The Relic

Written on receiving a cane wrought from a fragment of the wood-work

of Pennsylvania Hall which the fire had spared.

TOKEN of friendship true and tried,

From one whose fiery heart of youth

With mine has beaten, side by side,

For Liberty and Truth;

With honest pride the gift I take,

And prize it for the giver's sake.

But not alone because it tells

Of generous hand and heart sincere;

Around that gift of friendship dwells

A memory doubly dear;

Earth's noblest aim, man's holiest thought,

With that memorial frail in wrought!

Pure thoughts and sweet like flowers unfold,

And precious memories round it cling,

Even as the Prophet's rod of old

In beauty blossoming:

And buds of feeling, pure and good,

Spring from its cold unconscious wood.

Relic of Freedom's shrine! a brand

Plucked from its burning! let it be

Dear as a jewel from the hand

Of a lost friend to me!

Flower of a perished garland left,

Of life and beauty unbereft!

Oh, if the young enthusiast bears,

O'er weary waste and sea, the stone

Which crumbled from the Forum's stairs,

Or round the Parthenon;

Or olive-bough from some wild tree

Hung over old Thermopylae:

If leaflets from some hero's tomb,

Or moss-wreath torn from ruins hoary;

Or faded flowers whose sisters bloom

On fields renowned in story;

Or fragment from the Alhambra's crest,

Or the gray rock by Druids blessed;

Sad Erin's shamrock greenly growing

Where Freedom led her stalwart kern,

Or Scotia's "rough bur thistle" blowing

On Bruce's Bannockburn;

Or Runnymede's wild English rose,

Or lichen plucked from Sempach's snows!

If it be true that things like these

To heart and eye bright visions bring,

Shall not far holier memories

To this memorial cling

Which needs no mellowing mist of time

To hide the crimson stains of crime!

Wreck of a temple, unprofaned;

Of courts where Peace with Freedom trod,

Lifting on high, with hands unstained,

Thanksgiving unto God;

Where Mercy's voice of love was pleading

For human hearts in bondage bleeding;

Where, midst the sound of rushing feet

And curses on the night-air flung,

That pleading voice rose calm and sweet

From woman's earnest tongue;

And Riot turned his scowling glance,

Awed, from her tranquil countenance!

That temple now in ruin lies!

The fire-stain on its shattered wall,

And open to the changing skies

Its black and roofless hall,

It stands before a nation's sight,

A gravestone over buried Right!

But from that ruin, as of old,

The fire-scorched stones themselves are crying,

And from their ashes white and cold

Its timbers are replying!

A voice which slavery cannot kill

Speaks from the crumbling arches still!

And even this relic from thy shrine,

O holy Freedom! Hath to me

A potent power, a voice and sign

To testify of thee;

And, grasping it, methinks I feel

A deeper faith, a stronger zeal.

And not unlike that mystic rod,

Of old stretched o'er the Egyptian wave,

Which opened, in the strength of God,

A pathway for the slave,

It yet may point the bondman's way,

And turn the spoiler from his prey.


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