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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Living Temple

By Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809–1894)

[From Poetical Works. Household Edition. 1887.]

NOT in the world of light alone,

Where God has built his blazing throne,

Nor yet alone in earth below,

With belted seas that come and go,

And endless isles of sunlit green,

Is all thy Maker’s glory seen:

Look in upon thy wondrous frame,—

Eternal wisdom still the same!

The smooth, soft air with pulse-like waves

Flows murmuring through its hidden caves,

Whose streams of brightening purple rush,

Fired with a new and livelier blush,

While all their burden of decay

The ebbing current steals away,

And red with Nature’s flame they start

From the warm fountains of the heart.

No rest that throbbing slave may ask,

Forever quivering o’er his task,

While far and wide a crimson jet

Leaps forth to fill the woven net

Which in unnumbered crossing tides

The flood of burning life divides,

Then, kindling each decaying part,

Creeps back to find the throbbing heart.

But warmed with that unchanging flame

Behold the outward moving frame,

Its living marbles jointed strong

With glistening band and silvery thong,

And linked to reason’s guiding reins

By myriad rings in trembling chains,

Each graven with the threaded zone

Which claims it as the master’s own.

See how yon beam of seeming white

Is braided out of seven-hued light,

Yet in those lucid globes no ray

By any chance shall break astray.

Hark how the rolling surge of sound,

Arches and spirals circling round,

Wakes the hushed spirit through thine ear

With music it is heaven to hear.

Then mark the cloven sphere that holds

All thought in its mysterious folds,

That feels sensation’s faintest thrill,

And flashes forth the sovereign will;

Think on the stormy work! that dwells

Locked in its dim and clustering cells!

The lightning gleams of power it sheds

Along its hollow glassy threads!

O Father! grant thy love divine

To make these mystic temples thine!

When wasting age and wearying strife

Have sapped the leaning walls of life,

When darkness gathers over all,

And the last tottering pillars fall,

Take the poor dust thy mercy warms,

And mould it into heavenly forms!