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Ready to answer, never known to ask,
On those dark shelves no housewife hand profanes, O'er his mute files the monarch folio reigns ; A mingled race, the wreck of chance and time, That talk all tongues and breathe of every clime; Each knows his place, and each may claim his part In some quaint corner of his master's heart. This old Decretal, won from Kloss's hoards, Thick-leaved, brass-cornered, ribbed with oaken boards, Stands the gray patriarch of the graver rows, Its fourth ripe century narrowing to its close ; Not daily conned, but glorious still to view, With glistening letters wrought in red and blue. There towers Stagira's all-embracing sage, The Aldine anchor on his opening page ; There sleep the births of Plato's heavenly mind, In yon dark tomb by jealous clasps confined, “ Olim e libris ” — (dare I call it mine?) Of Yale's grave Head and Killingworth’s divine ! In those square sheets the songs of Maro fill The silvery types of smooth-leaved Baskerville ; High over all, in close, compact array, Their classic wealth the Elzevirs display.
In lower regions of the sacred space
What though for months the tranquil dust descends, Whitening the heads of these mine ancient friends, While the damp offspring of the modern press Flaunts on my table with its pictured dress ; Not less I love each dull familiar face, Nor less should miss it from the appointed place;
I snatch the book, along whose burning leaves
WHEN o'er the street the morning peal is flung
The sexton, stooping to the quivering floor
Toil's patient daughter, when the welcome note Clangs through the silence from the steeple's throat, Streams, a white unit, to the checkered street, Demure, but guessing whom she soon shall meet; The bell, responsive to her secret flame, With every note repeats her lover's name.
The lover, tenant of the neighboring lane, Sighing, and fearing lest he sigh in vain, Hears the stern accents, as they come and go, Their only burden one despairing No!
Ocean's rough child, whom many a shore has known Ere homeward breezes swept him to his own, Starts at the echo as it circles round, A thousand memories kindling with the sound; The early favorite's unforgotten charms, Whose blue initials stain his tawny arms; His first farewell, the flapping canvas spread, The seaward streamers crackling o'er his head, His kind, pale mother, not ashamed to weep Her first-born's bridal with the haggard deep, While the brave father stood with tearless eye, Smiling and choking with his last good by.
'Tis but a wave, whose spreading circle beats, With the same impulse, every nerve it meets, Yet who shall count the varied shapes that ride On the round surge of that aerial tide!
O child of earth! If floating sounds like these
But keep thy wisdom to the narrower range,
PERHAPS too far in these considerate days
Land of our fathers, in thine hour of need God help thee, guarded by the passive creed ! As the lone pilgrim trusts to beads and cowl, When through the forest rings the gray wolf's howl As the deep galleon trusts her gilded prow When the black corsair slants athwart her bow; As the poor pheasant, with his peaceful mien, Trusts to his feathers, shining golden-green, When the dark plumage with the crimson beak Has rustled shadowy from its splintered peak;