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Nay, blame me not; I might have spared
  Your patience many a trivial verse,
Yet these my earlier welcome shared,
  So, let the better shield the worse.

And some might say, "Those ruder songs
  Had freshness which the new have lost;
To spring the opening leaf belongs,
  The chestnut-burs await the frost."

When those I wrote, my locks were brown,
  When these I write—ah, well-a-day!
The autumn thistle's silvery down
  Is not the purple bloom of May!

Go, little book, whose pages hold
  Those garnered years in loving trust;
How long before your blue and gold
  Shall fade and whiten in the dust?

O sexton of the alcoved tomb,
  Where souls in leathern cerements lie,
Tell me each living poet's doom!
  How long before his book shall die?

It matters little, soon or late,
  A day, a month, a year, an age,—
I read oblivion in its date,
  And Finis on its title-page.

Before we sighed, our griefs were told;
  Before we smiled, our joys were sun;
And all our passions shaped of old
  In accents lost to mortal tongue.

In vain a fresher mould we seek,—
  Can all the varied phrases tell
That Babel's wandering children speak
  How thrushes sing or lilacs smell?

Caged in the poet's lonely heart,
  Love wastes unheard its tenderest tone;
The soul that sings must dwell apart,
  Its inward melodies unknown.

Deal gently with us, ye who read!
  Our largest hope is unfulfilled,—
The promise still outruns the dead,—
  The tower, but not the spire, we build.

Our whitest pearl we never find;
  Our ripest fruit we never reach;
The flowering moments of the mind
  Drop half their petals in our speech.

These are my blossoms; if they wear
  One streak of morn or evening's glow,
Accept them; but to me more fair
  The buds of song that never blow.

April 8, 1862.

This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.