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Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)

A Good Time Going!

By Oliver Wendell Holmes


Brave singer of the coming time,
  Sweet minstrel of the joyous present,
Crowned with the noblest wreath of rhyme,
  The holly-leaf of Ayrshire's peasant,
Good-bye! Good-bye!--Our hearts and hands,
  Our lips in honest Saxon phrases,
Cry, God be with him, till he stands
  His feet among the English daisies!

'Tis here we part;--for other eyes
  The busy deck, the fluttering streamer,
The dripping arms that plunge and rise,
  The waves in foam, the ship in tremor,
The kerchiefs waving from the pier,
  The cloudy pillar gliding o'er him,
The deep blue desert, lone and drear,
  With heavens above and home before him!

His home!--the Western giant smiles,
  And twirls the spotty globe to find it;--
This little speck the British Isles?
  'Tis but a freckle,--never mind it!--
He laughs, and all his prairies roll,
  Each gurgling cataract roars and chuckles,
And ridges stretched from pole to pole
  Heave till they crack their iron knuckles!

But memory blushes at the sneer,
  And Honor turns with frown defiant,
And Freedom, leaning on her spear,
  Laughs louder than the laughing giant:--
"An islet is a world," she said,
  "When glory with its dust has blended,
And Britain keeps her noble dead
  Till earth and seas and skies are rended!"

Beneath each swinging forest-bough
  Some arm as stout in death reposes,--
From wave-washed foot to heaven-kissed brow
  Her valor's life-blood runs in roses;
Nay, let our brothers of the West
  Write smiling in their florid pages,
One-half her soil has walked the rest
  In poets, heroes, martyrs, sages!

Hugged in the clinging billow's clasp,
  From sea-weed fringe to mountain heather,
The British oak with rooted grasp
  Her slender handful holds together;--
With cliffs of white and bowers of green,
  And Ocean narrowing to caress her,
And hills and threaded streams between,--
  Our little mother isle, God bless her!

In earth's broad temple where we stand,
  Fanned by the eastern gales that brought us,
We hold the missal in our hand,
  Bright with the lines our Mother taught us;
Where'er its blazoned page betrays
  The glistening links of gilded fetters,
Behold, the half-turned leaf displays
  Her rubric stained in crimson letters!

Enough! To speed a parting friend
  'Tis vain alike to speak and listen;--
Yet stay,--these feeble accents blend
  With rays of light from eyes that glisten.
Good-bye! once more,--and kindly tell
  In words of peace the young world's story,--
And say, besides,--we love too well
  Our mother's soil, our father's glory!

[A farewell poem to Charles Mackay.]