For The Burns Centennial Celebration

A poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes

January 25, 1859

His birthday. - Nay, we need not speak
The name each heart is beating, -
Each glistening eye and flushing cheek
In light and flame repeating!

We come in one tumultuous tide, -
One surge of wild emotion, -
As crowding through the Frith of Clyde
Rolls in the Western Ocean;

As when yon cloudless, quartered moon
Hangs o'er each storied river,
The swelling breasts of Ayr and Doon
With sea green wavelets quiver.

The century shrivels like a scroll, -
The past becomes the present, -
And face to face, and soul to soul,
We greet the monarch-peasant.

While Shenstone strained in feeble flights
With Corydon and Phillis, -
While Wolfe was climbing Abraham's heights
To snatch the Bourbon lilies, -

Who heard the wailing infant's cry,
The babe beneath the sheeliug,
Whose song to-night in every sky
Will shake earth's starry ceiling, -

Whose passion-breathing voice ascends
And floats like incense o'er us,
Whose ringing lay of friendship blends
With labor's anvil chorus?

We love him, not for sweetest song,
Though never tone so tender;
We love him, even in his wrong, -
His wasteful self-surrender.

We praise him, not for gifts divine, -
His Muse was born of woman, -
His manhood breathes in every line, -
Was ever heart more human?

We love him, praise him, just for this
In every form and feature,
Through wealth and want, through woe and bliss,
He saw his fellow-creature!

No soul could sink beneath his love, -
Not even angel blasted;
No mortal power could soar above
The pride that all outlasted!

Ay! Heaven had set one living man
Beyond the pedant's tether, -
His virtues, frailties, HE may scan,
Who weighs them all together!

I fling my pebble on the cairn
Of him, though dead, undying;
Sweet Nature's nursling, bonniest bairn
Beneath her daisies lying.

The waning suns, the wasting globe,
Shall spare the minstrel's story, -
The centuries weave his purple robe,
The mountain-mist of glory!

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