Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. I. Of Home: of Friendship
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume I. Of Home: of Friendship.  1904.
 
Poems of Home: V. The Home
A Winter-Evening Hymn to My Fire
James Russell Lowell (1819–1891)
 
O THOU of home the guardian Lar,
And, when our earth hath wandered far
Into the cold, and deep snow covers
The walks of our New England lovers,
Their sweet secluded evening-star!        5
’T was with thy rays the English Muse
Ripened her mild domestic hues;
’T was by thy flicker that she conned
The fireside wisdom that enrings
With light from heaven familiar things;        10
By thee she found the homely faith
In whose mild eyes thy comfort stay’th,
When Death, extinguishing his torch,
Gropes for the latch-string in the porch;
The love that wanders not beyond        15
His earliest nest, but sits and sings
While children smooth his patient wings:
Therefore with thee I love to read
Our brave old poets: at thy touch how stirs
Life in the withered words! how swift recede        20
Time’s shadows! and how glows again
Through its dead mass the incandescent verse,
As when upon the anvils of the brain
It glittering lay, cyclopically wrought
By the fast-throbbing hammers of the poet’s thought!        25
Thou murmurest, too, divinely stirred,
The aspirations unattained,
The rhythms so rathe and delicate,
They bent and strained
And broke, beneath the sombre weight        30
Of any airiest mortal word.
 
What warm protection dost thou bend
Round curtained talk of friend with friend,
While the gray snow-storm, held aloof,
To softest outline rounds the roof,        35
Or the rude North with baffled strain
Shoulders the frost-starred window-pane!
Now the kind nymph to Bacchus borne
By Morpheus’ daughter, she that seems
Gifted upon her natal morn        40
By him with fire, by her with dreams,
Nicotia, dearer to the Muse
Than all the grapes’ bewildering juice,
We worship, unforbid of thee;
And, as her incense floats and curls        45
In airy spires and wayward whirls,
Or poises on its tremulous stalk
A flower of frailest revery,
So winds and loiters, idly free,
The current of unguided talk,        50
Now laughter-rippled, and now caught
In smooth dark pools of deeper thought.
Meanwhile thou mellowest every word,
A sweetly unobtrusive third;
For thou hast magic beyond wine,        55
To unlock natures each to each;
The unspoken thought thou canst divine:
Thou fill’st the pauses of the speech
With whispers that to dream-land reach,
And frozen fancy-springs unchain,        60
In Arctic outskirts of the brain;
Sun of all inmost confidences,
To thy rays doth the heart unclose
Its formal calyx of pretences,
That close against rude day’s offences,        65
And open its shy midnight rose!
*        *        *        *        *
 
 
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