Oliver Wendell Holmes

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Aug 29, 1809 - Oct 7, 1894


The Voiceless

by Oliver Wendell Holmes

We count the broken lyres that rest
Where the sweet wailing singers slumber,
But o'er their silent sister's breast
The wild-flowers who will stoop to number?
A few can touch the magic string,
And noisy Fame is proud to win them: --
Alas for those that never sing,
But die with all their music in them!

Nay, grieve not for the dead alone
Whose song has told their hearts' sad story, --
Weep for the voiceless, who have known
The cross without the crown of glory!
Not where Leucadian breezes sweep
O'er Sappho's memory-haunted billow,
But where the glistening night-dews weep
On nameless sorrow's churchyard pillow.

O hearts that break and give no sign
Save whitening lip and fading tresses
Till Death pours out his cordial wine
Slow-dropped from Misery's crushing presses --
If singing breath or echoing chord
To every hidden pang were given,
What endless melodies were poured,
As sad as earth, as sweet as heaven!


Illustrated poems of Oliver Wendell Holmes
Copyright 1885
Boston: Houghton, Mifflin And Company
New York: 11 East Seventeenth Street
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