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"The Study" by Oliver Wendell Holmes

The following is the complete text of "The Study" by Oliver Wendell Holmes. Our presentation of this poem comes from The Complete Poetical Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes (1910). The various books, short stories and poems we offer are presented free of charge with absolutely no advertising as a public service from Internet Accuracy Project.


Visit these other works by Oliver Wendell Holmes
"At the Pantomime"
"At the Saturday Club"
"A Ballad of the Boston Tea Party"
"The Broomstick Train; or, The Return of the Witches"
"Bryant's Seventieth Birthday"
A Collection of his Short Poems
"Dorothy Q: A Family Portrait"
"A Farewell to Agassiz"
"The Flaneur"
"For Whittier's Seventieth Birthday"
"Grandmother's Story of Bunker-Hill Battle"
"How the Old Horse Won the Bet"
"Iris, Her Book"
"The Last Survivor"
"Meeting of the Alumni of Harvard College"
"The Moral Bully"
"The Morning Visit"

"A Mother's Secret"
"The Old Cruiser"
"The Old Player"
"On Lending a Punch Bowl"
"Once More"
"Our Banker"
"Parson Turell's Legacy"
"The Parting Word"
"The Ploughman"
Poem read at the Dinner given April 12, 1883
"Prologue"
"Rip Van Winkle, M. D."
"The School-Boy"
"The Secret of the Stars"
"The Smiling Listener"
"Spring"
"To James Russell Lowell"

To see all available titles by other authors, drop by our index of free books alphabetized by author or arranged alphabetically by title.

Potential uses for the free books, stories and prose we offer
* Rediscovering an old favorite book, short story or poem.
* Bibliophiles expanding their collection of public domain eBooks at no cost.
* Teachers trying to locate a free online copy of a short story or poem for use in the classroom.


NOTE: We try to present these classic literary works as they originally appeared in print. As such, they sometimes contain adult themes, offensive language, typographical errors, and often utilize unconventional, older, obsolete or intentionally incorrect spelling and/or punctuation conventions.


"The Study" by Oliver Wendell Holmes

THE STUDY

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES


YET in the darksome crypt I left so late,
Whose only altar is its rusted grate,--
Sepulchral, rayless, joyless as it seems,
Shamed by the glare of May's refulgent beams,--
While the dim seasons dragged their shrouded train,
Its paler splendors were not quite in vain.
From these dull bars the cheerful firelight's glow
Streamed through the casement o'er the spectral snow;
Here, while the night-wind wreaked its frantic will
On the loose ocean and the rock-bound hill,
Rent the cracked topsail from its quivering yard,
And rived the oak a thousand storms had scarred,
Fenced by these walls the peaceful taper shone,
Nor felt a breath to slant its trembling cone.

Not all unblest the mild interior scene
When the red curtain spread its falling screen;
O'er some light task the lonely hours were past,
And the long evening only flew too fast;
Or the wide chair its leathern arms would lend
In genial welcome to some easy friend,
Stretched on its bosom with relaxing nerves,
Slow moulding, plastic, to its hollow curves;
Perchance indulging, if of generous creed,
In brave Sir Walter's dream-compelling weed.
Or, happier still, the evening hour would bring
To the round table its expected ring,
And while the punch-bowl's sounding depths were stirred,--
Its silver cherubs smiling as they heard,--
Our hearts would open, as at evening's hour
The close-sealed primrose frees its hidden flower.

Such the warm life this dim retreat has known,
Not quite deserted when its guests were flown;
Nay, filled with friends, an unobtrusive set,
Guiltless of calls and cards and etiquette,
Ready to answer, never known to ask,
Claiming no service, prompt for every task.

On those dark shelves no housewife hand profanes,
O'er his mute files the monarch folio reigns;
A mingled race, the wreck of chance and time,
That talk all tongues and breathe of every clime,
Each knows his place, and each may claim his part
In some quaint corner of his master's heart.
This old Decretal, won from Kloss's hoards,
Thick-leaved, brass-cornered, ribbed with oaken boards,
Stands the gray patriarch of the graver rows,
Its fourth ripe century narrowing to its close;
Not daily conned, but glorious still to view,
With glistening letters wrought in red and blue.
There towers Stagira's all-embracing sage,
The Aldine anchor on his opening page;
There sleep the births of Plato's heavenly mind,
In yon dark tomb by jealous clasps confined,
"Olim e libris" (dare I call it mine?)
Of Yale's grave Head and Killingworth's divine!
In those square sheets the songs of Maro fill
The silvery types of smooth-leaved Baskerville;
High over all, in close, compact array,
Their classic wealth the Elzevirs display.
In lower regions of the sacred space
Range the dense volumes of a humbler race;
There grim chirurgeons all their mysteries teach,
In spectral pictures, or in crabbed speech;
Harvey and Haller, fresh from Nature's page,
Shoulder the dreamers of an earlier age,
Lully and Geber, and the learned crew
That loved to talk of all they could not do.
Why count the rest,--those names of later days
That many love, and all agree to praise,--
Or point the titles, where a glance may read
The dangerous lines of party or of creed?
Too well, perchance, the chosen list would show
What few may care and none can claim to know.
Each has his features, whose exterior seal
A brush may copy, or a sunbeam steal;
Go to his study,--on the nearest shelf
Stands the mosaic portrait of himself.

What though for months the tranquil dust descends,
Whitening the heads of these mine ancient friends,
While the damp offspring of the modern press
Flaunts on my table with its pictured dress;
Not less I love each dull familiar face,
Nor less should miss it from the appointed place;
I snatch the book, along whose burning leaves
His scarlet web our wild romancer weaves,
Yet, while proud Hester's fiery pangs I share,
My old MAGNALIA must be standing
there!


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