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The Poetical Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes - Volume 10: Before the Curfew

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ALONE, beneath the darkened sky,With saddened heart and unstrung lyre,I heap the spoils of years gone by,And leave them with a long-drawn sigh,Like drift-wood brands that glimmering lie,Before the ashes hide the fire.

Let not these slow declining daysThe rosy light of dawn outlast;Still round my lonely hearth it plays,And gilds the east with borrowed rays,While memory's mirrored sunset blazeFlames on the windows of the past.

March 1, 1888.

AT THE SATURDAY CLUBTHIS is our place of meeting; oppositeThat towered and pillared building: look at it;King's Chapel in the Second George's day,Rebellion stole its regal name away,—Stone Chapel sounded better; but at lastThe poisoned name of our provincial pastHad lost its ancient venom; then once moreStone Chapel was King's Chapel as before.(So let rechristened North Street, when it can,Bring back the days of Marlborough and Queen Anne!)Next the old church your wandering eye will meet—A granite pile that stares upon the street—Our civic temple; slanderous tongues have saidIts shape was modelled from St. Botolph's head,Lofty, but narrow; jealous passers-bySay Boston always held her head too high.Turn half-way round, and let your look surveyThe white facade that gleams across the way,—The many-windowed building, tall and wide,The palace-inn that shows its northern sideIn grateful shadow when the sunbeams beatThe granite wall in summer's scorching heat.This is the place; whether its name you spellTavern, or caravansera, or hotel.Would I could steal its echoes! you should findSuch store of vanished pleasures brought to mindSuch feasts! the laughs of many a jocund hourThat shook the mortar from King George's tower;Such guests! What famous names its record boasts,Whose owners wander in the mob of ghosts!Such stories! Every beam and plank is filledWith juicy wit the joyous talkers spilled,Ready to ooze, as once the mountain pineThe floors are laid with oozed its turpentine!

A month had flitted since The Club had met;The day came round; I found the table set,The waiters lounging round the marble stairs,Empty as yet the double row of chairs.I was a full half hour before the rest,Alone, the banquet-chamber's single guest.So from the table's side a chair I took,And having neither company nor bookTo keep me waking, by degrees there creptA torpor over me,—in short, I slept.

Loosed from its chain, along the wreck-strown trackOf the dead years my soul goes travelling back;My ghosts take on their robes of flesh; it seemsDreaming is life; nay, life less life than dreams,So real are the shapes that meet my eyes.They bring no sense of wonder, no surprise,No hint of other than an earth-born source;All seems plain daylight, everything of course.

How dim the colors are, how poor and faintThis palette of weak words with which I paint!Here sit my friends; if I could fix them soAs to my eyes they seem, my page would glowLike a queen's missal, warm as if the brushOf Titian or Velasquez brought the flushOf life into their features....