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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

On Lending a Punch-Bowl

By Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809–1894)

THIS ancient silver bowl of mine, it tells of good old times,

Of joyous days and jolly nights, and merry Christmas-times;

They were a free and jovial race, but honest, brave, and true,

Who dipped their ladle in the punch when this old bowl was new.

A Spanish galleon brought the bar,—so runs the ancient tale:

’Twas hammered by an Antwerp smith, whose arm was like a flail;

And now and then between the strokes, for fear his strength should fail,

He wiped his brow and quaffed a cup of good old Flemish ale.

’Twas purchased by an English squire to please his loving dame,

Who saw the cherubs, and conceived a longing for the same;

And oft as on the ancient stock another twig was found,

’Twas filled with caudle spiced and hot, and handed smoking round.

But, changing hands, it reached at length a Puritan divine,

Who used to follow Timothy, and take a little wine,

But hated punch and prelacy; and so it was, perhaps,

He went to Leyden, where he found conventicles and schnapps.

And then, of course, you know what’s next: it left the Dutchman’s shore

With those that in the Mayflower came, a hundred souls and more,

Along with all the furniture to fill their new abodes—

To judge by what is still on hand, at least a hundred loads.

’Twas on a dreary winter’s eve, the night was closing dim,

When brave Miles Standish took the bowl, and filled it to the brim;

The little Captain stood and stirred the posset with his sword,

And all his sturdy men-at-arms were ranged about the board.

He poured the fiery Hollands in,—the man that never feared,—

He took a long and solemn draught, and wiped his yellow beard;

And one by one the musketeers—the men that fought and prayed—

All drank as ’twere their mother’s milk, and not a man afraid.

That night, affrighted, from his nest the screaming eagle flew,—

He heard the Pequot’s ringing whoop, the soldier’s wild halloo;

And there the sachem learned the rule he taught to kith and kin,

“Run from the white man when you find he smells of Hollands gin!”

A hundred years, and fifty more, had spread their leaves and snows,

A thousand rubs had flattened down each little cherub’s nose,

When once again the bowl was filled, but not in mirth or joy,—

’Twas mingled by a mother’s hand to cheer her parting boy.

“Drink, John,” she said: “’twill do you good,—poor child, you’ll never bear

This working in the dismal trench, out in the midnight air;

And if—God bless me!—you were hurt, ’twould keep away the chill.”

So John did drink—and well he wrought that night at Bunker’s Hill!

I tell you, there was generous warmth in good old English cheer;

I tell you, ’twas a pleasant thought to bring its symbol here.

’Tis but the fool that loves excess: hast thou a drunken soul?

Thy bane is in thy shallow skull, not in my silver bowl!

I love the memory of the past,—its pressed yet fragrant flowers,

The moss that clothes its broken walls, the ivy on its towers;

Nay, this poor bauble it bequeathed,—my eyes grow moist and dim,

To think of all the vanished joys that danced around its brim.

Then fill a fair and honest cup, and bear it straight to me:

The goblet hallows all it holds, whate’er the liquid be;

And may the cherubs on its face protect me from the sin

That dooms one to those dreadful words, “My dear, where have you been?”