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Littell's Living Age/Volume 141/Issue 1818/From my Armchair

TO THE CHILDREN OF CAMBRIDGE
Who presented to me, on my Seventy-Second Birthday, February 27, 1879, this Chair, made from the Wood of the Village Blacksmith's Chestnut-Tree.


Am I a king, that I should call my own
          This splendid ebon throne?
Or by what reason, or what right divine,
          Can I proclaim it mine?

Only, perhaps, by right divine of song
          It may to me belong;
Only because the spreading chestnut-tree
          Of old was sung by me.

Well I remember it in all its prime,
          When in the summer-time
The affluent foliage of its branches made
          A cavern of cool shade.

There by the blacksmith's forge, beside the street,
          Its blossoms white and sweet
Enticed the bees, until it seemed alive,
          And murmured like a hive.

And when the winds of autumn, with a shout,
          Tossed its great arms about,
The shining chestnuts, bursting from the sheath,
          Dropped to the ground beneath.

And now some fragments of its branches bare,
          Shaped as a stately chair,
Have by my hearthstone found a home at last,
          And whisper of the past.

The Danish king could not in all his pride
          Repel the ocean tide,
But seated in this chair, I can in rhyme
          Roll back the tide of time.

I see again, as one in vision sees,
          The blossoms and the bees,
And hear the children's voices shout and call,
          And the brown chestnuts fall.

I see the smithy with its fires aglow,
          I hear the bellows blow,
And the shrill hammers on the anvil beat
          The iron white with heat!

And thus, dear children, have ye made for me
          This day a jubilee,
And to my more than threescore years and ten
          Brought hack my youth again.

The heart hath its own memory, like the mind,
          And in it are enshrined
The precious keepsakes, into which are wrought
          The giver's loving thought.

Only your love and your remembrance could
          Give life to this dead wood,
And make these branches, leafless now so long,
          Blossom again in song.