Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
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John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
 
Personal Poems
Our Autocrat
 
          Read at the breakfast given in honor of Dr. Holmes by the publishers of the Atlantic Monthly, December 3, 1879.

HIS laurels fresh from song and lay,
  Romance, art, science, rich in all,
And young of heart, how dare we say
  We keep his seventieth festival?
 
No sense is here of loss or lack;        5
  Before his sweetness and his light
The dial holds its shadow back,
  The charmëd hours delay their flight.
 
His still the keen analysis
  Of men and moods, electric wit,        10
Free play of mirth, and tenderness
  To heal the slightest wound from it.
 
And his the pathos touching all
  Life’s sins and sorrows and regrets,
Its hopes and fears, its final call        15
  And rest beneath the violets.
 
His sparkling surface scarce betrays
  The thoughtful tide beneath it rolled,
The wisdom of the latter days,
  And tender memories of the old.        20
 
What shapes and fancies, grave or gay,
  Before us at his bidding come!
The Treadmill tramp, the One-Horse Shay,
  The dumb despair of Elsie’s doom!
 
The tale of Avis and the Maid,        25
  The plea for lips that cannot speak,
The holy kiss that Iris laid
  On Little Boston’s pallid cheek!
 
Long may he live to sing for us
  His sweetest songs at evening time,        30
And, like his Chambered Nautilus,
  To holier heights of beauty climb!
 
Though now unnumbered guests surround
  The table that he rules at will,
Its Autocrat, however crowned,        35
  Is but our friend and comrade still.
 
The world may keep his honored name,
  The wealth of all his varied powers;
A stronger claim has love than fame,
  And he himself is only ours!        40
 
 
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