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Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)


Mare Rubrum

By Oliver Wendell Holmes

1858



FLASH out a Stream of blood-red wine!--
For I would drink to other days
And brighter shall their memory shine,
Seen flaming through its crimson blaze.
The roses die, the Summers fade;
But every ghost of boyhood's dream
By Nature's magic power is laid
To sleep beneath this blood-red stream.

It filled the purple grapes that lay
And drank the splendors of the sun
Where the long summer's cloudless day
Is mirrored in the broad Garonne;
It pictures still the bacchant shapes
That saw their hoarded sunlight shed,--
The maidens dancing on the grapes,--
Their milk-white ankles splashed with red.

Beneath these waves of crimson lie,
In rosy fetters prisoned fast,
Those flitting shapes that never die,
The swift-winged visions of the past.
Kiss but the crystal's mystic rim,
Each shadow rends its flowery chain,
Springs in a bubble from its brim
And walks the chambers of the brain.

Poor Beauty! time and fortune's wrong
No form nor feature may withstand,--
Thy wrecks are scatterod all along,
Like emptied sea-shells on the sand;--
Yet, sprinkled with this blushing rain,
The dust restores each blooming girl,
As if the sea-shells moved again
Their glistening lips of pink and pearl.

Here lies the home of school-boy life,
With creaking stair and wind-swept hall,
And, scarred by many a truant knife,
Our old initials on the wall;
Here rest--their keen vibrations mute--
The shout of voices known so well,
The ringing langh, the wailing flute,
The chiding of the sharp-tongued bell.

Here, clad in burning robes, are laid
Life's blossomed joys, untimely shed
And here those cherished forms have strayed
We miss awhile, and call them dead.
What wizard fills the maddening glass?
What soil the enchanted clusters grew,
That buried passions wake and pass
In beaded drops of fiery dew?

Nay, take the cup of blood-red wine,--
Our hearts can boast a warmer glow,
Filled from a vintage more divine,--
Calmed, but not chilled by winter's snow!
To-night the palest wave we sip
Rich as the priceless draught shall be
That wet the bride of Cana's lip,--
The wedding wine of Galilee!











































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