“Lines” by Charles Henry Foster

by Ann Neilson

Lines
By Charles Henry Foster

‘OLD WOOD, OLD BOOKS, OLD FRIENDS, OLD WIN.’

I.
OLD wood, that has stood ‘mid the tempests rude,
Whose fibres the years have woven;
Brought by sturdy arm from some ancient farm,
And in faggots[*] deftly cloven:
In the forest dim each stalwart limb
On the tough old tree has thickened;
And now, by its heat, won from wind and sleet,
My shivering frame is quickened.
At this gladsome hearth; I can guess the worth
Of the blasts it has grimly weathered,
As with crackle and roar it yields the store
Of warmth it has slowly gathered:
While the embers glow, my fancies go,
By the cheering flame up-kindled:
Now, with sudden leap the dogs I heap;*
In my musing the blaze had dwindled.

II.
Old books from their nooks, with searching looks,
I bear to the lighted table;
As I gaze within, I try to win
The fact in their cunning fable.
Now the worlds of old their lore unfold,
As converse I hold with the ages;
And I hoard their dowers through the waxing hours,
While scanning the painted pages.
Then the Christian seers of the middle years,
When the Church had might and glory,
Wield weapons dense, in the Faith’s defence,
Or chant some martyr’s story.
Oh! the earnest word is for ever heard,
From the open page that speaketh;
And the souls of men sound it back again,
And in deathless echoes it breaketh.

III.
Old friends HEAVEN sends, and my study ends;
Right joysome is our greeting;
In gay discourse we prove the force
Of the love in our bosoms beating:
Now the merry shout rings cheerly out,
As the lively jest is started;
Now wells the tear as we sadly hear
Of some kind soul departed.
In an alien land, still a friendly hand
To his last dark slumber laid him;
And the honors due to a heart so true,
In prayerful sorrow paid him.
Oh! friendship pure will aye endure,
When this masque below is ended,
And in union dear in a better sphere
We meet with the dead ascended.

IV.
Old wine, divine, born of Gallia’s vine,
From its cellared covert bringing,
We quaff its wealth of mirth and heath,
As its genial beams ‘t is flinging.
Now we tread the realm where falls the film
That dulls this mortal vision,
And our mounting dreams are bright with gleams
From the blissful fields of Elysian.
While beats the storm our souls grow warm,
Our spirits its shrieks embolden;
And the song we raise in the glad GOD’S praise,
Who brought us this blessing golden.
PROMETHEUS gave flame, but till BACCHUS came,
Men knew not the truth of feelings,
The swift-winged thought and the wisdom caught
From the ruddy bowl’s revealing.

[*In order to spare confusion and address concern regarding this term, refer to this 19th century definition of the term: “A bundle of sticks bound together as fuel.”]

*———’LIGNA super foco
Large reponens.’—HOR. Lib. I, CARMEN IX.