Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, OUR FIFTY-FIFTH; 1843-1897, by WILLIAM ALLEN BUTLER

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

OUR FIFTY-FIFTH; 1843-1897, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Our fifty-fifth! Since first, in '43
Last Line: This bond of friendship shall survive them all!
Subject(s): Friendship; Old Age; Time

OUR FIFTY-FIFTH! Since first, in '43,
Proud to possess a Bachelor's degree
And flushed with triumphs of Commencement Day
We sought, downtown, at Barclay and Broadway,
The old "American," by Cozzens kept—
Long since to ruin and oblivion swept—
And there, with speech and song and all good cheer,
Pledged one another that each coming year,
Gathered around the festive board, should see
The unexampled Class of '43.

That day and this long years have rolled between,
Our thirty-two have dwindled to thirteen,
And yet the pledge we gave as youngsters then
Has been well kept and now nine loyal men,
True to its mandate, gather as of yore,
Send our best greetings to the absent four,
Relight the camp-fire as in earlier days,
Fan its faint embers into heat and blaze,
And call the roll which grimly seems to say,
"The boys of old are grandsires of to-day."
Too true; we linger waiting on the shore
From which our comrades all have gone before,
With short farewells, and while their forms we miss
We gaze beyond to brighter scenes than this.

Here as old friendships breathe their ancient vows,
And lights of Memory bathe our wrinkled brows,
No place is left for sighs or vain regrets,
The Star of Being never pales or sets;
Old age is not life spent, but life possessed,
The golden grain in the full measure pressed
And overflowing in its ample store,
So that to him who hath is given more.
"Happy the man," the Roman bard could say,
"Whose word at night is 'I have lived to-day!'"
In Life's calm evening, happier still is he
Who can exclaim, "I hold the Past in fee."
For us what wealth these vanished years have brought
In all the spheres of Earthly deed and thought;
In great events that still our memories stir,
All which we saw, and part of which we were;
In the strange marvels of inventive skill,
In succor brought to every woe and ill,
In all the onward march of Truth and Right,
In Slavery slain in Freedom's deadliest fight,
In the new dawn whose radiant promise lights
Our Alma Mater on her regal Heights,
In Thought's unfettered flight and boundless scope,
In all the loftier reach of human hope,
And grand unfoldings of the perfect plan
Of Love Divine for all the Race of Man.
Nor least, to-night, the hidden treasure grasped
As eye meets eye and hand in hand is clasped;
Untouched by Time, its lustre all undimmed,
Our loving-cup with its full wealth is brimmed;
Safe for the future, if we meet or part,
Kept in the inmost shrine of every heart;
Come good or evil days, come peace or strife,
Come gain or bitter loss, come death or life,
Whatever change may be, or chance befall,
This bond of friendship shall survive them all!

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