On William Francis Bartlett

A poem by Francis Bret Harte

O poor Romancer thou whose printed page,
Filled with rude speech and ruder forms of strife,
Was given to heroes in whose vulgar rage
No trace appears of gentler ways and life!

Thou who wast wont of commoner clay to build
Some rough Achilles or some Ajax tall;
Thou whose free brush too oft was wont to gild
Some single virtue till it dazzled all;

What right hast thou beside this laureled bier
Whereon all manhood lies whereon the wreath
Of Harvard rests, the civic crown, and here
The starry flag, and sword and jeweled sheath?

Seest thou these hatchments? Knowest thou this blood
Nourished the heroes of Colonial days
Sent to the dim and savage-haunted wood
Those sad-eyed Puritans with hymns of praise?

Look round thee! Everywhere is classic ground.
There Greylock rears. Beside yon silver “Bowl”
Great Hawthorne dwelt, and in its mirror found
Those quaint, strange shapes that filled his poet’s soul.

Still silent, Stranger? Thou who now and then
Touched the too credulous ear with pathos, canst not speak?
Hast lost thy ready skill of tongue and pen?
What, Jester! Tears upon that painted cheek?

Pardon, good friends! I am not here to mar
His laureled wreaths with this poor tinseled crown
This man who taught me how ’twas better far
To be the poem than to write it down.

I bring no lesson. Well have others preached
This sword that dealt full many a gallant blow;
I come once more to touch the hand that reached
Its knightly gauntlet to the vanquished foe.

O pale Aristocrat, that liest there,
So cold, so silent! Couldst thou not in grace
Have borne with us still longer, and so spare
The scorn we see in that proud, placid face?

“Hail and farewell!” So the proud Roman cried
O’er his dead hero. “Hail,” but not “farewell.”
With each high thought thou walkest side by side;
We feel thee, touch thee, know who wrought the spell!

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