A Rhymed Lesson "We Love The Precepts For The Teacher's Sake"
by Oliver Wendell Holmes

Start Your Free Trial

Download A Rhymed Lesson Study Guide

Subscribe Now

"We Love The Precepts For The Teacher's Sake"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: On October 14, 1846, Holmes delivered this poem himself, to a mixed audience at the Boston Mercantile Library Association. Knowing his reputation among the persons–men and women, girls and boys–composing the audience, the poet tells them they will have the laughter they have learned to expect from his humorous, witty poetry, but that they will have to take some serious lessons in the poem first. He then speaks about religion and the purpose of religion in each person's life, and he notes that in our earliest days we accept religious teachings because we love the teacher and respect him, not because of our understanding as in later years:

Uncursed by doubt, our earliest creed we take;
We love the precepts for the teacher's sake;
The simple lessons which the nursery taught
Fell soft and stainless on the buds of thought,
And the full blossom owes its fairest hue
To those sweet tear-drops of affection's dew.
Too oft the light that led our earlier hours
Fades with the perfume of our cradle flowers;
The clear, cold question chills to frozen doubt;
Tired of beliefs, we dread to live without;
O then, if Reason waver at thy side,
Let humbler Memory be thy gentle guide;
Go to thy birthplace, and, if faith was there,
Repeat thy father's creed, thy mother's prayer!