Oliver Wendell Holmes
At the Banquet to the Japanese Embassy,
August 2, 1872
We welcome you, Lords of the Land of the Sun!
The voice of the many sounds feebly through one;
Ah! would ’t were a voice of more musical tone,
But the dog-star is here, and the song-birds have flown.
And what shall I sing that can cheat you of smiles,
Ye heralds of peace from the Orient isles?
If only the Jubilee—Why did you wait?
You are welcome, but oh! you’re a little too late!
We have greeted our brothers of Ireland and France,
Round the fiddle of Strauss we have joined in the dance,
We have lagered Herr Saro, that fine-looking man,
And glorified Godfrey, whose name it is Dan.
What a pity! we’ve missed it and you’ve missed
We had a day ready and waiting for you;
We’d have shown you—provided, of course, you had come—
You’d have heard—no, you wouldn’t, because it was dumb.
And then the great organ! The chorus’s shout!
Like the mixture teetotalers call “Cold without”—
A mingling of elements, strong, but not sweet;
And the drum, just referred to, that “couldn’t be beat.”
The shrines of our pilgrims are not like your own,
Where white Fusiyama lifts proudly its cone,
(The snow-mantled mountain we see on the fan
That cools our hot cheeks with a breeze from Japan.)
But ours the wide temple where worship is free
As the wind of the prairie, the wave of the sea;
You may build your own altar wherever you will,
For the roof of that temple is over you still.
One dome overarches the star-bannered shore;
You may enter the Pope’s or the Puritan’s door,
Or pass with the Buddhist his gateway of bronze,
For a priest is but Man, be he bishop or bonze.
And the lesson we teach with the sword and the pen
Is to all of God’s children, “We also are men!
If you wrong us we smart, if you prick us we bleed,
If you love us, no quarrel with color or creed!”
You’ll find us a well-meaning, free-spoken crowd,
Good-natured enough, but a little too loud,—
To be sure, there is always a bit of a row
When we choose our Tycoon, and especially now.
You’ll take it all calmly,—we want you to see
What a peaceable fight such a contest can be,
And of one thing be certain, however it ends,
You will find that our voters have chosen your friends.
If the horse that stands saddled is first in the race,
You will greet your old friend with the weed in his face;
And if the white hat and the White House agree,
You’ll find H. G. really as loving as he.
But oh, what a pity—once more I must say—
That we could not have joined in a “Japanese day”!
Such greeting we give you to-night as we can;
Long life to our brothers and friends of Japan!
The Lord of the mountain looks down from his crest
As the banner of morning unfurls in the West;
The Eagle was always the friend of the Sun;
You are welcome!—The song of the cagebird is done.
‘At the Banquet’
appeared in The Complete Poetical Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1895). I have not been able to trace earlier
According to Books in Print, several editions of
Holmes’s poems are in print. Only The
Iron Gate and Other Poems is readily available on-line, however,