Breakfast at the Century Club, New York, May, 1879.
by Oliver Wendell Holmes
SUCH kindness! the scowl of a cynic would soften,
His pulse beat its way to some eloquent words,
Alas! my poor accents have echoed too often,
Like that Pinafore music you've some of you heard.
Do you know me, dear strangers--the hundredth time comer
At banquets and feasts since the days of my Spring?
Ah! would I could borrow one rose of my Summer,
But this is a leaf of my Autumn I bring.
I look at your faces,--I'm sure there are some from
The three-breasted mother I count as my own;
You think you remember the place you have come from,
But how it has changed in the years that have flown!
Unaltered, 't is true, is the hall we call 'Funnel,'
Still fights the 'Old South' in the battle for life,
But we've opened our door to the West through the tunnel,
And we've cut off Fort Hill with our Amazon knife.
You should see the new Westminster Boston has builded,--
Its mansions, its spires, its museums of arts,--
You should see the great dome we have gorgeously gilded,--
'T is the light of our eyes, 't is the joy of our hearts.
When first in his path a young asteroid found it,
As he sailed through the skies with the stars in his wake,
He thought 't was the sun, and kept circling around it
Till Edison signalled, 'You've made a mistake.'
We are proud of our city,--her fast-growing figure,
The warp and the woof of her brain and her hands,--
But we're proudest of all that her heart has grown bigger,
And warms with fresh blood as her girdle expands.
One lesson the rubric of conflict has taught her
Though parted awhile by war's earth-rending shock,
The lines that divide us are written in water,
The love that unites us cut deep in the rock.
As well might the Judas of treason endeavor
To write his black name on the disk of the sun
As try the bright star-wreath that binds us to sever
And blot the fair legend of 'Many in One.'
We love You, tall sister, the stately, the splendid,--
The banner of empire floats high on your towers,
Yet ever in welcome your arms are extended,--
We share in your splendors, your glory is ours.
Yes, Queen of the Continent! All of us own thee,--
The gold-freighted argosies flock at thy call,
The naiads, the sea-nymphs have met to enthrone thee,
But the Broadway of one is the Highway of all!
I thank you. Three words that can hardly be mended,
Though phrases on phrases their eloquence pile,
If you hear the heart's throb with their eloquence blended,
And read all they mean in a sunshiny smile.