Poem for Benjamin Peirce by Oliver Wendell Holmes
ASTRONOMER, MATHEMATICIAN. 1809-1890
For him the Architect of all
Unroofed our planet's starlit hall;
Through voids unknown to worlds unseen
His clearer vision rose serene.
With us on earth he walked by day,
His midnight path how far away!
We knew him not so well who knew
The patient eyes his soul looked through;
For who his untrod realm could share
Of us that breathe this mortal air,
Or camp in that celestial tent
Whose fringes gild our firmament?
How vast the workroom where he brought
The viewless implements of thought!
The wit how subtle, how profound,
That Nature's tangled webs unwound;
That through the clouded matrix saw
The crystal planes of shaping law,
Through these the sovereign skill that planned,--
The Father's care, the Master's hand!
To him the wandering stars revealed
The secrets in their cradle sealed ;
The far-off, frozen sphere that swings
Through ether, zoned with lucid rings;
The orb that rolls in dim eclipse
Wide wheeling round its long ellipse,--
His name Urania writes with these
And stamps it on her Pleiades.
We knew him not? Ah, well we knew
The manly soul, so brave, so true,
The cheerful heart that conquered age,
The childlike silver-bearded sage.
No more his tireless thought explores
The azure sea with golden shores;
Rest, wearied frame! the stars shall keep
A loving watch where thou shalt sleep.
Farewell! the spirit needs must rise,
So long a tenant of the skies,--
Rise to that home all worlds above
Whose sun is God, whose light is love.
JOC/EFR May 2013
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