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The Poetical Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes - Volume 12: Verses from the Oldest Portfolio

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THE god looked out upon the troubled deepWaked into tumult from its placid sleep;The flame of anger kindles in his eyeAs the wild waves ascend the lowering sky;He lifts his head above their awful heightAnd to the distant fleet directs his sight,Now borne aloft upon the billow's crest,Struck by the bolt or by the winds oppressed,And well he knew that Juno's vengeful ireFrowned from those clouds and sparkled in that fire.On rapid pinions as they whistled byHe calls swift Zephyrus and Eurus nighIs this your glory in a noble lineTo leave your confines and to ravage mine?Whom I—but let these troubled waves subside—Another tempest and I'll quell your pride!Go—bear our message to your master's ear,That wide as ocean I am despot here;Let him sit monarch in his barren caves,I wield the trident and control the wavesHe said, and as the gathered vapors breakThe swelling ocean seemed a peaceful lake;To lift their ships the graceful nymphs essayedAnd the strong trident lent its powerful aid;The dangerous banks are sunk beneath the main,And the light chariot skims the unruffled plain.As when sedition fires the public mind,And maddening fury leads the rabble blind,The blazing torch lights up the dread alarm,Rage points the steel and fury nerves the arm,Then, if some reverend Sage appear in sight,They stand—they gaze, and check their headlong flight,—He turns the current of each wandering breastAnd hushes every passion into rest,—Thus by the power of his imperial armThe boiling ocean trembled into calm;With flowing reins the father sped his wayAnd smiled serene upon rekindled day.


Written after a general pruning of the trees around Harvard College. A little poem, on a similar occasion, may be found in the works of Swift, from which, perhaps, the idea was borrowed; although I was as much surprised as amused to meet with it some time after writing the following lines.

IT was not many centuries since,When, gathered on the moonlit green,Beneath the Tree of Liberty,A ring of weeping sprites was seen.

The freshman's lamp had long been dim,The voice of busy day was mute,And tortured Melody had ceasedHer sufferings on the evening flute.

They met not as they once had met,To laugh o'er many a jocund taleBut every pulse was beating low,And every cheek was cold and pale.

There rose a fair but faded one,Who oft had cheered them with her song;She waved a mutilated arm,And silence held the listening throng.

"Sweet friends," the gentle nymph began,"From opening bud to withering leaf,One common lot has bound us all,In every change of joy and grief.

"While all around has felt decay,We rose in ever-living prime,With broader shade and fresher green,Beneath the crumbling step of Time.

"When often by our feet has pastSome biped, Nature's walking whim,Say, have we trimmed one awkward shape,Or lopped away one crooked limb?

"Go on, fair Science; soon to theeShall. Nature yield her idle boast;Her vulgar fingers formed a tree,But thou halt trained it to a post....