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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

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Poems. From my Arm-Chair

  • 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.
  • Mr. Longfellow had this poem, which he wrote on the same day, printed on a sheet, and was accustomed to give a copy to each child who visited him and sat in the chair.

  • 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 back my youth again.

    The heart hath its own memory, like the mind,

    And in it are enshrined

    The precious keepsakes, into which is 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.