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The Poetical Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes - Volume 05: Poems of the Class of '29(1851-1889)

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COME, dear old comrade, you and IWill steal an hour from days gone by,The shining days when life was new,And all was bright with morning dew,The lusty days of long ago,When you were Bill and I was Joe.

Your name may flaunt a titled trailProud as a cockerel's rainbow tail,And mine as brief appendix wearAs Tam O'Shanter's luckless mare;To-day, old friend, remember stillThat I am Joe and you are Bill.

You've won the great world's envied prize,And grand you look in people's eyes,With H O N. and L L. D.In big brave letters, fair to see,—Your fist, old fellow! off they go!—How are you, Bill? How are you, Joe?

You've worn the judge's ermined robe;You 've taught your name to half the globe;You've sung mankind a deathless strain;You've made the dead past live againThe world may call you what it will,But you and I are Joe and Bill.

The chaffing young folks stare and say"See those old buffers, bent and gray,—They talk like fellows in their teens!Mad, poor old boys! That's what it means,"—And shake their heads; they little knowThe throbbing hearts of Bill and Joe!—

How Bill forgets his hour of pride,While Joe sits smiling at his side;How Joe, in spite of time's disguise,Finds the old schoolmate in his eyes,—Those calm, stern eyes that melt and fillAs Joe looks fondly up at Bill.

Ah, pensive scholar, what is fame?A fitful tongue of leaping flame;A giddy whirlwind's fickle gust,That lifts a pinch of mortal dust;A few swift years, and who can showWhich dust was Bill and which was Joe?

The weary idol takes his stand,Holds out his bruised and aching hand,While gaping thousands come and go,—How vain it seems, this empty show!Till all at once his pulses thrill;—'T is poor old Joe's "God bless you, Bill!"

And shall we breathe in happier spheresThe names that pleased our mortal ears;In some sweet lull of harp and songFor earth-born spirits none too long,Just whispering of the world belowWhere this was Bill and that was Joe?

No matter; while our home is hereNo sounding name is half so dear;When fades at length our lingering day,Who cares what pompous tombstones say?Read on the hearts that love us still,Hic jacet Joe. Hic jacet Bill.



THE summer dawn is breakingOn Auburn's tangled bowers,The golden light is wakingOn Harvard's ancient towers;The sun is in the skyThat must see us do or die,Ere it shine on the lineOf the CLASS OF '29.

At last the day is ended,The tutor screws no more,By doubt and fear attendedEach hovers round the door,Till the good old Praeses cries,While the tears stand in his eyes,"You have passed, and are classedWith the Boys of '29."

Not long are they in makingThe college halls their own,Instead of standing shaking,Too bashful to be known;But they kick the Seniors' shinsEre the second week begins,When they stray in the wayOf the BOYS OF '29.

If a jolly set is trollingThe last Der Freischutz airs,Or a "cannon bullet" rollingComes bouncing down the stairs,The tutors, looking out,Sigh, "Alas!...