It was said long ago, that poets, like canaries, must be starved in order to keep them in good voice, and, in the palmy days of Grub Street, an editor’s table was nothing grander than his own knee, on which, in his airy garret, he unrolled his paper-parcel of dinner, happy if its wrapping were a sheet from Brown’s last poem, and not his own. Now an editorial table seems to mean a board of green cloth at which literary broken-victuals are served out with no carving but that of the editorial scissors.
La Maga has her table, too, and at fitting times invites to it her various Eminent Hands. It is a round table, — that is, rounded by the principle of rotation, — for how could she settle points of precedence with the august heads of her various Departments without danger of the dinner’s growing cold Substantial dinners are eaten thereat with Homeric appetite, nor, though impletus venter non vult studere libenter, are the visits of the Muse unknown. At these feasts no tyranny of speech-making is allowed, but the bonbons are all wrapped in original copies of verses by various contributors, which, having served their festive turn, become the property of the guests. Reporters are not admitted, for the eating is not done for inspection, like that of the hapless inmates of a menagerie; but La Maga herself sometimes brings away in her pocket a stanza or so which she esteems worthy of a more general communication. Last month she thus sequestered the following Farewell addressed by Holmes to the historian of William the Silent.
Yes, we knew we must lose him, — though friendship may claim
To blend her green leaves with the laurels of fame;
Though fondly, at parting, we call him our own,
’Tis the whisper of love when the bugle has blown.
As the rider that rests with the spur on his heel, —
As the guardsman that sleeps in his corselet of steel, —
As the archer that stands with his shaft on the string,
He stoops from his toil to the garland we bring.
What pictures yet slumber unborn in his loom
Till their warriors shall breathe and their beauties shall bloom,
While the tapestry lengthens the life-glowing dyes
That caught from our sunsets the stain of their skies!
In the alcoves of death, in the charnels of time,
Where flit the gaunt spectres of passion and crime,
There are triumphs untold, there are martyrs unsung,
There are heroes yet silent to speak with his tongue!
Let us hear the proud story that time has bequeathed
From lips that are warm with the freedom they breathed!
Let him summon its tyrants, and tell us their doom,
Though he sweep the black past like Van Tromp with his broom!
* * *
The stream flashes by, for the west-winds awake
On pampas, on prairie, o’er mountain and lake,
To bathe the swift bark, like a sea-girdled shrine,
With incense they stole from the rose and the pine.
So fill a bright cup with the sunlight that gushed
When the dead summer’s jewels were trampled and crushed:
The True Night of Learning, — the world holds him dear, —
Love bless him, Joy crown him, God speed his career!