Excerpt from the Morning Exercises of December 28, 1880
As recorded in the book 250th Anniversary of the Settlement of Cambridge (1881)

“You will all agree with me, I am sure,” said the Mayor in introducing Dr. Holmes, “that the interest of this occasion is greatly enhanced by having those with us whose lives and influence are not confined to their own age or land, since ‘their line is gone out through all the earth and their word to the end of the world.’ It gives me great pleasure, therefore, to introduce to you one who needs no title, - OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES.”

After the enthusiastic applause which greeted him had subsided, Dr. HOLMES spoke as follows : –


I am announced for an address, and I have nothing but a poem. One word of explanation. The incident I refer to in these lines was a very real one. In the days of my early manhood, as I stood on the top of the leaning tower of Pisa, having been long absent from home, and thinking of it very fondly and very longingly, I looked toward the port of Leghorn, twelve miles off, and saw in the distance the mast and the flag of an American frigate. I see some young pupils before me who possibly might not know, unless I told them, that Livorno is the Italian name of the city we call Leghorn.



Your home was mine – kind Nature’s gift
   My love no years can chill;
In vain their flakes the storm winds sift;
The snowdrop hides beneath the drift,
   A living blossom still.

Mute are a hundred long-famed lyres,
   Hushed all their golden strings;
One lay the coldest bosons fires,
One song, one only, never tires
   While sweet-voiced Memory sings.

No spot so lone but echo knows
   That dear, familiar strain;
In tropic isles, on arctic snows,
Through burning lips its music flows
   And rings its fond refrain.

From Pisa’s tower my straining sight
   Roamed wandering leagues away,
When lo! a frigate’s banner bright,
The starry blue, the red, the white,
   In far Livorno’s bay.

Hot leaps the life-blood from my heart,
   Forth springs the sudden tear;
The ship that rocks by yonder mart
Is of my land, my life, a part –
   Home, home, sweet home, is here!

Fades from my view the sunlit scene, –
   My vision spans the waves;
I see the elm-encircled green,
The tower – the steeple – and between,
   The field of ancient graves.

There runs the path my feet would tread
   When first they learned to stray;
There stands the gambrel roof that spread
Its quaint old angles o’er my head
   When first I saw the day.

The sounds that met my boyish ear
   My inward sense salute, –
The wood-notes wild I loved to hear, –
The robin’s challenge, sharp and clear, –
   The breath of evening’s flute.

The faces loved from cradle days, –
   Unseen, alas, how long!
As fond remembrance round them plays,
Touched with its softening moonlight rays,
   Through fancy’s portal throng.

And see! as if the opening skies
   Some angel form had spared
Us wingless mortals to surprise,
The little maid with light-blue eyes,
   White-necked and golden-haired!

So rose the picture full in view
   I paint in feebler song;
Such power the seamless banner knew
Of red and white and starry blue
   For exiles banished long.

O boys, dear boys, who wait as men
   To guard its heaven-bright folds,
Blest are the eyes that see again
That banner, seamless now, as then
   The fairest earth beholds!

Sweet was the Tuscan air and soft
   In that unfading hour,
And fancy leads my footsteps oft
Up the round galleries, high aloft
   On Pisa’s threatening tower.

And still in Memory’s holiest shrine
   I read with pride and joy
“For me those stars of empire shine;
That empire’s dearest home is mine;
   I am a Cambridge boy!”