James Madison Bell

Valedictory on Leaving San Francisco, California.

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There is no cord, however strong,
That time will not its fibers rend,
Nor weary road, however long,
But constant march will find its end.


As with the cord, and with the road,
E'en so with all our friendships here,
Howe'er so worthily bestowed;
Our loves may be as fond and dear;


We deem the object of our trust;
There is a time, and come it must,
An hour of parting on the wing,
And friendship's heart must fell the sting.


For life is one continuous change;
There's nothing stable, nothing sure,
Nothing in all our mortal range
That we can grasp and feel secure.


The rose will wither in its prime,
The violet droop its head and die,
The century oak, at touch of time
Will prostrate, fall and mouldering lie.


And e'en the granite by the shore,
Lashed by the mad waves evermore,
Will waste away, grain after grain,
Till nothing of the rock remain.


And yet, with all these facts at hand,
How friends, solicitous are we,
Weaving with care the silken band
As though 'twas for eternity.


What pains we take to mold a friend,
To stamp our image on the heart;
And e'er the anxious task we end,
Stern fate, or duty, bids us part.


Alas! how weather-like is life;
Eternal sunshine is unknown.
Our joys and sorrows room with strife,
And we alternate, laugh and mourn.


Alas! alas! how much we owe
To that of which we little know.
The circumstances of an hour,
These, these are far beyond our power.


And yet in these we widely roam,
Or owe to them our lengthened stay;
And few within this sacred dome,
Who have not yielded to their sway.


E'en 'gainst the teachings of their youth;
Against the pledges of the soul;
Against the urgencies of truth,
How oft we've bowed to their control.


Nor will time affect their claim,
But all through life will wield the same
Matchless power and mystic spell,
Producing many a sad farewell.


Farewell, oh land of my sojourn!
And you, the many friends I've met;
My wandering footsteps homeward turn,
With joys commingled with regret.


I joy in sweet, prospective bliss,
Of meeting soon the loved and true,
And sigh for friendships I shall miss
In bidding this fair land adieu.


But ocean waves, nor time nor place,
Can e'er from memory's page erase
The kindly acts and friendly care,
Bestowed, since first I landed here.


I came a stranger to your land,
A wanderer from a foreign shore,
With neither card nor scrip in hand
Your recognition to secure;


But he who cares for finite dust,
The wise, the infinite, the just,
Has willed each humble heart a friend
Where'er his wandering footsteps tend.


And I have met upon your shore
The willing hand and open door,
And many a word of kindly cheer
Has greeted my arrival here.


Farewell! farewell! the hour has come!
The ship that waits to bear me home
Lies anchored in her berth at bay;
And soon, as dashing through the foam,
And peradventure through the storm,
She'll bear me on my homebound way.


Yet, on and on till the land shall die,
And nothing save the sea and sky
Shall come within my vision's range;
Not e'en a bird to mar or change
E'en for a moment's space of time
The all monotonous, sublime!


Yet on, and on, with my trust in Him
Who laid His hand on the ocean's brim,
And said to the rolling waves: "Be still!"
And the wind and waves obeyed His will;
Then trustingly on o'er the restless tide,
On to the land of my youthful pride!
Then joyously on o'er the glorious earth,
Till my feet shall stand on my homestead hearth.


But should occasion e'er recall
The memory of my presence here;
If from your annual festive hall
Is missed the shattered voice you hear;
Know that that voice, if vocal, still
Its humble mission to fulfil,
Somewhere, in God's great providence,
Is trilling in the poor's defense.


Farewell, farewell! my task is o'er;
And if on earth I meet you never,
Then, then upon that pearly shore,
Where time cannot our friendships sever,
Where fadeless blooms the tree of life,
Where enters never care nor strife,
There may I meet you, every one,
Father, mother, daughter, son,
Where never shall rise from the notes that swell,
The heartrending sighs of a sad farewell.

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James Madison Bell