James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

November 8

Francis Parkman

By Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809–1894)

  • The well-known historian. Died November 8, 1893.

  • HE rests from toil; the portals of the tomb

    Close on the last of those unwearying hands

    That wove their pictured webs in History’s loom,

    Rich with the memories of three distant lands.

    One wrought the record of the Royal Pair

    Who saw the great Discoverer’s sail unfurled,

    Happy his more than regal prize to share,

    The spoils, the wonders, of the sunset world.

    There too, he found his theme; upreared anew,

    Our eyes beheld the vanished Aztec shrines,

    And all the silver splendors of Peru

    That lured the conqueror to her fatal mines.

    Nor less remembered he who told the tale

    Of empire wrested from the strangling sea;

    Of Leyden’s woe, that turned his readers pale,

    The price of unborn freedom yet to be;

    Who taught the New World what the Old could teach;

    Whose silent hero, peerless as our own,

    By deeds that mocked the feeble breath of speech

    Called up to life a State without a Throne.

    As year by year his tapestry unrolled,

    What varied wealth its glowing length displayed!

    What long processions flamed in cloth of gold!

    What stately forms their flowing robes arrayed!

    Not such the scenes our later craftsman drew;

    Not such the shapes his darker pattern held;

    A deeper shadow lent its sober hue,

    A sadder tale his tragic task compelled.

    He told the red man’s story; far and wide.

    He searched the unwritten records of his race;

    He sat a listener at the Sachem’s side,

    He tracked the hunter through his wildwood chase.

    High o’er his head the soaring eagle screamed;

    The wolf’s long howl rang nightly; through the vale

    Tramped the lone bear; the panther’s eyeballs gleamed;

    The bison’s gallop thundered on the gale.

    Soon o’er the horizon rose the cloud of strife,—

    Two proud, strong nations battling for the prize,—

    Which swarming host should mould a nation’s life,

    Which royal banner flout the western skies.

    Long raged the conflict; on the crimson sod

    Native and alien joined their hosts in vain;

    The lilies withered where the Lion trod,

    Till Peace lay panting on the ravaged plain.

    A nobler task was theirs who strove to win

    The blood-stained heathen to the Christian fold;

    To free from Satan’s clutch the slaves of sin;

    Their labors, too, with loving grace he told.

    Halting with feeble step, or bending o’er

    The sweet-breathed roses which he loved so well,

    While through long years his burdening cross he bore,

    From those firm lips no coward accents fell.

    A brave, bright memory! his stainless shield

    No shame defaces and no envy mars!

    When our far future’s record is unsealed,

    His name will shine among its morning stars.