The Living Temple

Original Text: 
The Complete Poetical Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes, ed. H. E. S. (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1895): 101-02. PS 1955 A1 1895 Robarts Library.
2Where God has built his blazing throne,
3Nor yet alone in earth below,
4With belted seas that come and go,
5And endless isles of sunlit green,
6Is all thy Maker's glory seen:
7Look in upon thy wondrous frame, --
8Eternal wisdom still the same!
9The smooth, soft air with pulse-like waves
11Whose streams of brightening purple rush,
12Fired with a new and livelier blush,
13While all their burden of decay
14The ebbing current steals away,
15And red with Nature's flame they start
16From the warm fountains of the heart.
17No rest that throbbing slave may ask,
18Forever quivering o'er his task,
19While far and wide a crimson jet
20Leaps forth to fill the woven net
21Which in unnumbered crossing tides
22The flood of burning life divides,
23Then, kindling each decaying part,
24Creeps back to find the throbbing heart.
25But warmed with that unchanging flame
26Behold the outward moving frame,
27Its living marbles jointed strong
28With glistening band and silvery thong,
29And linked to reason's guiding reins
30By myriad rings in trembling chains,
31Each graven with the threaded zone
32Which claims it as the master's own.
33See how yon beam of seeming white
34Is braided out of seven-hued light,
35Yet in those lucid globes no ray
36By any chance shall break astray.
37Hark how the rolling surge of sound,
38Arches and spirals circling round,
39Wakes the hushed spirit through thine ear
40With music it is heaven to hear.
42All thought in its mysterious folds;
43That feels sensation's faintest thrill,
44And flashes forth the sovereign will;
45Think on the stormy world that dwells
46Locked in its dim and clustering cells!
47The lightning gleams of power it sheds
48Along its hollow glassy threads!
49O Father! grant thy love divine
50To make these mystic temples thine!
51When wasting age and wearying strife
52Have sapped the leaning walls of life,
53When darkness gathers over all,
54And the last tottering pillars fall,
55Take the poor dust thy mercy warms,
56And mould it into heavenly forms!


1] "[The Professor, who is credited with this verse, was supposed to call it The Anatomist's Hymn.]" (p. 101) Back to Line
10] hidden caves: the lungs. Back to Line
41] cloven sphere: the two hemispheres of the brain. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table (1858)
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.