To James Freeman Clarke

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To James Freeman Clarke  (1880) 
by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
April 4, 1880

I bring the simplest pledge of love,
  Friend of my earlier days;
Mine is the hand without the glove,
  The heart-beat, not the phrase.

How few still breathe this mortal air
  We called by school-boy names!
You still, whatever robe you ear,
  To me are always James.

That name the kind apostle bore
  Who shames the sullen creeds,
Not trusting less, but loving more,
  And showing faith by deeds.

What blending thoughts our memories share!
  What visions of yours and mine
Of May-days in whose morning air
  The dews were golden wine,

Of vistas bright with opening day,
  Whose all-awakening sun
Showed in life's landscape, far away,
  The summits to be won!

The heights are gained. Ah, say not so
  For him who smiles at time,
Leaves his tired comrades down below,
  And only lives to climb!

His labors, — will they ever case, —
  With hand and tongue and pen?
Shall wearied Nature ask release
  At threescore years and ten?

Our strength the clustered seasons tax, —
  For him new life they mean;
Like rods around the lictor's axe
  They keep him bright and keen.

The wise, the brave, the strong, we know, —
  We mark them here or there,
But he, — we roll our eyes, and lo!
  We find him everywhere!

With truth's bold cohorts, or alone,
  He strides through error's field;
His lance is ever manhood's own,
  His breast is woman's shield.

Count not his years while earth has need
  Of souls that Heaven inflames
With sacred seal to save, to lead, —
  Long live our dear Saint James!