Thou metamorphic god!
Who mak’st the straight Olympus thy abode,
Hermes to subtle laughter moving,
Apollo with serener loving,
Thou demi-god also!
Who dost all the powers of healing know;
Thou hero who dost wield
The golden sword and shield,–
Shield of a comprehensive mind,
And sword to wound the foes of human kind;
Thou man of noble mould!
Whose metal grows not cold
Beneath the hammer of the hurrying years;
A fiery breath doth blow
Across its fervid glow,
And still its resonance delights our ears;
Loved of thy brilliant mates,
Relinquished to the fates,
Whose spirit music used to chime with thine,
Transfigured in our sight,
Not quenched in death’s dark night,
They hold thee in companionship divine.
O autocratic muse!
Soul-rainbow of all hues,
Packed full of service are thy bygone years;
Thy winged steed doth fly
Across the starry sky,
Bearing the lowly burthens of thy tears.
I try this little leap,
Wishing that from the deep,
I might some pearl of song adventurous bring.
Despairing, here I stop,
And my poor offering drop,–
Why stammer I when thou art here to sing?
This poem was given at the end of her speech, Tribute To Oliver Wendell Holmes, at the breakfast in celebration of the 70th birthday of Oliver Wendell Holmes, given by the publishers of the “Atlantic Monthly,” Boston, Mass., December 3, 1879. Mrs. Howe sat at the right of Mr. Howells, then the editor of the “Atlantic,” who presided at the end of the tables, with Mr. Emerson on his left. Dr. Holmes sat on the right of Mr. Houghton, who presided at the other end of the table, with Mrs. Stowe on his left. Mrs. Howe was called up by the toast, “The girls we have not left behind us.”
…”But I must say at once that I came here entirely unprovided with a speech, and, not dreaming of one, yet I came provided with something. I considered myself invited as a sort of grandmother—indeed, I am, and I know a grandmother is usually expected to have something in her pocket. [Laughter and applause.] And I have a very modest tribute to the illustrious person whom we are met to-day to honor. With your leave I will read it. [Applause.]