Page images




To him who in the love of Nature holds Communion with her visible forms, she speaks A various language ; for his gayer hours She has a voice of gladness, and a smile And eloquence of beauty, and she glides Into his darker musings, with a mild And healing sympathy, that steals away Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts Of the last bitter hour come like a blight Over the spirit, and sad images Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall, And breathless darkness, and the narrow house, Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart; Go forth, under the open sky, and list To Nature's teachings, while from all around - 15 Earth and her waters, and the depths of air Comes a still voice - Yet a few days, and thee

The all-beholding sun shall see no more In all his course ; nor yet in the cold ground, Where thy pale form was laid, with many tears, Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist Thy image. Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again, And, lost each human trace, surrendering up Thine individual being, shalt thou go To mix for ever with the elements, To be a brother to the insensible rock

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain
Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak
Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould. 20

Yet not to thine eternal resting-place
Shalt thou retire alone, nor couldst thou wish
Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down

With patriarchs of the infant world — with kings,
The powerful of the earth — the wise, the good,
Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past,
All in one mighty sepulchre. The hills
Rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun, — the vales
Stretching in pensive quietness between ;
The venerable woods — rivers that move
In majesty, and the complaining brooks
That make the meadows green; and, poured round

all, Old Ocean's gray and melancholy waste, -Are but the solemn decorations all Of the great tomb of man. The golden sun, The planets, all the infinite host of heaven, Are shining on the sad abodes of death, Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread The globe are but a handful to the tribes That slumber in its bosom. Take the wings 50 Of morning, pierce the Barcan wilderness, Or lose thyself in the continuous woods Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound, Save his own dashings -- yet the dead are there : And millions in those solitudes, since first The flight of years began, have laid them down In their last sleep - the dead reign there alone. So shalt thou rest, and what if thou withdraw In silence from the living, and no friend

[ocr errors]

Take note of thy departure? All that breathe
Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh
When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care
Plod on, and each one as before will chase
His favorite phantom; yet all these shall leave
Their mirth and their employments, and shall come &
Aud make their bed with thee. As the long train
Of ages glide away, the sons of men, ,
The youth in life’s green spring, and he who goes
In the full strength of years, matron and maid,
The speechless babe, and the gray-headed man -
Shall one by one be gathered to thy side,
By those, who in their turn shall follow them.

[ocr errors]


So live, that when thy summons comes to join The innumerable caravan, which moves To that mysterious realm, where each shall take His chamber in the silent balls of death, Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night, Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave, Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.



WHITHER, midst falling dew,
While glow the heavens with the last steps of day,
Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue

Thy solitary way?

Vainly the fowler's eye
Might mark thy distant flight to do thee wrong,

As, darkly painted on the crimson sky,

Thy figure floats along.


Seek'st thou the plashy brink
Of weedy lake, or marge of river wide,
Or where the rocking billows rise and sink

On the chafed ocean-side?

There is a Power whose care
Teaches thy way along that pathless coast-
The desert and illimitable air-

Lone wandering, but not lost.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

All day thy wings have fanned,
At that far height, the cold, thin atmosphere,
Yet stoop not, weary, to the welcome land,

Though the dark night is near.

And soon that toil shall end ;
Soon shalt thou find a summer home, and rest,
And scream among thy fellows; reeds shall bend,

Soon, o'er thy sheltered nest.


Thou 'rt gone, the abyss of heaven
Hath swallowed up thy form; yet, on my heart
Deeply hath sunk the lesson thou hast given,

And shall not soon depart.

He who, from zone to zone, Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight, 30 In the long way that I must tread alone,

Will lead my steps aright.



OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES was born at Cambridge, Massachusetts, August 29, 1809. The house in which he was born stood between the sites now occupied by the Hemenway Gymnasium and the Law School of Harvard University, and was of historic interest as having been the headquarters of General Artemas Ward, and of the Committee of Safety in the days just before the Revolution. Upon the steps of the house stood President Langdon, of Harvard College, tradition says, and prayed for the men who, halting there a few moments, marched forward under Colonel Prescott's lead to throw up intrenchments on Bunker Hill on the night of June 16, 1775. Dr. Holmes's father carried forward the traditions of the old house, for he was Rev. Dr. Abiel Holmes, whose American Annals was the first careful record of American history written after the Revolution.

Born and bred in the midst of historic associations, Holmes had from the first a lively interest in American history and politics, and though possessed of strong humorous gifts often turned his song into patriotic channels, while the current of his literary life was distinctly American.

He began to write poetry when in college at Cambridge, and some of his best-known early pieces, like Evening, by a Tailor, The Meeting of the Dryads, The Spectre Pig, were contributed to the Collegian, an undergraduate journal, while he was studying law the year after his graduation. At the

« PreviousContinue »