To Governor Swain

A poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes

Dear Governor, if my skiff might brave
The winds that lift the ocean wave,
The mountain stream that loops and swerves
Through my broad meadow's channelled curves
Should waft me on from bound to bound
To where the River weds the Sound,
The Sound should give me to the Sea,
That to the Bay, the Bay to thee.

It may not be; too long the track
To follow down or struggle back.
The sun has set on fair Naushon
Long ere my western blaze is gone;
The ocean disk is rolling dark
In shadows round your swinging bark,
While yet the yellow sunset fills
The stream that scarfs my spruce-clad hills;
The day-star wakes your island deer
Long ere my barnyard chanticleer;
Your mists are soaring in the blue
While mine are sparks of glittering dew.

It may not be; oh, would it might,
Could I live o'er that glowing night!
What golden hours would come to life,
What goodly feats of peaceful strife, -
Such jests, that, drained of every joke,
The very bank of language broke, -
Such deeds, that Laughter nearly died
With stitches in his belted side;
While Time, caught fast in pleasure's chain,
His double goblet snapped in twain,
And stood with half in either hand, -
Both brimming full, - but not of sand!

It may not be; I strive in vain
To break my slender household chain, -
Three pairs of little clasping hands,
One voice, that whispers, not commands.
Even while my spirit flies away,
My gentle jailers murmur nay;
All shapes of elemental wrath

They raise along my threatened path;
The storm grows black, the waters rise,
The mountains mingle with the skies,
The mad tornado scoops the ground,
The midnight robber prowls around, -
Thus, kissing every limb they tie,
They draw a knot and heave a sigh,
Till, fairly netted in the toil,
My feet are rooted to the soil.
Only the soaring wish is free! -
And that, dear Governor, flies to thee!


PITTSFIELD, 1851.

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