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A poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes

At The Banquet To The Grand Duke Alexis

Title:     At The Banquet To The Grand Duke Alexis
Author: Oliver Wendell Holmes [More Titles by Holmes]

DECEMBER 9, 2021

ONE word to the guest we have gathered to greet!
The echoes are longing that word to repeat,--
It springs to the lips that are waiting to part,
For its syllables spell themselves first in the heart.

Its accents may vary, its sound may be strange,
But it bears a kind message that nothing can change;
The dwellers by Neva its meaning can tell,
For the smile, its interpreter, shows it full well.

That word! How it gladdened the Pilgrim yore,
As he stood in the snow on the desolate shore!
When the shout of the sagamore startled his ear
In the phrase of the Saxon, 't was music to hear!

Ah, little could Samoset offer our sire,--
The cabin, the corn-cake, the seat by the fire;
He had nothing to give,--the poor lord of the land,--
But he gave him a WELCOME,--his heart in his hand!

The tribe of the sachem has melted away,
But the word that he spoke is remembered to-day,
And the page that is red with the record of shame
The tear-drops have whitened round Samoset's name.

The word that he spoke to the Pilgrim of old
May sound like a tale that has often been told;
But the welcome we speak is as fresh as the dew,--
As the kiss of a lover, that always is new!

Ay, Guest of the Nation! each roof is thine own
Through all the broad continent's star-bannered zone;
From the shore where the curtain of morn is uprolled,
To the billows that flow through the gateway of gold.

The snow-crested mountains are calling aloud;
Nevada to Ural speaks out of the cloud,
And Shasta shouts forth, from his throne in the sky,
To the storm-splintered summits, the peaks of Altai!

You must leave him, they say, till the summer is green!
Both shores are his home, though the waves roll between;
And then we'll return him, with thanks for the same,
As fresh and as smiling and tall as he came.

But ours is the region of arctic delight;
We can show him auroras and pole-stars by night;
There's a Muscovy sting in the ice-tempered air,
And our firesides are warm and our maidens are fair.

The flowers are full-blown in the garlanded hall,--
They will bloom round his footsteps wherever they fall;
For the splendors of youth and the sunshine they bring
Make the roses believe 't is the summons of Spring.

One word of our language he needs must know well,
But another remains that is harder to spell;
We shall speak it so ill, if he wishes to learn
How we utter Farewell, he will have to return!

[The end]
Oliver Wendell Holmes's poem: At The Banquet To The Grand Duke Alexis