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From Favorite Poems Selected from English and American Authors, New York: Thomas Y. Crowell & Co.; ~1894; pp. 104-107.


On Lending a Punch Bowl.

O. W. Holmes.

THIS ancient silver bowl of mine, — it tells of
           good old times,
Of joyous days, and jolly nights, and merry
           Christmas chimes;
They were a free and jovial race, but honest,
           brave and true,
That dipped their ladle in the punch when the
           old bowl was new.

A Spanish galleon brought the bar — so runs the ancient
’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 Flem-
           ish ale.

’Twas purchased by an English squire to please his loving
Who saw the cherubs, and conceived a longing for the
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

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 merry winter’s eve, the night was closing dim,
When old Miles Standish took the bowl, and filled it to
           the brim.
The little captain stood and stirred the posset with his
And all his sturdy men at arms were ranged about the

He poured the fiery Hollands in — the man that never
           feared —
He took a long and solemn draught, and wiped his yellow
106 And one by one the musketeers, the men that fought and
All drank as ’twere their mothers’ milk, and not a man

That night, affrighted from his nest, the screaming eagle
He heard the Pequot’s ringing whoop, the soldier’s wild
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
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 Eng-
           lish cheer;
I tell you, ’twas a pleasant thought to bring its symbol here;
107 ’Tis but the fool that loves excess — has thou a drunken
Thy bane is in thy shallow skull, not in my silver bowl!

I love the memory of the just — its pressed yet fragrant
           flowers —
The moss that clothes its broken walls — the ivy on its
           towers —
Nay, this poor bawble 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?”


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