(TO OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES)
Strange spell of youth for age, and age for youth,
Affinity between two forms of truth! -
As if the dawn and sunset watched each other,
Like and unlike as children of one mother
And wondering at the likeness. Ardent eyes
Of young men see the prophecy arise
Of what their lives shall be when all is told;
And, in the far-off glow of years called old,
Those other eyes look back to catch a trace
Of what was once their own unshadowed grace.
But here in our dear poet both are blended -
Ripe age begun, yet golden youth not ended; -
Even as his song the willowy scent of spring
Doth blend with autumn's tender mellowing,
And mixes praise with satire, tears with fun,
In strains that ever delicately run;
So musical and wise, page after page,
The sage a minstrel grows, the bard a sage.
The dew of youth fills yet his late-sprung flowers,
And day-break glory haunts his evening hours.
Ah, such a life prefigures its own moral:
That first "Last Leaf" is now a leaf of laurel,
Which - smiling not, but trembling at the touch -
Youth gives back to the hand that gave so much.
EVENING OF DECEMBER 3, 1879.