Oliver Wendell Holmes

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Aug 29, 1809 - Oct 7, 1894


A Souvenir

by Oliver Wendell Holmes

Yes, lady! I can ne'er forget,
That once in other years we met;
Thy memory may perchance recall
A festal eve, a rose-wreathed hall,
Its tapers' blaze, its mirrors' glance,
Its melting song, its ringing dance; --
Why, in thy dream of virgin joy,
Shouldst thou recall a pallid boy?

Thine eye had other forms to seek,
Why rest upon his bashful cheek?
With other tones thy heart was stirred,
Why waste on him a gentle word?
We parted, lady, -- all night long
Thine ear to thrill with dance and song, --
And I -- to weep that I was born
A thing thou scarce wouldst deign to scorn.

And, lady! now that years have past,
My bark has reached the shore at last;
The gales that filled her ocean wing
Have chilled and shrunk thy hasty spring,
And eye to eye, and brow to brow,
I stand before thy presence now; --
Thy lip is smoothed, thy voice is sweet,
Thy warm hand offered when we meet.

Nay, lady! 't is not now for me
To droop the lid or bend the knee.
I seek thee, -- oh, thou dost not shun;
I speak, -- thou listenest like a nun;
I ask thy smile, -- thy lip uncurls,
Too liberal of its flashing pearls;
Thy tears, -- thy lashes sink again, --
My Hebe turns to Magdalen!

O changing youth! that evening hour
Look down on ours, -- the bud -- the flower;
Thine faded in its virgin soil,
And mine was nursed in tears and toil;
Thy leaves were withering, one by one,
While mine were opening to the sun; --
Which now can meet the cold and storm
With freshest leaf and hardiest form?

Ay, lady! that once haughty glance
Still wanders through the glittering dance,
And asks in vain from others' pride,
The charity thine own denied;
And as thy fickle lips could learn
To smile and praise, -- that used to spurn,
So the last offering on thy shrine
Shall be this flattering lay of mine!


Copyright 1861
Boston: Ticknor And Fields