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TO AN OLD DANISH SONG-BOOK

by
 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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