Frederick Henry Hedge D. D. On His 80th Birthday, Dec. 12, 1885

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WHAT lapse or accident of time
Can dull that soul's sonorous chime
Which owns the priceless heritage —
Youth's summer warmth in wintry age?
The gods can grant no rarer boon
Than heart with mind in genial tune,
Through a long life's vicissitudes
Unjarred by chances and by moods;
A soul elastic and unworn
Whose eve retains the smile of morn;
And all the poesy of youth
Is wedded to the soul of truth.
So have I seen the Alpine glow
On hoary pinnacles of snow,
While many a younger wilderness
Of woods beneath lay colorless
And darkling in the twilight sky,
Touched by no sunset alchemy.
For some there are whose youth is old
Long ere their youthful blood grows cold;
And some in age so young that time,
Deceived, still sees them in their prime.
No form or face that prophesied
A strength to after years denied —
No spirit lost in aims that seem
The cloud-land of a worldly dream —
No head discrowned — no incomplete
And slackened course to-day we greet
In him whose fourscore years have spanned
The gulfs of fact and wonder-land; —
Who brought the seeds of Europe's lore
To fertilize our western shore;—
By pastoral care, by voice and pen
Toiling to serve his fellow-men;
Who early stood in freedom's van,
And with forecasting eye outran
The cloudy creeds that long obscured
The light to later days assured.
What claim of youth by word or deed
Can e'er dislodge or supersede
The royal right to place and fame
Earned by long years of earnest aim,
Of learning deep, of vision wide,
Of wisdom to fit speech allied;
While all along their downward trend
Youth's earlier lights his steps attend?
Still in the gloaming of his day
Lingers the glow that mocks decay.
Friend, poet, scholar, teacher, sage!
Unshadowed by the mists of age,
Long may the generous faith and thought,
The lights from the ideal caught,
That guided and inspired his youth,
Shine clearer toward the perfect truth.
And like some minster tower whose grand
Melodious bells ring o'er the land,
His voice be heard when daylight fails
Across the darkened hills and vales;
And ere night's pall be o'er him cast,
His mellowest music be his last.

© Christopher Pearse Cranch