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THE CHAMBERED NAUTILUS
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES
This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
Sails the unshadowed main
The venturous bark that flings
On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings,
In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,
And coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.
Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl;
Wrecked is the ship of pearl !
And every chambered cell,
Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell,
As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell,
Before thee lies revealed-
Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!
Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year's dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.
Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
Child of the wandering sea,
Cast from her lap, forlorn!
From thy dead lips a clearer note is born
Than ever Triton blew from wreathéd horn!
While on mine ear it rings,
Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:
Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past !
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea !
HELPS TO STUDY
Notes and Questions What does the word nautilus What are they more commonly mean?
called? What thought must have been in To whom is the poet speaking?
the mind of those who gave the What name do we give to such a chambered nautilus this name?
speech? Who does Holmes tell us have How does the soul build mansions?
given .expression to this fancy? In what directions must a dome Can you think of any bodies of be extended to make it "more
water which might be called vast''g "enchanted gulfs???
What does the poet mean by the Give reasons for your answer.
"outgrown shell” of the soul? What are coral reefs ? Where are What is the lesson of the poem? they found !
Which stanza do you like best? What kind of beings were
Why? maids” supposed to be
Words and Phrases for Discussion “Its webs of living "sunless crypt”?
"low-vaulted past” gauze no
more "caves of thought”. “irised ceiling” furl" "lustrous coil”,
“life's unresting sea' "dim dreaming life” "cast from her lap
THE DEACON'S MASTERPIECE: OR THE WONDER
FUL "ONE-HOSS SHAY"
Have you heard of the wonderful one-hoss shay,
That was built in such a logical way
It ran a hundred years to a day,
And then, of a sudden, it-ah, but stay,
I'll tell you what happened without delay,
Scaring the parson into fits,
Frightening people out of their wits,-
Have you ever heard of that, I say?
Seventeen hundred and fifty-five.
Georgius Secundus was then alive,-
Snuffy old drone from the German hive.
That was the year when Lisbon-town
Saw the earth open and gulp her down,
And Braddock's army was done so brown,
Left without a scalp to its crown.
It was on the terrible Earthquake-day
That the Deacon finished the one-hoss shay.
Now in building of chaises, I tell you what,
There is always somewhere a weakest spot, -
In hub, tire, felloe, in spring or thill,
In panel, or crossbar, or floor, or sill,
In screw, bolt, thoroughbrace,- lurking, still,
Find it somewhere you must and will,-
Above or below, or within or without,-
And that's the reason, beyond a doubt,
A chaise breaks down, but doesn't wear out.
But the Deacon swore, (as Deacons do,
With an “I dew vum, or an “I tell yeou,”)
He would build one shay to beat the taown
'N' the keounty 'n' all the kentry raoun';
It should be so built that it couldn' break daown.
-"Fur," said the Deacon, “It's mighty plain
Thut the weakes place mus' stan' the strain;
'N' the way t fix it, uz I maintain, is only jest
T' make that place uz strong uz the rest.”
So the Deacon inquired of the village folk
Where he could find the strongest oak,
That couldn't be split nor bent nor broke,-
That was for spokes and floor and sills;
He sent for lancewood to make the thills;
The crossbars were ash, from the straightest trees,
The panels of white-wood, that cuts like cheese,
But lasts like iron for things like these ;
The hubs of logs from the “Settler's ellum,”.
Last of its timber,—they couldn't sell 'em,
Never an axe had seen their chips,
And the wedges flew from between their lips,
Their blunt ends frizzled like celery-tips;
Step and prop-iron, bolt and screw,
Spring, tire, axle, and linchpin too,
Steel of the finest, bright and blue;
Thoroughbrace, bison-skin, thick and wide;
Boot, top, dasher, from tough old hide
Found in the pit when the tanner died.
That was the way he "put her through.”—
“There !” said the Deacon, "naow she'll dew.”
Do ! I tell you, I rather guess
She was a wonder, and nothing less !
Colts grew horses, beards turned gray,
Deacon and deaconess dropped away,
Children and grandchildren—where were they?
But there stood the stout old one-hoss shay
As fresh as on Lisbon-earthquake-day!
EIGHTEEN HUNDRED;—it came and found
The Deacon's masterpiece strong and sound.
Eighteen hundred increased by ten ;-
"Hahnsum kerridge” they called it then.
Eighteen hundred and twenty came ;-
Running as usual; much the same.
Thirty and forty at last arrive,
And then came fifty, and FIFTY-FIVE.
Little of all we value here
Wakes on the morn of its hundredth year
Without both feeling and looking queer.
In fact, there's nothing that keeps its youth,
So far as I know, but a tree and truth.
(This is a moral that runs at large;
Take it.-You're welcome.-No extra charge.)
FIRST OF NOVEMBER,—the Earthquake-day.-
There are traces of age in the one-hoss shay,
A general flavor of mild decay,
But nothing local, as one may say.
There couldn't be—for the Deacon's art
Had made it so like in every part
That there wasn't a chance for one to start.
For the wheels were just as strong as the thills,
And the floor was just as strong as the sills,
And the panels just as strong as the floor,
And the whippletree neither less nor more,
And the back-crossbar as strong as the fore,
And spring and axle and hub encore.
And yet, as a whole, it is past a doubt
In another hour it will be worn out!
First of November, fifty-five!
This morning the parson takes a drive.
Now, small boys, get out of the way!
Here comes the wonderful one-hoss shay,
Drawn by a rat-tailed, ewe-necked bay.
"Huddup !" said the parson.-Off went they.
The parson was working his Sunday's text,-
Had got to fifthly, and stopped perplexed
At what the-Moses—was coming next.
All at once the horse stood still,
Close by the meet’n’-house on the hill.
First a shiver, and then a thrill,
Then something decidedly like a spill,-
And the parson was sitting upon a rock,
At half-past nine by the meet'n'-house clock-