For Class Meeting

A poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes

It is a pity and a shame - alas! alas! I know it is,
To tread the trodden grapes again, but so it has been, so it is;
The purple vintage long is past, with ripened clusters bursting so
They filled the wine-vats to the brim,-'t is strange you will be thirsting so!

Too well our faithful memory tells what might be rhymed or sung about,
For all have sighed and some have wept since last year's snows were flung about;
The beacon flame that fired the sky, the modest ray that gladdened us,
A little breath has quenched their light, and deepening shades have saddened us.

No more our brother's life is ours for cheering or for grieving us,
One only sadness they bequeathed, the sorrow of their leaving us;
Farewell! Farewell! - I turn the leaf I read my chiming measure in;
Who knows but something still is there a friend may find a pleasure in?
For who can tell by what he likes what other people's fancies are?
How all men think the best of wives their own particular Nancies are?
If what I sing you brings a smile, you will not stop to catechise,
Nor read Bceotia's lumbering line with nicely scanning Attic eyes.

Perhaps the alabaster box that Mary broke so lovingly,
While Judas looked so sternly on, the Master so approvingly,
Was not so fairly wrought as those that Pilate's wife and daughters had,
Or many a dame of Judah's line that drank of Jordan's waters had.

Perhaps the balm that cost so dear, as some remarked officiously,
The precious nard that filled the room with fragrance so deliciously,
So oft recalled in storied page and sung in verse melodious,
The dancing girl had thought too cheap, - that daughter of Herodias.

Where now are all the mighty deeds that Herod boasted loudest of?
Where now the flashing jewelry the tetrarch's wife was proudest of?
Yet still to hear how Mary loved, all tribes of men are listening,
And still the sinful woman's tears like stars heaven are glistening.

'T is not the gift our hands have brought, the love it is we bring with it, -
The minstrel's lips may shape the song, his heart in tune must sing with it;
And so we love the simple lays, and wish we might have more of them,
Our poet brothers sing for us, - there must be half a score of them.

It may be that of fame and name our voices once were emulous, -
With deeper thoughts, with tenderer throbs their softening tones are tremulous;
The dead seem listening as of old, ere friendship was bereft of them;
The living wear a kinder smile, the remnant that is left of them.

Though on the once unfurrowed brows the harrow- teeth of Time may show,
Though all the strain of crippling years the halting feet of rhyme may show,
We look and hear with melting hearts, for what we all remember is
The morn of Spring, nor heed how chill the sky of gray November is.

Thanks to the gracious powers above from all mankind that singled us,
And dropped the pearl of friendship in the cup they kindly mingled us,
And bound us in a wreath of flowers with hoops of steel knit under it; -
Nor time, nor space, nor chance, nor change, nor death himself shall sunder it!

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