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

Ultima Thule

Poems. The Iron Pen

  • Written June 20, 1879. The pen was made of a bit of iron from the prison of Bonnivard at Chillon; the handle of wood from the Frigate Constitution, and bound with a circlet of gold, inset with three precious stones from Siberia, Ceylon, and Maine. It was a gift from Miss Helen Hamlin, of Bangor, Maine.

  • I THOUGHT this Pen would arise

    From the casket where it lies—

    Of itself would arise and write

    My thanks and my surprise.

    When you gave it me under the pines,

    I dreamed these gems from the mines

    Of Siberia, Ceylon, and Maine

    Would glimmer as thoughts in the lines;

    That this iron link from the chain

    Of Bonnivard might retain

    Some verse of the Poet who sang

    Of the prisoner and his pain;

    That this wood from the frigate’s mast

    Might write me a rhyme at last,

    As it used to write on the sky

    The song of the sea and the blast.

    But motionless as I wait,

    Like a Bishop lying in state

    Lies the Pen, with its mitre of gold,

    And its jewels inviolate.

    Then must I speak, and say

    That the light of that summer day

    In the garden under the pines

    Shall not fade and pass away.

    I shall see you standing there,

    Caressed by the fragrant air,

    With the shadow on your face,

    And the sunshine on your hair.

    I shall hear the sweet low tone

    Of a voice before unknown,

    Saying, “This is from me to you—

    From me, and to you alone.”

    And in words not idle and vain

    I shall answer and thank you again

    For the gift, and the grace of the gift,

    O beautiful Helen of Maine!

    And forever this gift will be

    As a blessing from you to me,

    As a drop of the dew of your youth

    On the leaves of an aged tree.