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Elson Grammer School Literature, Book Four. by William H. Elson and Christine Keck

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She lies within those arms, that press
Her form with many a soft caress
Of tenderness and watchful care!
Sail forth into the sea, O ship!
Through wind and wave, right onward steer!
The moistened eye, the trembling lip,
Are not the signs of doubt or fear.

Sail forth into the sea of life,
O gentle, loving, trusting wife,
And safe from all adversity
Upon the bosom of that sea
Thy comings and thy goings be!
For gentleness and love and trust
Prevail o'er angry wave and gust;
And in the wreck of noble lives
Something immortal still survives!

Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O UNION, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!
We know what Master laid thy keel,
What Workmen wrought thy ribs of steel,
Who made each mast, and sail, and rope,
What anvils rang, what hammers beat,
In what a forge and what a heat
Were shaped the anchors of thy hope!
Fear not each sudden sound and shock,
'T is of the wave and not the rock;
'T is but the flapping of the sail,
And not a rent made by the gale!
In spite of rock and tempest's roar,
In spite of false lights on the shore,
Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea!
Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee,
Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,
Our faith triumphant o'er our fears,
Are all with thee,--are all with thee!

HELPS TO STUDY.

Notes and Questions.

Quote the lines that tell the kind of ship the Master is to build.

What comparison does the Master use in speaking of the model?

What does Longfellow say that one thought can do?

Explain lines 84 to 93.

Account for the name given the ship by the Master.

Describe the daughter in your own words.

Explain: "It is the heart, and not the brain, That to the highest doth
attain."

Quote the song of the Master and his men.

What uses are assigned to each of the following: "the rudder," "the
anchor," "the image at the bows."

Read the description of "those lordly pines."

What does Longfellow say the flag of the ship will be to the wanderer?

Longfellow comments on the marriage of the ship with the sea. Explain the
figure of speech.

Memorize the pastor's words.

Describe the launching in your own words.

Have you ever seen a ship launched?

What does the building of the ship symbolize?

Memorize the apostrophe to the ship of state and explain the symbol in
detail.

Find examples of alliteration.

Words and Phrases for Discussion.

"airy argosy"
"heir of his dexterity"
"slip"
"scarfed"
"Like a beauteous barge was she"
"moat"
"knarred"

* * * * *

JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER

The year 1807 was the birth year of both Whittier and Longfellow--two poets
in whom the love of human nature is a marked trait. Little of the scholar,
however, is to be found in the New England Quaker whose lot it was to pass
from plow to politics, and from politics to literature. John Greenleaf
Whittier was born in East Haverhill, a rugged, hilly section of Essex
County, Massachusetts. In the southern part of this same county lies Salem,
where three years earlier Hawthorne was born.

The home of Whittier was in a country district, and to this day no roof is
in sight from the old homestead. The house, considerably more than a
hundred years old at the time of the poet's birth, was built by his
great-great-grandfather. The Whittiers were mostly stalwart men, six feet
in height, who lived out their three-score years and ten; but the poet,
though his years were more than any of his immediate ancestors, fell a
little short of the family stature, and was of slender frame. "Snow-bound"
gives us a faithful picture of the Whittier homestead and household, as
they were eighty years ago.

The life they lived there was one utterly without luxury, and with few
means of culture. There were perhaps thirty hooks in the house, largely
Quaker tracts and journals. Of course there was the Bible, and through all
his poetry Whittier reverts to the Bible for phrases and images as
naturally as Longfellow turns to mediaeval legend. Memorable were the
evenings when the school teacher came and read to the family from books he
brought with him,--one most memorable, when the book was a copy of Burns.
On Whittier's first visit to Boston, an occasion honored by his wearing
"boughten buttons" on his homespun coat, and a broad-brim hat made by his
aunt out of pasteboard covered with drab velvet, he purchased a copy of
Shakespeare.

He attended the district school a few weeks each winter, and when he was
nineteen he completed his scanty education with a year at an academy at
Haverhill. From the time when the reading of Burns woke the poet in him, he
was constantly writing rhymes, covering his slate with them, and sometimes
copying them out painstakingly on paper.

Without Whittier's knowledge, his sister sent one of his poems to a paper
in a neighboring town. The Editor became interested in his contributor and,
as the story goes, drove out to the country home and Whittier was called in
from the field to meet the smart young newspaper man. Thus began his
literary career.

He became an Editor in Boston and later in Hartford, but the work proving
too trying for his delicate health, he returned to the farm. Meanwhile, he
was contributing verse to the newspapers.

During this time he was elected to the Legislature of Massachusetts and had
some prospects of being nominated for Congress.

Later in life he returned again and again to the purely lyrical notes which
he had taken up in his youth.

Two subjects always appealed strongly to Whitter's poetic imagination. One
is the slender body of legendary lore that has come down to us from the
colonial days of New England, including a few tales of the trials and
persecutions of the early Quaker. "Skipper Ireson's Ride" belongs to this
group of ballads. The other favorite field of Whittier's poetic fancy was
the humble rural life of his own childhood--"In School-Days" and
"Snow-Bound" belong to this class of New England idyls. The latter will
always be a favorite with American readers, both for its simple rustic
pictures, and for its deep religious faith.

Whittier never married. The little romances of his youth slipped quietly
into memories, and imparted a finer tone to the poetry of his maturer
years. He died at Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, in the eighty-fifth year of
his age. Holmes was the only one of the New England singers left to mourn
his departure:

"Best loved and saintliest of our singing train,
Earth's noblest tributes to thy name belong.
A lifelong record closed without a stain,
A blameless memory shrined in deathless song."

* * * * *

SNOW-BOUND

A WINTER IDYL

JOHN G. WHITTIER

The Sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon.
Slow tracing down the thickening sky
Its mute and ominous prophecy,
A portent seeming less than threat,
It sank from sight before it set.
A chill no coat, however stout,
Of homespun stuff could quite shut out.
A hard, dull bitterness of cold,
That checked, mid-vein, the circling race
Of life-blood in the sharpened face,
The coming of the snow-storm told.
The wind blew east; we heard the roar
Of Ocean on his wintry shore,
And felt the strong pulse throbbing there
Beat with low rhythm our inland air.

Meanwhile we did our nightly chores,--
Brought in the wood from out of doors,
Littered the stalls, and from the mows
Raked down the herd's-grass for the cows:
Heard the horse whinnying for his corn;
And, sharply clashing horn on horn,
Impatient down the stanchion rows
The cattle shake their walnut bows;
While, peering from his early perch
Upon the scaffold's pole of birch,
The cock his crested helmet bent
And down his querulous challenge sent
Unwarmed by any sunset light
The gray day darkened into night,
A night made hoary with the swarm
And whirl-dance of the blinding storm,
As zigzag wavering to and fro
Crossed and recrossed the winged snow:
And ere the early bedtime came
The white drift piled the window-frame,
And through the glass the clothes-line posts
Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts.
So all night long the storm roared on:
The morning broke without a sun;
In tiny spherule traced with lines
Of Nature's geometric signs,
In starry flake and pellicle
All day the hoary meteor fell;
And, when the second morning shone,
We looked upon a world unknown,
On nothing we could call our own.
Around the glistening wonder bent
The blue walls of the firmament,
No cloud above, no earth below,--
A universe of sky and snow!
The old familiar sights of ours
Took marvelous shapes; strange domes and towers
Rose up where sty or corn-crib stood,
Or garden-wall or belt of wood;
A smooth white mound the brush-pile showed,
A fenceless drift what once was road;
The bridle-post an old man sat
With loose-flung coat and high cocked hat;
The well-curb had a Chinese roof;
And even the long sweep, high aloof,
In its slant splendor, seemed to tell
Of Pisa's leaning miracle.

A prompt, decisive man, no breath
Our father wasted: "Boys, a path!"
Well pleased, (for when did farmer boy
Count such a summons less than joy?)
Our buskins on our feet we drew;
With mittened hands, and caps drawn low,
To guard our necks and ears from snow,
We cut the solid whiteness through;
And, where the drift was deepest, made
A tunnel walled and overlaid
With dazzling crystal: we had read
Of rare Aladdin's wondrous cave,
And to our own his name we gave,
With many a wish the luck were ours
To test his lamp's supernal powers.
We reached the barn with merry din,
And roused the prisoned brutes within.
The old horse thrust his long head out,
And grave with wonder gazed about;
The cock his lusty greeting said,
And forth his speckled harem led;
The oxen lashed their tails, and hooked,
And mild reproach of hunger looked;
The hornèd patriarch of the sheep,
Like Egypt's Amun roused from sleep,
Shook his sage head with gesture mute,
And emphasized with stamp of foot.

All day the gusty north-wind bore
The loosened drift its breath before;
Low circling round its southern zone,
The sun through dazzling snow-mist shone.
No church-bell lent its Christian tone
To the savage air, no social smoke
Curled over woods of snow-hung oak.
A solitude made more intense
By dreary-voicèd elements,
The shrieking of the mindless wind,
The moaning tree-boughs swaying blind,
And on the glass the unmeaning beat
Of ghostly finger-tips of sleet.
Beyond the circle of our hearth
No welcome sound of toil or mirth
Unbound the spell, and testified
Of human life and thought outside.
We minded that the sharpest ear
The buried brooklet could not hear,
The music of whose liquid lip
Had been to us companionship,
And, in our lonely life, had grown
To have an almost human tone.

As night drew on, and, from the crest
Of wooded knolls that ridged the west,
The sun, a snow-blown traveler, sank
From sight beneath the smothering bank,
We piled with care our nightly stack
Of wood against the chimney-back,--
The oaken log, green, huge, and thick,
And on its top the stout back-stick;
The knotty forestick laid apart,
And filled between with curious art
The ragged brush; then, hovering near,
We watched the first red blaze appear,
Heard the sharp crackle, caught the gleam
On whitewashed wall and sagging beam,
Until the old, rude-furnished room
Burst, flower-like, into rosy bloom;
While radiant with a mimic flame
Outside the sparkling drift became
And through the bare-boughed lilac-tree
Our own warm hearth seemed blazing free.
The crane and pendent trammels showed,
The Turk's heads on the andirons glowed;
While childish fancy, prompt to tell
The meaning of the miracle,
Whispered the old rhyme: _"Under the tree,
When fire outdoors burns merrily,
There the witches are making tea."_

The moon above the eastern wood
Shone at its full; the hill-range stood
Transfigured in the silver flood,
Its blown snows flashing cold and keen,
Dead white, save where some sharp ravine
Took shadow, or the sombre green
Of hemlocks turned to pitchy black
Against the whiteness of their back.
For such a world and such a night
Most fitting that unwarming light,
Which only seemed where'er it fell
To make the coldness visible.

Shut in from all the world without,
We sat the clean-winged hearth about,
Content to let the north-wind roar
In baffled rage at pane and door,
While the red logs before us beat
The frost-line back with tropic heat;
And ever, when a louder blast
Shook beam and rafter as it passed,
The merrier up its roaring draught
The great throat of the chimney laughed,
The house-dog on his paws outspread
Laid to the fire his drowsy head,
The cat's dark silhouette on the wall
A couchant tiger's seemed to fall;
And, for the winter fireside meet,
Between the andirons' straddling feet,
The mug of cider simmered slow,
The apples sputtered in a row,
And, close at hand, the basket stood
With nuts from brown October's wood.

What matter how the night behaved?
What matter how the north-wind raved?
Blow high, blow low, not all its snow
Could quench our hearth-fire's ruddy glow.
O Time and Change!--with hair as gray
As was my sire's that winter day,
How strange it seems, with so much gone
Of life and love, to still live on!
Ah, brother! only I and thou
Are left of all that circle now,--
The dear home faces whereupon
That fitful firelight paled and shone.
Henceforward, listen as we will,
The voices of that hearth are still;
Look where we may, the wide earth o'er,
Those lighted faces smile no more.
We tread the paths their feet have worn,
We sit beneath their orchard trees,
We hear, like them, the hum of bees
And rustle of the bladed corn;
We turn the pages that they read,
Their written words we linger o'er,
But in the sun they cast no shade,
No voice is heard, no sign is made,
No step is on the conscious floor!
Yet Love will dream and Faith will trust
(Since He who knows our need is just)
That somehow, somewhere, meet we must.
Alas for him who never sees
The stars shine through his cypress-trees!
Who, hopeless, lays his dead away,
Nor looks to see the breaking day
Across the mournful marbles play!
Who hath not learned, in hours of faith,
The truth to flesh and sense unknown,
That Life is ever lord of Death,
And Love can never lose its own!

We sped the time with stories old,
Wrought puzzles out, and riddles told,
Or stammered from our school-book lore
"The chief of Gambia's golden shore."
Our father rode again his ride
On Memphremagog's wooded side;
Sat down again to moose and samp
In trapper's hut and Indian camp;
Lived o'er the old idyllic ease
Beneath St. François' hemlock trees;
Again for him the moonlight shone
On Norman cap and bodiced zone;
Again he heard the violin play
Which led the village dance away,
And mingled in its merry whirl
The grandam and the laughing girl.
Or, nearer home, our steps he led
Where Salisbury's level marshes spread
Mile-wide as flies the laden bee;
Where merry mowers, hale and strong,
Swept, scythe on scythe, their swaths along
The low green prairies of the sea.
We shared the fishing off Boar's Head,
And round the rocky Isles of Shoals
The hake-broil on the driftwood coals;
The chowder on the sand-beach made,
Dipped by the hungry, steaming hot,
With spoons of clam-shell from the pot.
We heard the tales of witchcraft old,
And dream and sign and marvel told
To sleepy listeners as they lay
Stretched idly on the salted hay,
Adrift along the winding shores,
When favoring breezes deigned to blow
The square sail of the gundalow,
And idle lay the useless oars.
Our mother, while she turned her wheel
Or run the new-knit stocking-heel,
Told how the Indian hordes came down
At midnight on Cochecho town,
And how her own great-uncle bore
His cruel scalp-mark to fourscore.
Recalling, in her fitting phrase,
So rich and picturesque and free
(The common unrhymed poetry
Of simple life and country ways),
The story of her early days,--
She made us welcome to her home;
Old hearths grew wide to give us room;
We stole with her a frightened look
At the gray wizard's conjuring-book,
The fame whereof went far and wide
Through all the simple country-side;
We heard the hawks at twilight play,
The boat-horn on Piscataqua,
The loon's weird laughter far away;

We fished her little trout-brook, knew
What flowers in wood and meadow grew,
What sunny hillsides autumn-brown
She climbed to shake the ripe nuts down,
Saw where in sheltered cove and bay
The ducks' black squadron anchored lay,
And heard the wild geese calling loud
Beneath the gray November cloud.
Then, haply, with a look more grave,
And soberer tone, some tale she gave
From painful Sewel's ancient tome,
Beloved in every Quaker home,
Of faith fire-winged by martyrdom,
Or Chalkley's Journal, old and quaint,--
Gentlest of skippers, rare sea-saint!--
Who, when the dreary calms prevailed,
And water-butt and bread-cask failed,
And cruel, hungry eyes pursued
His portly presence, mad for food,
With dark hints muttered under breath
Of casting lots for life or death,
Offered, if Heaven withheld supplies,
To be himself the sacrifice.
Then, suddenly, as if to save
The good man from his living grave,
A ripple on the water grew,
A school of porpoise flashed in view.
"Take, eat," he said, "and be content;
These fishes in my stead are sent
By Him who gave the tangled ram
To spare the child of Abraham."

Our uncle, innocent of books,
Was rich in lore of fields and brooks,
The ancient teachers never dumb
Of Nature's unhoused lyceum.
In moons and tides and weather wise,
He read the clouds as prophecies,
And foul or fair could well divine,
By many an occult hint and sign,
Holding the cunning-warded keys
To all the woodcraft mysteries;
Himself to Nature's heart so near
That all her voices in his ear
Of beast or bird had meanings clear,
Like Apollonius of old,
Who knew the tales the sparrows told,
Or Hermes, who interpreted
What the sage cranes of Nilus said;
A simple, guileless, childlike man,
Content to live where life began;
Strong only on his native grounds,
The little world of sights and sounds
Whose girdle was the parish bounds,
Whereof his fondly partial pride
The common features magnified,
As Surrey hills to mountains grew
In White of Selborne's loving view,--
He told how teal and loon he shot,
And how the eagle's eggs he got,
The feats on pond and river done,
The prodigies of rod and gun;
Till, warming with the tales he told,
Forgotten was the outside cold,
The bitter wind unheeded blew,
From ripening corn the pigeons flew,
The partridge drummed i' the wood, the mink
Went fishing down the river-brink.
In fields with bean or clover gay,
The woodchuck, like a hermit gray,
Peered from the doorway of his cell;
The muskrat plied the mason's trade,
And tier by tier his mud-walls laid;
And from the shagbark overhead
The grizzled squirrel dropped his shell.

Next, the dear aunt, whose smile of cheer
And voice in dreams I see and hear,--
The sweetest woman ever Fate
Perverse denied a household mate,
Who, lonely, homeless, not the less
Found peace in love's unselfishness,
And welcome whereso'er she went,
A calm and gracious element,
Whose presence seemed the sweet income
And womanly atmosphere of home,--
Called up her girlhood memories,
The huskings and the apple-bees,
The sleigh-rides and the summer sails,
Weaving through all the poor details
And homespun warp of circumstance
A golden woof-thread of romance.
For well she kept her genial mood
And simple faith of maidenhood;
Before her still a cloud-land lay,
The mirage loomed across her way;
The morning dew, that dried so soon
With others, glistened at her noon;
Through years of toil and soil and care,
From glossy tress to thin gray hair,
All unprofaned she held apart
The virgin fancies of the heart.
Be shame to him of woman born
Who had for such but thought of scorn.

There, too, our elder sister plied
Her evening task the stand beside;
A full, rich nature, free to trust,
Truthful and almost sternly just,
Impulsive, earnest, prompt to act,
And make her generous thought a fact,
Keeping with many a light disguise
The secret of self-sacrifice.
O heart sore-tried! thou hast the best
That Heaven itself could give thee,--rest,
Rest from all bitter thoughts and things!
How many a poor one's blessing went
With thee beneath the low green tent
Whose curtain never outward swings!

As one who held herself a part
Of all she saw, and let her heart
Against the household bosom lean,
Upon the motley-braided mat
Our youngest and our dearest sat,
Lifting her large, sweet, asking eyes,
Now bathed within the fadeless green
And holy peace of Paradise.
Oh, looking from some heavenly hill,
Or from the shade of saintly palms,
Or silver reach of river calms,
Do those large eyes behold me still?
With me one little year ago:--
The chill weight of the winter snow
For months upon her grave has lain;
And now, when summer south-winds blow
And brier and harebell bloom again,
I tread the pleasant paths we trod,
I see the violet-sprinkled sod,
Whereon she leaned, too frail and weak
The hillside flowers she loved to seek,
Yet following me where'er I went
With dark eyes full of love's content.
The birds are glad; the brier-rose fills
The air with sweetness; all the hills
Stretch green to June's unclouded sky;
But still I wait with ear and eye
For something gone which should be nigh,
A loss in all familiar things,
In flower that blooms, and bird that sings.
And yet, dear heart! remembering thee,
Am I not richer than of old?
Safe in thy immortality,
What change can reach the wealth I hold?
What chance can mar the pearl and gold
Thy love hath left in trust with me?
And while in life's late afternoon,
Where cool and long the shadows grow,
I walk to meet the night that soon
Shall shape and shadow overflow,
I cannot feel that thou art far,
Since near at need the angels are;
And when the sunset gates unbar,
Shall I not see thee waiting stand,
And, white against the evening star,
The welcome of thy beckoning hand?

Brisk wielder of the birch and rule,
The master of the district school
Held at the fire his favored place;
Its warm glow lit a laughing face
Fresh-hued and fair, where scarce appeared
The uncertain prophecy of beard.
He teased the mitten-blinded cat,
Played cross-pins on my uncle's hat,
Sang songs, and told us what befalls
In classic Dartmouth's college halls.
Born the wild Northern hills among,
From whence his yeoman father wrung
By patient toil subsistence scant,
Not competence and yet not want,
He early gained the power to pay
His cheerful, self-reliant way;
Could doff at ease his scholar's gown
To peddle wares from town to town;
Or through the long vacation's reach
In lonely lowland districts teach,
Where all the droll experience found
At stranger hearths in boarding round,
The moonlit skater's keen delight,
The sleigh-drive through the frosty night,
The rustic party, with its rough
Accompaniment of blind-man's-buff,
And whirling plate, and forfeits paid,
His winter task a pastime made.
Happy the snow-locked homes wherein
He tuned his merry violin,
Or played the athlete in the barn,
Or held the good dame's winding yarn,
Of mirth-provoking versions told
Of classic legends rare and old,
Wherein the scenes of Greece and Rome
Had all the commonplace of home,
And little seemed at best the odds
'Twixt Yankee peddlers and old gods;
Where Pindus-born Arachthus took
The guise of any grist-mill brook,
And dread Olympus at his will
Became a huckleberry hill.
A careless boy that night he seemed;
But at his desk he had the look
And air of one who wisely schemed,
And hostage from the future took
In trainèd thought and lore of book.
Another guest that winter night
Flashed back from lustrous eyes the light.
Unmarked by time, and yet not young,
The honeyed music of her tongue
And words of meekness scarcely told
A nature passionate and bold,
Strong, self-concentred, spurning guide,
Its milder features dwarfed beside
Her unbent will's majestic pride.
She sat among us, at the best,
A not unfeared, half-welcome guest,
Rebuking with her cultured phrase
Our homeliness of words and ways.
A certain pard-like, treacherous grace
Swayed the lithe limbs and dropped the lash,
Lent the white teeth their dazzling flash;
And under low brows, black with night,
Rayed out at times a dangerous light;
The sharp heat-lightnings of her face
Presaging ill to him whom Fate
Condemned to share her love or hate.
A woman tropical, intense
In thought and act, in soul and sense,
She blended in a like degree
The vixen and the devotee,
Revealing with each freak or feint
The temper of Petruchio's Kate,
The raptures of Siena's saint.
Her tapering hand and rounded wrist
Had facile power to form a fist;
The warm, dark languish of her eyes
Was never safe from wrath's surprise.
Brows saintly calm and lips devout
Knew every change of scowl and pout;
And the sweet voice had notes more high
And shrill for social battle-cry.
Since then what old cathedral town
Has missed her pilgrim staff and gown,
What convent-gate has held its lock
Against the challenge of her knock!
Through Smyrna's plague-hushed thoroughfares,
Up sea-set Malta's rocky stairs,
Gray olive slopes of hills that hem
Thy tombs and shrines, Jerusalem,
Or startling on her desert throne
The crazy Queen of Lebanon
With claims fantastic as her own,
Her tireless feet have held their way;
And still, unrestful, bowed and gray,
She watches under Eastern skies,
With hope each day renewed and fresh,
The Lord's quick coming in the flesh,
Whereof she dreams and prophesies!
Where'er her troubled path may be,
The Lord's sweet pity with her go!
The outward wayward life we see,
The hidden springs we may not know.
Nor is it given us to discern
What threads the fatal sisters spun,
Through what ancestral years has run
The sorrow with the woman born,
What forged her cruel chain of moods,
What set her feet in solitudes,
And held the love within her mute,
What mingled madness in the blood,
A lifelong discord and annoy,
Water of tears with oil of joy,
And hid within the folded bud
Perversities of flower and fruit.
It is not ours to separate
The tangled skein of will and fate,
To show what metes and bounds should stand
Upon the soul's debatable land,
And between choice and Providence
Divide the circle of events;
But He who knows our frame is just,
Merciful and compassionate,
And full of sweet assurances
And hope for all the language is,
That He remembereth we are dust!

At last the great logs, crumbling low,
Sent out a dull and duller glow,
The bull's-eye watch, that hung in view,
Ticking its weary circuit through,
Pointed with mutely-warning sign
Its black hand to the hour of nine.
That sign the pleasant circle broke:
My uncle ceased his pipe to smoke,
Knocked from its bowl the refuse gray,
And laid it tenderly away,
Then roused himself to safely cover
The dull red brand with ashes over.
And while, with care, our mother laid
The work aside, her steps she stayed
One moment, seeking to express
Her grateful sense of happiness
For food and shelter, warmth and health,
And love's contentment more than wealth,
With simple wishes (not the weak,
Vain prayers which no fulfilment seek,
But such as warm the generous heart,
O'er-prompt to do with Heaven its part)
That none might lack, that bitter night,
For bread and clothing, warmth and light.

Within our beds awhile we heard
The wind that round the gables roared,
With now and then a ruder shock,
Which made our very bedsteads rock.
We heard the loosened clapboards tost,
The board-nails snapping in the frost;
And on us, through the unplastered wall,
Felt the lightsifted snow-flakes fall;
But sleep stole on, as sleep will do
When hearts are light and life is new;
Faint and more faint the murmurs grew,
Till in the summer-land of dreams
They softened to the sound of streams,
Low stir of leaves, and dip of oars,
And lapsing waves on quiet shores.

Next morn we wakened with the shout
Of merry voices high and clear;
And saw the teamsters drawing near
To break the drifted highways out.
Down the long hillside treading slow
We saw the half-buried oxen go,
Shaking the snow from heads uptost,
Their straining nostrils white with frost.
Before our door the straggling train
Drew up, an added team to gain.
The elders threshed their hands a-cold,
Passed, with the cider-mug, their jokes
From lip to lip; the younger folks
Down the loose snow-banks, wrestling, rolled,
Then toiled again the cavalcade
O'er windy hill, through clogged ravine,
And woodland paths that wound between
Low drooping-pine-boughs winter-weighed.
From every barn a team afoot,
At every house a new recruit,
Where, drawn by Nature's subtlest law,
Haply the watchful young men saw
Sweet doorway pictures of the curls
And curious eyes of merry girls,
Lifting their hands in mock defense
Against the snow-balls' compliments,
And reading in each missive tost
The charm which Eden never lost.
We heard once more the sleigh-bells' sound;
And, following where the teamsters led,
The wise old Doctor went his round,
Just pausing at our door to say,
In the brief autocratic way
Of one who, prompt at Duty's call,
Was free to urge her claim on all,
That some poor neighbor sick abed
At night our mother's aid would need.
For, one in generous thought and deed,
What mattered in the sufferer's sight
The Quaker matron's inward light,
The Doctor's mail of Calvin's creed?
All hearts confess the saints elect
Who, twain, in faith, in love agree,
And melt not in an acid sect
The Christian pearl of charity!
So days went on: a week had passed
Since the great world was heard from last.
The Almanac we studied o'er,
Read and reread our little store
Of books and pamphlets, scarce a score;
One harmless novel, mostly hid
From younger eyes, a book forbid,
And poetry, (or good or bad,
A single book was all we had,)
Where Ellwood's meek, drab-skirted Muse,
A stranger to the heathen Nine,
Sang, with a somewhat nasal whine,
The wars of David and the Jews.
At last the floundering carrier bore
The village paper to our door.
Lo! broadening outward as we read,
To warmer zones the horizon spread;
In panoramic length unrolled
We saw the marvel that it told.
Before us passed the painted Creeks,
And daft McGregor on his raids
In Costa Rica's everglades.
And up Taygetus winding slow
Rode Ypsilanti's Mainote Greeks,
A Turk's head at each saddle bow!
Welcome to us its week-old news,
Its corner for the rustic Muse,
Its monthly gauge of snow and rain,
Its record, mingling in a breath
The wedding bell and dirge of death;
Jest, anecdote, and love-lorn tale,
The latest culprit sent to jail;
Its hue and cry of stolen and lost,
Its vendue sales and goods at cost,
And traffic calling loud for gain.
We felt the stir of hall and street,
The pulse of life that round us beat;
The chill embargo of the snow
Was melted in the genial glow;
Wide swung again our ice-locked door,
And all the world was ours once more!

Clasp, Angel of the backward look
And folded wings of ashen gray
And voice of echoes far away,
The brazen covers of thy book;
The weird palimpsest old and vast,
Wherein thou hid'st the spectral past;
Where, closely mingling, pale and glow
The characters of joy and woe;
The monographs of outlived years,
Or smile-illumined or dim with tears,
Green hills of life that slope to death,
And haunts of home, whose vistaed trees
Shade off to mournful cypresses
With the white amaranths underneath.
Even while I look, I can but heed
The restless sands' incessant fall,
Importunate hours that hours succeed,
Each clamorous with its own sharp need,
And duty keeping pace with all.
Shut down and clasp the heavy lids;
I hear again the voice that bids
The dreamer leave his dream midway
For larger hopes and graver fears:
Life greatens in these later years,
The century's aloe flowers today!

Yet, haply, in some lull of life,
Some Truce of God which breaks its strife,
The worldling's eyes shall gather dew,
Dreaming in throngful city ways
Of winter joys his boyhood knew;
And dear and early friends--the few
Who yet remain--shall pause to view
These Flemish pictures of old days;
Sit with me by the homestead hearth,
And stretch the hands of memory forth
To warm them at the wood-fire's blaze!
And thanks untraced to lips unknown
Shall greet me like the odors blown
From unseen meadows newly mown,
Or lilies floating in some pond,
Wood-fringed, the wayside gaze beyond;
The traveler owns the grateful sense
Of sweetness near, he knows not whence,
And, pausing, takes with forehead bare
The benediction of the air.

HELPS TO STUDY.

Notes and Questions.

What does "snow-bound" mean?

Find a line in the poem which explains the title.

Where is the scene of the poem laid? Find lines in the poem that tell you
this.

Of whom did the circle gathered around the fire consist?

What members of the family are not described in the poem? Why?

Which one of the group can you see most plainly? Why?

Select the lines which please you most in the description of each.

Read four lines which show that the evening's pleasure was not disturbed by
the storm.

In what respects does the room described differ from one in your home?

How long was the family "snow-bound"?

Of what did their library consist?

What does Whittier tell us about the brook?

What other poem have you read which describes a brook in Winter? By whom
was it written?

What messenger put the household again in touch with the outside world?
What did he bring?

Explain, what Whittier means by saying the family looked on nothing they
could call their own after the heavy snow?

What is the meaning of the reference to "Pisa's leaning miracle"?

Who was Aladdin?

What were his "lamp's supernal powers"?

What effect did the moonlight have upon the night?

Of what are cypress trees a symbol?

What do the stars shining through the cypress trees symbolize?

What is the voice which Whittier says bids the dreamer leave his dream!

What lines do you think best show the poet's appreciation of beauty in
nature?

Choose the lines which you like best as showing his deep affections.

Read lines which show his faith.

Of what is the poet thinking when he speaks of the "restless sands'
incessant fall"?

To what mythological characters does he refer when he speaks of the
"threads the fatal sisters spun"?

What mythological characters are meant by "the heathen Nine"?

Words and Phrases for Discussion.

"Apollonius"
"Hermes"
"Egypt's Amun"
"Surrey hills"
"silhouette"
"White of Selborne"
"clean-winged hearth."
"Petruchio'a Kate"
"Siena's saint"
"cranes of Nilua"

* * * * *

THE SHIP-BUILDERS

JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER

The sky is ruddy in the east,
The earth is gray below,
And, spectral in the river-mist,
The ship's white timbers show.
Then let the sounds of measured stroke
And grating saw begin;
The broad-axe to the gnarled oak,
The mallet to the pin!

Hark!--roars the bellows, blast on blast,
The sooty smithy jars,
And fire-sparks, rising far and fast,
Are fading with the stars.
All day for us the smith shall stand
Beside that flashing forge;
All day for us his heavy hand
The groaning anvil scourge.

From far-off hills, the panting team
For us is toiling near;
For us the raftsmen down the stream
Their island barges steer.
Rings out for us the axe-man's stroke
In forests old and still,--
For us the century-circled oak
Falls crashing down his hill.

Up!--up!--in nobler toil than ours
No craftsmen bear a part:
We make of Nature's giant powers
The slaves of human Art.
Lay rib to rib and beam to beam,
And drive the treenails free;
Nor faithless joint nor yawning seam
Shall tempt the searching sea!

Where'er the keel of our good ship
The sea's rough field shall plough,--
Where'er her tossing spars shall drip
With salt-spray caught below--
That ship must heed her master's beck,
Her helm obey his hand,
And seamen tread her reeling deck
As if they trod the land.

Her oaken ribs the vulture-beak
Of Northern ice may peel;
The sunken rock and coral peak
May grate along her keel;
And know we well the painted shell
We give to wind and wave,
Must float, the sailor's citadel,
Or-sink, the sailor's grave!

Ho!--strike away the bars and blocks,
And set the good ship free!
Why lingers on these dusty rocks
The young bride of the sea?
Look! how she moves adown the grooves,
In graceful beauty now!
How lowly on the breast she loves
Sinks down her virgin prow!

God bless her! wheresoe'er the breeze
Her snowy wing shall fan,
Aside the frozen Hebrides,
Or sultry Hindostan!
Where'er, in mart or on the main,
With peaceful flag unfurled,
She helps to wind the silken chain
Of commerce round the world!

Be hers the Prairie's golden grain,
The Desert's golden sand,
The clustered fruits of sunny Spain,
The spice of Morning-land!
Her pathway on the open main
May blessings follow free,
And glad hearts--welcome back again
Her white sails from the sea!

HELPS TO STUDY.

Notes and Questions.

What time of day is indicated in the first and second stanzas?

What tells you this?

How does the smith "scourge" the anvil?

What effect does the poet fancy this has upon the anvil?

Which of these two thoughts do you suppose first occurred to the poet?

What are the "island barges"?

What is a "century-circled oak"? Did you ever see one?

What is Whittier's idea of a shipbuilder's work?

In what way would a "yawning seam" tempt the sea?

What is the "painted shell"?

How is a ship launched?

What other poem have you read which describes the launching of a ship? Who
wrote it?

Which poem do you like better? Why?

Words and Phrases for Discussion.,

"gnarled oak"
"faithless joint"
"coral peak"
"the sailor's citadel"
"snowy wing"
"Desert's golden sand"
"spice of Morningland"

* * * * *

OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

Oliver Wendell Holmes's birth year, 1809, was made memorable on both sides
of the Atlantic by the births of Lincoln, Tennyson, Poe, and Gladstone. His
father, of colonial descent, was a Congregational minister at Cambridge. On
his mother's side--the Wendells or Vondels--he was of Dutch descent.

Holmes was brought up very simply in the old gambrel-roofed house, half
parsonage and half farm house. He read the "New England Primer," "Pilgrim's
Progress" and such poems as were to be found in the early school books.
Later he was a student at Harvard, a member of the class of 1829, which,
while not to be compared for literary genius with the Bowdoin class of
1825, was one of Harvard's most famous classes. Not long after his
graduation, the class of 1829 began to held annual dinners and Holmes was
regularly called upon to furnish an ode for the occasion. It was on the
thirtieth anniversary that he wrote and recited "The Boys." In 1889, at the
sixtieth anniversary, he wrote the last class poem, "After the Curfew."

It was in the first year after his graduation that his verses went into
type and then he says he had his first attack of "lead poisoning." After
leaving Harvard he studied law for a while and then turned to medicine and
surgery, spending two years in study in Paris. It is a singular coincidence
and shows his double work in life, that in 1836 when he published his first
volume of poems he also took his degree as doctor of medicine. As a
physician he was always deeply interested in the problems of heredity and
he wrote several novels in which inherited characteristics play an
important part.

It was in September, 1830, that Holmes chanced to read in a newspaper of
the proposal of the Navy Department to dismantle the frigate Constitution,
which had done such good service in 1812 but which was then lying, old and
unseaworthy, in the navy yard at Charleston. He wrote at once with a lead
pencil on a scrap of paper the stirring verses "Old Ironsides" and sent
them to the Boston Daily Advertiser, from which they were copied in all the
papers of the country. The frigate was converted into a school-ship, and
Oliver Wendell Holmes became known as a poet.

On every public occasion which could be enlivened or dignified by a special
poem, Dr. Holmes was called upon. Such a position is a trying one and one
to which only men with a sense of humor are often called. The doctor rarely
refused to respond; so that nearly one-half of his verse is of this
occasional character. Much of his verse is in lighter vein, but of the
serious, surest in their hold upon his readers are "The Last Leaf" and "The
Chambered Nautilus." But Holmes, while he had a genuine gift of song, was
no persistent singer like Longfellow or Whittier, and so he reached almost
the age of fifty without feeling that the reading public had any special
interest in him. Then in 1857, when the Atlantic Monthly was established,
and Lowell took the editorship only on condition that Holmes would be a
contributor, he wrote the "Autocrat of the Breakfast Table." In this role
of talker, comfortable, brilliant, and witty, Holmes made friends wherever
the Autocrat was read.

Holmes's intellect remained bright and he continued an active worker into
extreme old age. In 1890 he published his last volume, "Over the Teacups."
As one by one this brilliant company of New England writers left the world,
Holmes sang to each a farewell song. When his own time came he was really
"The Last Leaf upon the Tree." The end came peacefully as he was talking to
his son, October 7, 1894.

* * * * *

THE CHAMBERED NAUTILUS

OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

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!
Prom thy dead lips a clearer note is born
Than ever Triton blew from wreathed 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!

HELPS TO STUDY.

Notes and Questions.

What does the word nautilus mean?

What thought must have been in the mind of those who gave the chambered
nautilus this name?

Who does Holmes tell us have given expression to this fancy?

Can you think of any bodies of water which might be called "enchanted
gulfs"?

Give reasons for your answer.

What are coral reefs? Where are they found?

What kind of beings--were "sea-maids" supposed to be?

What are they more commonly called?

To whom is the poet speaking?

What name do we give to such a speech?

How does the soul build mansions?

In what directions must a dome be extended to make it "more vast"?

What does the poet mean by the "outgrown shell" of the soul?

What is the lesson of the poem?

Which stanza do you like best? Why?

Words and Phrases for Discussion.

"Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl"
"dim dreaming life"
"sunless crypt"
"caves of thought"
"lustrous coil"
"cast from her lap forlorn"
"low-vaulted past"
"irised ceiling"
"life's unresting sea"

* * * * *

THE DEACON'S MASTERPIECE: OR THE WONDERFUL "ONE-HOSS SHAY"

A LOGICAL STORY

OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

Have you heard of the wonderful one-hoss shay,
That was built in such a logical way
It ran a hundred years to a day,
And then, of a sudden, it----ah, but stay,
I'll tell you what happened without delay,
Scaring the parson into fits,
Frightening people out of their wits,--
Have you ever heard of that, I say?

Seventeen hundred and fifty-five.
_Georgius Secundus_ was then alive,--
Snuffy old drone from the German hive.
That was the year when Lisbon-town
Saw the earth open and gulp her down,
And Braddock's army was done so brown,
Left without a scalp to its crown.
It was on the terrible Earthquake-day
That the Deacon finished the one-hoss shay.

Now in building of chaises, I tell you what,
There is always _somewhere_ a weakest spot,--
In hub, tire, felloe, in spring or thill,
In panel, or crossbar, or floor, or sill,
In screw, bolt, thoroughbrace,--lurking, still,
Find it somewhere you must and will,--
Above or below, or within or without,--
And that's the reason, beyond a doubt,
A chaise _breaks down_, but doesn't _wear out_.

But the Deacon swore, (as Deacons do,
With an "I dew vum," or an "I tell _yeou_,")
He would build one shay to beat the taown
'N' the keounty 'n' all the kentry raoun';
It should be so built that it _couldn_' break daown.
--"Fur," said the Deacon, "'t's mighty plain
Thut the weakes' place mus' stan' the strain;
'N' the way t' fix it, uz I maintain, is only jest
T' make that place uz strong uz the rest."

So the Deacon inquired of the village folk
Where he could find the strongest oak,
That couldn't be split nor bent nor broke,--
That was for spokes and floor and sills;
He sent for lancewood to make the thills;
The crossbars were ash, from the straightest trees,
The panels of white-wood, that cuts like cheese,
But lasts like iron for things like these;
The hubs of logs from the "Settler's ellum,"--
Last of its timber,--they couldn't sell 'em,
Never an axe had seen their chips,
And the wedges flew from between their lips,
Their blunt ends frizzled like celery-tips;
Step and prop-iron, bolt and screw,
Spring, tire, axle, and linchpin too,
Steel of the finest, bright and blue;
Thoroughbrace, bison-skin, thick and wide;
Boot, top, dasher, from tough old hide
Found in the pit when the tanner died.
That was the way he "put her through."--
"There!" said the Deacon, "naow she'll dew."

Do! I tell you, I rather guess
She was a wonder, and nothing less!
Colts grew horses, beards turned gray,
Deacon and deaconess dropped away,
Children and grandchildren--where were they?
But there stood the stout old one-hoss shay
As fresh as on Lisbon-earthquake-day!

EIGHTEEN HUNDRED;--it came and found
The Deacon's masterpiece strong and sound.
Eighteen hundred increased by ten;--
"Hahnsum kerridge" they called it then.
Eighteen hundred and twenty came;--
Running as usual; much the same.
Thirty and forty at last arrive,
And then came fifty, and FIFTY-FIVE.

Little of all we value here
Wakes on the morn of its hundredth year
Without both feeling and looking queer.
In fact, there's nothing that keeps its youth,
So far as I know, but a tree and truth.
(This is a moral that runs at large;
Take it.--You're welcome.--No extra charge.)

First of November,--the Earthquake-day.--
There are traces of age in the one-hoss shay,
A general flavor of mild decay,
But nothing local, as one may say.
There couldn't be--for the Deacon's art
Had made it so like in every part
That there wasn't a chance for one to start.
For the wheels were just as strong as the thills,
And the floor was just as strong as the sills,
And the panels just as strong as the floor,
And the whippletree neither less nor more,
And the back-crossbar as strong as the fore,
And spring and axle and hub _encore_.
And yet, _as a whole_, it is past a doubt
In another hour it will be _worn out_!

First of November, fifty-five!
This morning the parson takes a drive.
Now, small boys, get out of the way!
Here comes the wonderful one-hoss shay,
Drawn by a rat-tailed, ewe-necked bay.
"Huddup!" said the parson.--Off went they.
The parson was working his Sunday's text,--
Had got to _fifthly_, and stopped perplexed
At what the--Moses--was coming next.
All at once the horse stood still,
Close by the meet'n'-house on the hill.

First a shiver, and then a thrill,
Then something decidedly like a spill,--
And the parson was sitting upon a rock,
At half-past nine by the meet'n'-house clock--
Just the hour of the Earthquake shock!
What do you think the parson found,
When he got up and stared around?
The poor old chaise in a heap or mound,
As if it had been to the mill and ground.
You see, of course, if you're not a dunce,
How it went to pieces all at once,--
All at once, and nothing first,--
Just as bubbles do when they burst.

End of the wonderful one-hoss shay,
Logic is logic. That's all I say.

HELPS TO STUDY.

Notes and Questions.

How does Holmes account for the fact "that a chaise breaks down, but
doesn't wear out"?

What kind of chaise did the Deacon decide to build?

On what principle did he expect to do this?

Read the lines in which the Deacon states the result of his experience with
chaises.

What do you think of his reasoning?

To what besides the building of a chaise might this principle be applied?

To what does the poet compare the breaking down of the chaise?

Read lines which show the serious side of the poet's nature.

Read the lines by means of which he passes from seriousness to jest.

Do you think Holmes expects his readers to believe this story? Give reason
for your answer.

What was his purpose in writing it?

What has the reading of this poem done for you?

Words and Phrases for Discussion.

"Georgius Secundus"
"Lisbon earthquake day"
"from the German hive"
"Braddock's army"

* * * * *

OLD IRONSIDES

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!

HELPS TO STUDY.

Historical: Old Ironsides was the name given the frigate Constitution. It
was proposed by the Secretary of the Navy to dispose of the ship as it had
become unfit for service. Popular sentiment did not approve of this. It was
said a ship which was the pride of the nation should continue to be the
property of the Navy and be rebuilt for service when needed. Holmes wrote
this poem at the time of this discussion.

Notes and Questions.

Of what does the first stanza treat?

The second?

What does the third stanza tell you?

To what does "tattered ensign" refer?

What is "The meteor of the ocean air"?

What is meant by lines 15 and 16?

Where does Holmes say should be the grave of Old Ironsides? Why?

Explain lines 23 and 24.

Which lines do you like best? Why?

Words and Phrases for Discussion.

"sweep the clouds"
"conquered knee"
"mighty deep"
"vanquished foe"
"The god of storms"
"threadbare sail"
"victor's tread"
"shattered hulk"

* * * * *

THE BOYS

OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

Has there any old fellow got mixed with the boys?
If there has, take him out, without making a noise.
Hang the Almanac's cheat and the Catalogue's spite!
Old Time is a liar! We're twenty tonight!

We're twenty! We're twenty! Who says we are more?
He's tipsy,--young jackanapes!--show him the door!
"Gray temples at twenty?"--Yes! _white_ if we please;
Where the snow-flakes fall thickest there's nothing can freeze!

Was it snowing I spoke of? Excuse the mistake!
Look close,--you will see not a sign of a flake!
We want some new garlands for those we have shed,--
And these are white roses in place of the red.

We've a trick, we young fellows, you may have been told,
Of talking (in public) as if we were old:--
That boy we call "Doctor," and this we call "Judge";
It's a neat little fiction,--of course it's all fudge.

That fellow's the "Speaker,"--the one on the right;
"Mr. Mayor," my young one, how are you tonight?
That's our "Member of Congress," we say when we chaff;
There's the "Reverend" What's his name?--don't make me laugh.

That boy with the grave mathematical look
Made believe he had written a wonderful book,
And the ROYAL SOCIETY thought it was _true!_
So they chose him right in; a good joke it was, too!

There's a boy, we pretend, with a three-decker brain,
That could harness a team with a logical chain;
When he spoke for our manhood in syllabled fire,
We called him "The Justice," but now he's "The Squire."

And there's a nice youngster of excellent pith,--
Fate tried to conceal him by naming him Smith;
But he shouted a song for the brave and the free,--
Just read on his medal, "My country, ... of thee!"

You hear that boy laughing?--You think he's all fun;
But the angels laugh, too, at the good he has done;
The children laugh loud as they troop to his call,
And the poor man that knows him laughs loudest of all!

Yes, we're boys,--always playing with tongue or with pen,--
And I sometimes have asked,--Shall we ever be men?
Shall we always be youthful, and laughing, and gay,
Till the last dear companion drops smiling away?

Then here's to our boyhood, its gold and its gray!
The stars of its winter, the dews of its May!
And when we have done with our life-lasting toys,
Dear Father, take care of thy children, THE BOYS.

HELPS TO STUDY.

Historical: This poem was read by Oliver Wendell Holmes at a reunion of his
college class thirty years after their graduation.

Notes and Questions.

Who were "the boys"?

What was the "Almanac's cheat"?

What catalogue do you think Holmes meant?

How could it be interpreted as showing spite against "the boys"?

How did the poet defend "gray temples at twenty"?

What was the significance in early times of the garland or wreath upon the
head?

What do you think the garlands which the poet imagines his classmates "have
shed" represent?

Of what does Holmes say their new garlands were made?

What might the "new garlands" represent?

What fancy does the poet carry out in the next stanza?

What song did the "nice youngster" write?

What is his full name?

What word is omitted from the line of the song quoted by Holmes?

How do you think Holmes felt toward the laughing "boy"? Why do you think
so?

Can you name anything besides, "tongue and pen" with which men may be said
to play?

What time of life is meant by the "gold"? By the "gray"?

How much of this poem is fun?

Which stanza do you like best? Why?

What do you know about Oliver Wendell Holmes from this poem?

Words and Phrases for Discussion.

"Royal Society"
"three-decker brain"
"excellent pith"
"life-lasting toys"

* * * * *

THE LAST LEAF

OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

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.

HELPS TO STUDY.

Notes and Questions.

What was the office of the Crier?

What has done away with the necessity for such service?

At what time was the costume described in the seventh stanza worn?

What great men can you mention who are pictured in this dress?

What makes the description of the old man so vivid?

How does he resemble "the last leaf on the tree"?

Of whom is Holmes thinking when he says "Let them smile"?

What is added to the picture of the last leaf by the words "Is the spring"?

Words and Phrases for Discussion.

"pruning knife of Time"
"mossy marbles"

* * * * *

JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL

JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL was born at Cambridge in the beautiful house known as
Elmwood. He was more fortunate than most Americans, for in this same house
he lived and died. The dwelling at Elmwood was like Craigie House, an
historic place of Revolutionary memories. The secluded, ample grounds made
a fine rural refuge for a youth of poetic fancies. Nor was there only
wealth for the nature-lover of outdoors; there were also treasures for the
lover of books within. The Lowell library was the accumulation of several
generations of scholarly men, and Lowell from early youth was familiar with
books which Whittier even in the studious leisure of old age never looked
into.

Lowell was twelve years younger than Longfellow and was a sophomore when
Longfellow went to Harvard as professor of Romance languages. At Harvard
Lowell distinguished himself especially in literary matters. In the last
year of his residence he was one of the editors of the college magazine and
was also elected class poet. Although he studied law, he was never
attracted to the practice of it.

Lowell, like Whittier, could turn from the heat and strife of public
affairs to the solace of pure poetry. Inspired by the legend of the Holy
Grail, he wrote within forty-eight hours, so we are told, the poem of
knightly aspiration and brotherly love, "The Vision of Sir Launfal."

In 1856, upon Longfellow's resignation, Lowell was appointed professor of
Romance Languages at Harvard, and, like Longfellow, he remained for twenty
years. In 1857 a new magazine to which Holmes had given the name "Atlantic
Monthly" was established and Lowell was its first editor.

In 1877 Lowell was appointed minister to Spain, where Irving had been sent
more than thirty years before; and in 1880 he was transferred to the court
of St. James. Here he distinguished himself by tact, courtesy, and wisdom
and won the admiration of the English people.

Returning to America in 1885 Lowell continued to write, and delivered
addresses when his strength would permit. He spent his time among his books
and lived peacefully at Elmwood, where he died in 1891 at the age of
seventy-two.

* * * * *

THE VISION OF SIR LAUNFAL

JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL

PRELUDE TO PART FIRST

Over his keys the musing organist.
Beginning doubtfully and far away,
First lets his fingers wander as they list,
And builds a bridge from Dreamland for his lay:

Then, as the touch of his loved instrument
Gives hope and fervor, nearer draws his theme,
First guessed by faint auroral flushes sent
Along the wavering vista of his dream.

* * * * *

Not only around our infancy
Doth heaven with all its splendors lie;
Daily, with souls that cringe and plot,
We Sinais climb and know it not.
Over our manhood bend the skies;
Against our fallen and traitor lives
The great winds utter prophecies;
With our faint hearts the mountain strives;
Its arms outstretched, the Druid wood
Waits with its benedicite;
And to our age's drowsy blood
Still shouts the inspiring sea.
Earth gets its price for what Earth gives us;
The beggar is taxed for a corner to die in,
The priest hath his fee who comes and shrives us.
We bargain for the graves we lie in;
At the Devil's booth are all things sold,
Each ounce of dross costs its ounce of gold;
For a cap and bells our lives we pay,
Bubbles we buy with a whole soul's tasking:
'Tis heaven alone that is given away,
'Tis only God may be had for the asking;
No price is set on the lavish summer;
June may be had by the poorest comer.

And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays;
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might,
An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And, groping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers;
The flush of life may well be seen
Thrilling back over hills and valleys;
The cowslip startles in meadows green,
The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice,
And there's never a leaf or a blade too mean
To be some happy creature's palace;
The little bird sits at his door in the sun,
Atilt like a blossom among the leaves,
And lets his illumined being o'errun
With the deluge of summer it receives;
His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings,
And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings;
He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest,--
In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best?

Now is the high-tide of the year,
And whatever of life hath ebbed away
Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer,
Into every bare inlet and creek and bay;
Now the heart is so full that a drop overfills it,
We are happy now because God wills it;
No matter how barren the past may have been,
'Tis enough for us now that the leaves are green;
We sit in the warm shade and feel right well
How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell;
We may shut our eyes, but we cannot help knowing
That skies are clear and grass is growing;
The breeze comes whispering in our ear,
That dandelions are blossoming near,
That maize has sprouted, that streams are flowing,
That the river is bluer than the sky,
That the robin is plastering his house hard by;
And if the breeze kept the good news back,
For other couriers we should not lack;
We could guess it all by yon heifer's lowing,--
And hark! how clear bold chanticleer,
Warmed with the new wine of the year,
Tells all in his lusty crowing!

Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how:
Everything is happy now,
Everything is upward striving;
'Tis as easy now for the heart to be true
As for grass to be green or skies to be blue,--
'Tis the natural way of living:
Who knows whither the clouds have fled?
In the unscarred heaven they leave no wake;
And the eyes forget the tears they have shed,
The heart forgets its sorrow and ache;
The soul partakes the season's youth,
And the sulphurous rifts of passion and woe
Lie deep 'neath a silence pure and smooth,
Like burnt-out craters healed with snow.
What wonder if Sir Launfal now
Remembered the keeping of his vow?

PART FIRST

I.

"My golden spurs now bring to me,
And bring to me my richest mail,
For tomorrow I go over land and sea
In search of the Holy Grail;
Shall never a bed for me be spread,
Nor shall a pillow be under my head,
Till I begin my vow to keep;
Here on the rushes will I sleep,
And perchance there may come a vision true
Ere day create the world anew."
Slowly Sir Launfal's eyes grew dim,
Slumber fell like a cloud on him,
And into his soul the vision flew.

II.

The crows flapped over by twos and threes,
In the pool drowsed the cattle up to their knees,
The little birds sang as if it were
The one day of summer in all the year,
And the very leaves seemed to sing on the trees;
The castle alone in the landscape lay
Like an outpost of winter, dull and gray:
'Twas the proudest hall in the North Countree,
And never its gates might opened be,
Save to lord or lady of high degree;
Summer besieged it on every side,
But the churlish stone her assaults defied;
She could not scale the chilly wall,
Though around it for leagues her pavilions tall
Stretched left and right,
Over the hills and out of sight;
Green and broad was every tent,
And out of each a murmur went
Till the breeze fell off at night.

III.

The drawbridge dropped with a surly clang,
And through the dark arch a charger sprang,
Bearing Sir Launfal, the maiden knight,
In his gilded mail, that flamed so bright
It seemed the dark castle had gathered all
Those shafts the fierce sun had shot over its wall
In his siege of three hundred summers long,
And, binding them all in one blazing sheaf,
Had cast them forth: so, young and strong,
And lightsome as a locust-leaf,
Sir Launfal flashed forth in his unscarred mail,
To seek in all climes for the Holy Grail.

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