A Birthday Tribute
by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr (1809-1894)
Who is the shepherd sent to lead,
Through pastures green, the Master’s sheep?
What guileless “Israelite indeed”
The folded flock may watch and keep?
He who with manliest spirit joins
The heart of gentlest human mould,
With burning light and girded loins,
To guide the flock, or watch the fold;
True to all Truth the world denies,
Not tongue-tied for its gilded sin;
Not always right in all men’s eyes,
But faithful to the light within;
Who asks no meed of earhtly fame,
Who knows no earthly master’s call,
Who hopes for man, through guilt and shame,
Still answering, “God is over all”;
Who makes another’s grief his own,
Whose smile lends joy a double cheer;
Where lives the saint, if such be known?—
Speak softly,—such an one is here!
O faithful shepherd! thou hast born
The heat and burden of the day;
Yet o’er thee, bright with beams unshorn,
The sun still shows thine onward way.
To thee our fragrant love we bring,
In buds that April half displays,
Sweet first-born angels of the spring,
Caught in their opening hymn of praise.
What though our faltering accents fail,
Our captives know their message well,
Our words unbreathed their lips exhale,
And sigh more love than ours can tell.