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Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)

For the Dedication
of the New City Library

By Oliver Wendell Holmes

November 26, 1888

PROUDLY, beneath her glittering dome,
Our three-hilled city greets the morn;
Here Freedom found her virgin home,--
The Bethlehem where her babe was born.

The lordly roofs of traffic rise
Amid the smoke of household fires;
High o'er them in the peaceful skies
Faith points to heaven her clustering spires.

Can Freedom breathe if ignorance reign?
Shall Commerce thrive where anarchs rule?
Will Faith her half-fledged brood retain
If darkening counsels cloud the school?

Let in the light! from every age
Some gleams of garnered wisdom pour,
And, fixed on thought's electric page,
Wait all their radiance to restore.

Let in the light! in diamond mines
Their gems invite the hand that delves;
So learning's treasured jewels shine
Ranged on the alcove's ordered shelves.

From history's scroll the splendor streams,
From science leaps the living ray;
Flashed from the poet's glowing dreams
The opal fires of fancy play.

Let in the light! these windowed walls
Shall brook no shadowing colonnades,
But day shall flood the silent halls
Till o'er yon hills the sunset fades.

Behind the ever open gate
No pikes shall fence a crumbling throne,
No lackeys cringe, no courtiers wait,--
This palace is the people's own!

Heirs of our narrow-girdled past,
How fair the prospect we survey,
Where howled unheard the wintry blast
And rolled unchecked the storm-swept bay!

These chosen precincts, set apart
For learned toil and holy shrines,
Yield willing homes to every art
That trains, or strengthens, or refines.

Here shall the sceptred mistress reign
Who heeds her meanest subject's call,
Sovereign of all their vast domain,
The queen, the handmaid of them all!