Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, BIRTHDAY OF DANIEL WEBSTER, by OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES



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BIRTHDAY OF DANIEL WEBSTER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: When life hath run its largest round
Last Line: On the blue tablet of the deep!
Subject(s): Webster, Daniel (1782-1852)


WHEN life hath run its largest round
Of toil and triumph, joy and woe,
How brief a storied page is found
To compass all its outward show!

The world-tried sailor tires and droops;
His flag is rent, his keel forgot;
His farthest voyages seem but loops
That float from life's entangled knot.

But when within the narrow space
Some larger soul hath lived and wrought,
Whose sight was open to embrace
The boundless realms of deed and thought, --

When, stricken by the freezing blast,
A nation's living pillars fall,
How rich the storied page, how vast,
A word, a whisper, can recall!

No medal lifts its fretted face,
Nor speaking marble cheats your eye;
Yet, while these pictured lines I trace,
A living image passes by:

A roof beneath the mountain pines;
The cloisters of a hill-girt plain;
The front of life's embattled lines;
A mound beside the heaving main.

These are the scenes: a boy appears;
Set life's round dial in the sun,
Count the swift are of seventy years,
His frame is dust; his task is done.

Yet pause upon the noontide hour,
Ere the declining sun has laid
His bleaching rays on manhood's power,
And look upon the mighty shade.

No gloom that stately shape can hide,
No change uncrown his brow: behold!
Dark, calm, large-fronted, lightning-eyed,
Earth has no double from its mould!

Ere from the fields by valor won
The battle-smoke had rolled away,
And bared the blood-red setting sun,
His eyes were opened on the day.

His land was but a shelving strip,
Black with the strife that made it free;
He lived to see its banners dip
Their fringes in the Western sea.

The boundless prairies learned his name,
His words the mountain echoes knew;
The Northern breezes swept his fame
From icy lake to warm bayou.

In toil he lived; in peace he died;
When life's full cycle was complete,
Put off his robes of power and pride,
And laid them at his Master's feet.

His rest is by the storm-swept waves
Whom life's wild tempests roughly tried,
Whose heart was like the streaming caves
Of ocean, throbbing at his side.

Death's cold white hand is like the snow
Laid softly on the furrowed hill,
It hides the broken seams below,
And leaves the summit brighter still.

In vain the envious tongue upbraids;
His name a nation's heart shall keep
Till morning's latest sunlight fades
On the blue tablet of the deep!





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