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The Poetical Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes — Volume 01: Earlier Poems (1830-1836)   By: (1809-1894)

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First Page:

THE POETICAL WORKS

OF

OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

[1893 three volume set]

CONTENTS:

TO MY READERS

EARLIER POEMS (1830 1836). OLD IRONSIDES THE LAST LEAF THE CAMBRIDGE CHURCHYARD TO AN INSECT THE DILEMMA MY AUNT REFLECTIONS OF A PROUD PEDESTRIAN DAILY TRIALS, BY A SENSITIVE MAN EVENING, BY A TAILOR THE DORCHESTER GIANT TO THE PORTRAIT OF "A LADY" THE COMET THE Music GRINDERS THE TREADMILL SONG THE SEPTEMBER GALE THE HEIGHT OF THE RIDICULOUS THE LAST READER POETRY: A METRICAL ESSAY

TO MY READERS

NAY, blame me not; I might have spared Your patience many a trivial verse, Yet these my earlier welcome shared, So, let the better shield the worse.

And some might say, "Those ruder songs Had freshness which the new have lost; To spring the opening leaf belongs, The chestnut burs await the frost."

When those I wrote, my locks were brown, When these I write ah, well a day! The autumn thistle's silvery down Is not the purple bloom of May.

Go, little book, whose pages hold Those garnered years in loving trust; How long before your blue and gold Shall fade and whiten in the dust?

O sexton of the alcoved tomb, Where souls in leathern cerements lie, Tell me each living poet's doom! How long before his book shall die?

It matters little, soon or late, A day, a month, a year, an age, I read oblivion in its date, And Finis on its title page.

Before we sighed, our griefs were told; Before we smiled, our joys were sung; And all our passions shaped of old In accents lost to mortal tongue.

In vain a fresher mould we seek, Can all the varied phrases tell That Babel's wandering children speak How thrushes sing or lilacs smell?

Caged in the poet's lonely heart, Love wastes unheard its tenderest tone; The soul that sings must dwell apart, Its inward melodies unknown.

Deal gently with us, ye who read Our largest hope is unfulfilled, The promise still outruns the deed, The tower, but not the spire, we build.

Our whitest pearl we never find; Our ripest fruit we never reach; The flowering moments of the mind Drop half their petals in our speech.

These are my blossoms; if they wear One streak of morn or evening's glow, Accept them; but to me more fair The buds of song that never blow. April 8, 1862.

EARLIER POEMS

1830 1836 OLD IRONSIDES

This was the popular name by which the frigate Constitution was known. The poem was first printed in the Boston Daily Advertiser, at the time when it was proposed to break up the old ship as unfit for service. I subjoin the paragraph which led to the writing of the poem. It is from the Advertiser of Tuesday, September 14, 1830:

"Old Ironsides. It has been affirmed upon good authority that the Secretary of the Navy has recommended to the Board of Navy Commissioners to dispose of the frigate Constitution. Since it has been understood that such a step was in contemplation we have heard but one opinion expressed, and that in decided disapprobation of the measure. Such a national object of interest, so endeared to our national pride as Old Ironsides is, should never by any act of our government cease to belong to the Navy, so long as our country is to be found upon the map of nations. In England it was lately determined by the Admiralty to cut the Victory, a one hundred gun ship (which it will be recollected bore the flag of Lord Nelson at the battle of Trafalgar,) down to a seventy four, but so loud were the lamentations of the people upon the proposed measure that the intention was abandoned. We confidently anticipate that the Secretary of the Navy will in like manner consult the general wish in regard to the Constitution, and either let her remain in ordinary or rebuild her whenever the public service may require." New York Journal of Commerce.

The poem was an impromptu outburst of feeling and was published on the next day but one after reading the above paragraph... Continue reading book >>


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