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Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)

An Appeal for "The Old South"

By Oliver Wendell Holmes


"While stands the Coliseum, Rome shall stand;
When falls the Coliseum, Rome shall fall."

FULL sevenscore years our city's pride--
The comely Southern spire--
Has cast its shadow, and defied
The storm, the foe, the fire;
Sad is the sight our eyes behold;
Woe to the three-hilled town,
When through the land the tale is told--
"The brave 'Old South'is down!"

Let darkness blot the starless dawn
That hears our children tell,
"Here rose the walls, now wrecked and gone,
Our fathers loved so well;
Here, while his brethren stood aloof,
The herald's blast was blown
That shook St. Stephen's pillared roof
And rocked King George's throne!

"The home-bound wanderer of the main
Looked from his deck afar,
To where the gilded, glittering vane
Shone like the evening star,
And pilgrim feet from every clime
The floor with reverence trod,
Where holy memories made sublime
The shrine of Freedom's God!"

The darkened skies, alas! have seen
Our monarch tree laid low,
And spread in ruins o'er the green,
But Nature struck the blow;
No scheming thrift its downfall planned,
It felt no edge of steel,
No soulless hireling raised his hand
The deadly stroke to deal.

In bridal garlands, pale and mute,
Still pleads the storied tower;
These are the blossoms, but the fruit
Awaits the golden shower;
The spire still greets the morning sun,--
Say, shall it stand or fall?
Help, ere the spoiler has begun!
Help, each, and God help all!

Editor's note from The Complete Poetical Works

[Written in the spirit of Old Ironsides. There was danger that the historic church in Boston would be destroyed, since it stood on land very valuable for commercial purposes, and the congregation worshipping in it had built a new meeting-house in the dwelling-house part of the city. The building was saved almost wholly through the intervention of public-spirited women, headed by Mrs. Mary Hemenway, who not only contributed most of the money needed, but afterward made the church the centre of important work in the teaching of history.]