F. W. C.

A poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes

Fast as the rolling seasons bring
The hour of fate to those we love,
Each pearl that leaves the broken string
Is set in Friendship's crown above.
As narrower grows the earthly chain,
The circle widens in the sky;
These are our treasures that remain,
But those are stars that beam on high.

We miss - oh, how we miss! - his face, -
With trembling accents speak his name.
Earth cannot fill his shadowed place
From all her rolls of pride and fame;
Our song has lost the silvery thread
That carolled through his jocund lips;
Our laugh is mute, our smile is fled,
And all our sunshine in eclipse.

And what and whence the wondrous charm
That kept his manhood boylike still, -
That life's hard censors could disarm
And lead them captive at his will?
His heart was shaped of rosier clay, -
His veins were filled with ruddier fire, -
Time could not chill him, fortune sway,
Nor toil with all its burdens tire.

His speech burst throbbing from its fount
And set our colder thoughts aglow,
As the hot leaping geysers mount
And falling melt the Iceland snow.
Some word, perchance, we counted rash, -
Some phrase our calmness might disclaim,
Yet 't was the sunset's lightning's flash,
No angry bolt, but harmless flame.

Man judges all, God knoweth each;
We read the rule, He sees the law;
How oft his laughing children teach
The truths his prophets never saw
O friend, whose wisdom flowered in mirth,
Our hearts are sad, our eyes are dim;
He gave thy smiles to brighten earth, -
We trust thy joyous soul to Him!

Alas! - our weakness Heaven forgive!
We murmur, even while we trust,
"How long earth's breathing burdens live,
Whose hearts, before they die, are dust!"
But thou! - through grief's untimely tears
We ask with half-reproachful sigh -
"Couldst thou not watch a few brief years
Till Friendship faltered, 'Thou mayst die'?"

Who loved our boyish years so well?
Who knew so well their pleasant tales,
And all those livelier freaks could tell
Whose oft-told story never fails?
In vain we turn our aching eyes, -
In vain we stretch our eager hands, -
Cold in his wintry shroud he lies
Beneath the dreary drifting sands!

Ah, speak not thus! He lies not there!
We see him, hear him as of old!
He comes! He claims his wonted chair;
His beaming face we still behold!
His voice rings clear in all our songs,
And loud his mirthful accents rise;
To us our brother's life belongs, -
Dear friends, a classmate never dies!

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