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Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)


By Oliver Wendell Holmes

to a Volume
Printed in Raised Letters
for the Blind

June 15, 1885

DEAR friends, left darkling in the long eclipse
That veils the noonday,-- you whose fingertips
A meaning in these ridgy leaves can find
Where ours go stumbling, senseless, helpless, blind,
This wreath of verse how dare I offer you
To whom the garden's choicest gifts are due?
The hues of all its glowing beds are ours,
Shall you not claim its sweetest-smelling flowers?

Nay, those I have I bring you,-- at their birth
Life's cheerful sunshine warmed the grateful earth
If my rash boyhood dropped some idle seeds,
And here and there you light on saucy weeds
Among the fairer growths, remember still
Song comes of grace, and not of human will:
We get a jarring note when most we try,
Then strike the chord we know not how or why;
Our stately verse with too aspiring art
Oft overshoots and fails to reach the heart,
While the rude rhyme one human throb endears
Turns grief to smiles, and softens mirth to tears.
Kindest of critics, ye whose fingers read,
From Nature's lesson learn the poet's creed;
The queenly tulip flaunts in robes of flame,
The wayside seedling scarce a tint may claim,
Yet may the lowlest leaflets that unfold
A dewdrop fresh from heaven's own chalice hold.