To An Old Danish Song-Book


    Welcome, my old friend,
    Welcome to a foreign fireside,
    While the sullen gales of autumn
    Shake the windows.

    The ungrateful world
    Has, it seems, dealt harshly with thee,
    Since, beneath the skies of Denmark,
    First I met thee.

    There are marks of age,
    There are thumb-marks on thy margin,
    Made by hands that clasped thee rudely,
    At the alehouse.

    Soiled and dull thou art;
    Yellow are thy time-worn pages,
    As the russet, rain-molested
    Leaves of autumn.

    Thou art stained with wine
    Scattered from hilarious goblets,
    As the leaves with the libations
    Of Olympus.

    Yet dost thou recall
    Days departed, half-forgotten,
    When in dreamy youth I wandered
    By the Baltic,--

    When I paused to hear
    The old ballad of King Christian
    Shouted from suburban taverns
    In the twilight.

    Thou recallest bards,
    Who in solitary chambers,
    And with hearts by passion wasted,
    Wrote thy pages.

    Thou recallest homes
    Where thy songs of love and friendship
    Made the gloomy Northern winter
    Bright as summer.

    Once some ancient Scald,
    In his bleak, ancestral Iceland,
    Chanted staves of these old ballads
    To the Vikings.

    Once in Elsinore,
    At the court of old King Hamlet
    Yorick and his boon companions
    Sang these ditties.

    Once Prince Frederick's Guard
    Sang them in their smoky barracks;--
    Suddenly the English cannon
    Joined the chorus!

    Peasants in the field,
    Sailors on the roaring ocean,
    Students, tradesmen, pale mechanics,
    All have sung them.

    Thou hast been their friend;
    They, alas! have left thee friendless!
    Yet at least by one warm fireside
    Art thou welcome.

    And, as swallows build
    In these wide, old-fashioned chimneys,
    So thy twittering songs shall nestle
    In my bosom,--

    Quiet, close, and warm,
    Sheltered from all molestation,
    And recalling by their voices
    Youth and travel.


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