Poem – The Opening Of The Piano 

IN the little southern parlor of tbe house you may have seen

With the gambrel-roof, and the gable looking westward to the green,

At the side toward the sunset, with the window on its right,

Stood the London-made piano I am dreaming of to-night!
Ah me! how I remember the evening when it came!

What a cry of eager voices, what a group of cheeks in flame,

When the wondrous box was opened that had come from over seas, 

With its smell of mastic-varnish and its flash of ivory keys!
Then the children all grew fretful in the restlessness of joy,

For the boy would push his sister, and the sister crowd the boy,

Till the father asked for quiet in his grave paternal way,

But the mother hushed the tumult with the words, “Now, Mary, play.”
For the dear soul knew that music was a very sovereign balm;

She had sprinkled it over Sorrow and seen its brow grow calm,

In the days of slender harpsichords with tapping tinkling quills,

Or carolling to her spinet with its thin metallic thrills.
So Mary, the household minstrel, who always loved to please,

Sat down to the new “Clementi,” and struck the glittering keys.

Hushed were the children’s voices, and every eye grew dim,

As, floating from lip and finger, arose the “Vesper Hymn.”
Catharine, child of a neighbor, curly and rosy-red,

(Wedded since, and a widow,– something like ten years dead,)

Hearing a gush of music such as none before,

Steals from her mother’s chamber and peeps at the open door.
Just as the “Jubilate” in threaded whisper dies,

“Open it! open it, lady!” the little maiden cries,

(For she thought ‘t was a singing creature caged in a box she heard,)

“Open it! open it, lady! and let me see the bird!” 

Poem – The Old Tune 

THIRTY-SIXTH VARIATION

THIS shred of song you bid me bring

Is snatched from fancy’s embers;

Ah, when the lips forget to sing,

The faithful heart remembers!
Too swift the wings of envious Time

To wait for dallying phrases,

Or woven strands of labored rhyme

To thread their cunning mazes.
A word, a sigh, and lo, how plain

Its magic breath discloses

Our life’s long vista through a lane

Of threescore summers’ roses!
One language years alone can teach

Its roots are young affections

That feel their way to simplest speech

Through silent recollections.
That tongue is ours. How few the words

We need to know a brother!

As simple are the notes of birds,

Yet well they know each other.
This freezing month of ice and snow

That brings our lives together

Lends to our year a living glow

That warms its wintry weather.
So let us meet as eve draws nigh,

And life matures and mellows,

Till Nature whispers with a sigh,

‘Good-night, my dear old fellows!’ 

Poem – The Old Player

THE curtain rose; in thunders long and loud

The galleries rung; the veteran actor bowed.

In flaming line the telltales of the stage

Showed on his brow the autograph of age;

Pale, hueless waves amid his clustered hair,

And umbered shadows, prints of toil and care;

Round the wide circle glanced his vacant eye,–

He strove to speak,–his voice was but a sigh.
Year after year had seen its short-lived race

Flit past the scenes and others take their place;

Yet the old prompter watched his accents still,

His name still flaunted on the evening’s bill.

Heroes, the monarchs of the scenic floor,

Had died in earnest and were heard no more;

Beauties, whose cheeks such roseate bloom o’er-spread

They faced the footlights in unborrowed red,

Had faded slowly through successive shades

To gray duennas, foils of younger maids;

Sweet voices lost the melting tones that start

With Southern throbs the sturdy Saxon heart,

While fresh sopranos shook the painted sky

With their long, breathless, quivering locust-cry.

Yet there he stood,–the man of other days,

In the clear present’s full, unsparing blaze,

As on the oak a faded leaf that clings

While a new April spreads its burnished wings.
How bright yon rows that soared in triple tier,

Their central sun the flashing chandelier!

How dim the eye that sought with doubtful aim

Some friendly smile it still might dare to claim

How fresh these hearts! his own how worn and cold!

Such the sad thoughts that long-drawn sigh had told.

No word yet faltered on his trembling tongue;

Again, again, the crashing galleries rung.

As the old guardsman at the bugle’s blast

Hears in its strain the echoes of the past,

So, as the plaudits rolled and thundered round,

A life of memories startled at the sound.

He lived again,–the page of earliest days,–

Days of small fee and parsimonious praise;

Then lithe young Romeo–hark that silvered tone,

From those smooth lips–alas! they were his own.

Then the bronzed Moor, with all his love and woe,

Told his strange tale of midnight melting snow;

And dark–plumed Hamlet, with his cloak and blade,

Looked on the royal ghost, himself a shade.

All in one flash, his youthful memories came,

Traced in bright hues of evanescent flame,

As the spent swimmer’s in the lifelong dream,

While the last bubble rises through the stream.
Call him not old, whose visionary brain

Holds o’er the past its undivided reign.

For him in vain the envious seasons roll

Who bears eternal summer in his soul.

If yet the minstrel’s song, the poet’s lay,

Spring with her birds, or children at their play,

Or maiden’s smile, or heavenly dream of art,

Stir the few life-drops creeping round his heart,

Turn to the record where his years are told,–

Count his gray hairs,–they cannot make him old!

What magic power has changed the faded mime?

One breath of memory on the dust of time.

As the last window in the buttressed wall

Of some gray minster tottering to its fall,

Though to the passing crowd its hues are spread,

A dull mosaic, yellow, green, and red,

Viewed from within, a radiant glory shows

When through its pictured screen the sunlight flows,

And kneeling pilgrims on its storied pane

See angels glow in every shapeless stain;

So streamed the vision through his sunken eye,

Clad in the splendors of his morning sky.

All the wild hopes his eager boyhood knew,

All the young fancies riper years proved true,

The sweet, low-whispered words, the winning glance

From queens of song, from Houris of the dance,

Wealth’s lavish gift, and Flattery’s soothing phrase,

And Beauty’s silence when her blush was praise,

And melting Pride, her lashes wet with tears,

Triumphs and banquets, wreaths and crowns and cheers,

Pangs of wild joy that perish on the tongue,

And all that poets dream, but leave unsung!
In every heart some viewless founts are fed

From far-off hillsides where the dews were shed;

On the worn features of the weariest face

Some youthful memory leaves its hidden trace,

As in old gardens left by exiled kings

The marble basins tell of hidden springs,

But, gray with dust, and overgrown with weeds,

Their choking jets the passer little heeds,

Till time’s revenges break their seals away,

And, clad in rainbow light, the waters play.
Good night, fond dreamer! let the curtain fall

The world’s a stage, and we are players all.

A strange rehearsal! Kings without their crowns,

And threadbare lords, and jewel-wearing clowns,

Speak the vain words that mock their throbbing hearts,

As Want, stern prompter! spells them out their parts.

The tinselled hero whom we praise and pay

Is twice an actor in a twofold play.

We smile at children when a painted screen

Seems to their simple eyes a real scene;

Ask the poor hireling, who has left his throne

To seek the cheerless home he calls his own,

Which of his double lives most real seems,

The world of solid fact or scenic dreams?

Canvas, or clouds,–the footlights, or the spheres,–

The play of two short hours, or seventy years?

Dream on! Though Heaven may woo our open eyes,

Through their closed lids we look on fairer skies;

Truth is for other worlds, and hope for this;

The cheating future lends the present’s bliss;

Life is a running shade, with fettered hands,

That chases phantoms over shifting sands;

Death a still spectre on a marble seat,

With ever clutching palms and shackled feet;

The airy shapes that mock life’s slender chain,

The flying joys he strives to clasp in vain,

Death only grasps; to live is to pursue,–

Dream on! there ‘s nothing but illusion true!