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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
On Lending a Punch-Bowl
By Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809–1894)
 
THIS ancient silver bowl of mine, it tells of good old times,
Of joyous days and jolly nights, and merry Christmas-times;
They were a free and jovial race, but honest, brave, and true,
Who dipped their ladle in the punch when this old bowl was new.
 
A Spanish galleon brought the bar,—so runs the ancient tale:        5
’Twas hammered by an Antwerp smith, whose arm was like a flail;
And now and then between the strokes, for fear his strength should fail,
He wiped his brow and quaffed a cup of good old Flemish ale.
 
’Twas purchased by an English squire to please his loving dame,
Who saw the cherubs, and conceived a longing for the same;        10
And oft as on the ancient stock another twig was found,
’Twas filled with caudle spiced and hot, and handed smoking round.
 
But, changing hands, it reached at length a Puritan divine,
Who used to follow Timothy, and take a little wine,
But hated punch and prelacy; and so it was, perhaps,        15
He went to Leyden, where he found conventicles and schnapps.
 
And then, of course, you know what’s next: it left the Dutchman’s shore
With those that in the Mayflower came, a hundred souls and more,
Along with all the furniture to fill their new abodes—
To judge by what is still on hand, at least a hundred loads.        20
 
’Twas on a dreary winter’s eve, the night was closing dim,
When brave Miles Standish took the bowl, and filled it to the brim;
The little Captain stood and stirred the posset with his sword,
And all his sturdy men-at-arms were ranged about the board.
 
He poured the fiery Hollands in,—the man that never feared,—        25
He took a long and solemn draught, and wiped his yellow beard;
And one by one the musketeers—the men that fought and prayed—
All drank as ’twere their mother’s milk, and not a man afraid.
 
That night, affrighted, from his nest the screaming eagle flew,—
He heard the Pequot’s ringing whoop, the soldier’s wild halloo;        30
And there the sachem learned the rule he taught to kith and kin,
“Run from the white man when you find he smells of Hollands gin!”
 
A hundred years, and fifty more, had spread their leaves and snows,
A thousand rubs had flattened down each little cherub’s nose,
When once again the bowl was filled, but not in mirth or joy,—        35
’Twas mingled by a mother’s hand to cheer her parting boy.
 
“Drink, John,” she said: “’twill do you good,—poor child, you’ll never bear
This working in the dismal trench, out in the midnight air;
And if—God bless me!—you were hurt, ’twould keep away the chill.”
So John did drink—and well he wrought that night at Bunker’s Hill!        40
 
I tell you, there was generous warmth in good old English cheer;
I tell you, ’twas a pleasant thought to bring its symbol here.
’Tis but the fool that loves excess: hast thou a drunken soul?
Thy bane is in thy shallow skull, not in my silver bowl!
 
I love the memory of the past,—its pressed yet fragrant flowers,        45
The moss that clothes its broken walls, the ivy on its towers;
Nay, this poor bauble it bequeathed,—my eyes grow moist and dim,
To think of all the vanished joys that danced around its brim.
 
Then fill a fair and honest cup, and bear it straight to me:
The goblet hallows all it holds, whate’er the liquid be;        50
And may the cherubs on its face protect me from the sin
That dooms one to those dreadful words, “My dear, where have you been?”
 
 
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