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HOLMES, Oliver Wendell Sr.

Under the Violets

HER hands are cold; her face is white;

No more her pulses come and go;

Her eyes are shut to life and light;--

Fold the white vesture, snow on snow,

And lay her where the violets blow.

But not beneath a graven stone,

To plead for tears with alien eyes;

A slender cross of wood alone

Shall say, that here a maiden lies

In peace beneath the peaceful skies.

And gray old trees of hugest limb

Shall wheel their circling shadows round

To make the scorching sunlight dim

That drinks the greenness from the ground,

And drop their dead leaves on her mound.

When o'er their boughs the squirrels run,

And through their leaves the robins call,

And, ripening in the autumn sun,

The acorns and the chestnuts fall,

Doubt not that she will heed them all.

For her the morning choir shall sing

Its matins from the branches high,

And every minstrel-voice of Spring,

That trills beneath the April sky,

Shall greet her with its earliest cry.

When, turning round their dial-track,

Eastward the lengthening shadows pass,

Her little mourners, clad in black,

The crickets, sliding through the grass,

Shall pipe for her an evening mass.

At last the rootlets of the trees

Shall find the prison where she lies,

And bear the buried dust they seize

In leaves and blossoms to the skies.

So may the soul that warmed it rise!

If any, born of kindlier blood,

Should ask, What maiden lies below?

Say only this: A tender bud,

That tried to blossom in the snow,

Lies withered where the violets blow.

The Iron Gate

As on the gauzy wings of fancy flying

From some far orb I track our watery sphere,

Home of the struggling, suffering, doubting, dying,

The silvered globule seems a glistening tear.

But Nature lends her mirror of illusion

To win from saddening scenes our age-dimmed eyes,

And misty day-dreams blend in sweet confusion

The wintry landscape and the summer skies.

So when the iron portal shuts behind us,

And life forgets us in its noise and whirl,

Visions that shunned the glaring noonday find us,

And glimmering starlight shows the gates of pearl.

I come not here your morning hour to sadden,

A limping pilgrim, leaning on his staff,—

I, who have never deemed it sin to gladden

This vale of sorrows with a wholesome laugh.

If word of mine another’s gloom has brightened,

Through my dumb lips the heaven-sent message came;

If hand of mine another’s task has lightened,

It felt the guidance that it dares not claim.

But, O my gentle sisters, O my brothers,

These thick-sown snow-flakes hint of toil’s release;

These feebler pulses bid me leave to others

The tasks once welcome; evening asks for peace.

Time claims his tribute; silence now is golden;

Let me not vex the too long suffering lyre;

Though to your love untiring still beholden,

The curfew tells me—cover up the fire.