TO THE CHILDREN OF CAMBRIDGE Who presented to me on my Seventy-second Birth-day, February 27, 1879, this Chair, made from the Wood of the Village Blacksmith's Chestnut Tree. 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 three-score 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.
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