiding hands,
Through all the mists of morn.
And knowing well the future's need,
Your prescient wisdom sows the seed
To flower in years unborn.


"A Toast to Wilkie Collins"
7
A TOAST TO WILKIE COLLINS

FEBRUARY 16, 1874

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


THE painter's and the poet's fame
Shed their twinned lustre round his name,
To gild our story-teller's art,
Where each in turn must play his part.

What scenes from Wilkie's pencil sprung,
The minstrel saw but left unsung!
What shapes the pen of Collins drew,
No painter clad in living hue!

But on our artist's shadowy screen
A stranger miracle is seen
Than priest unveils or pilgrim seeks,--
The poem breathes, the picture speaks!

And so his double name comes true,
They christened better than they knew,
And Art proclaims him twice her son,--
Painter and poet, both in one!


"Too Young for Love" by Oliver Wendell Holmes
8
TOO YOUNG FOR LOVE

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


Too young for love?
Ah, say not so!
Tell reddening rose-buds not to blow!
Wait not for spring to pass away,--
Love's summer months begin with May!
Too young for love?
Ah, say not so!
Too young? Too young?
Ah, no! no! no!

Too young for love?
Ah, say not so,
While daisies bloom and tulips glow!
June soon will come with lengthened day
To practise all love learned in May.
Too young for love?
Ah, say not so!
Too young? Too young?
Ah, no! no! no!


"Unsatisfied" by Oliver Wendell Holmes
9
UNSATISFIED

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


"ONLY a housemaid!" She looked from the kitchen,--
Neat was the kitchen and tidy was she;
There at her window a sempstress sat stitching;
"Were I a sempstress, how happy I'd be!"

"Only a Queen!" She looked over the waters,--
Fair was her kingdom and mighty was she;
There sat an Empress, with Queens for her daughters;
"Were I an Empress, how happy I'd be!"

Still the old frailty they all of them trip in!
Eve in her daughters is ever the same;
Give her all Eden, she sighs for a pippin;
Give her an Empire, she pines for a name!


May 8, 1876.

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