Submit Your Poems
Get Your Premium Membership



Best Famous Oliver Wendell Holmes Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Oliver Wendell Holmes poems. This is a select list of the best famous Oliver Wendell Holmes poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Oliver Wendell Holmes poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of Oliver Wendell Holmes poems.

Search for the best famous Oliver Wendell Holmes poems, articles about Oliver Wendell Holmes poems, poetry blogs, or anything else Oliver Wendell Holmes poem related using the PoetrySoup search engine at the top of the page.

See also:

Famous poems below this ad
Written by Oliver Wendell Holmes | |

The Last Leaf

I saw him once before, 
As he passed by the door,
And again
The pavement stones resound,
As he totters o'er the ground
With his cane.
They say that in his prime, Ere the pruning-knife of Time Cut him down, Not a better man was found By the Crier on his round Through the town.
But now he walks the streets, And looks at all he meets Sad and wan, And he shakes his feeble head, That it seems as if he said, "They are gone.
" The mossy marbles rest On the lips that he has prest In their bloom, And the names he loved to hear Have been carved for many a year On the tomb.
My grandmamma has said— Poor old lady, she is dead Long ago— That he had a Roman nose, And his cheek was like a rose In the snow; But now his nose is thin, And it rests upon his chin Like a staff, And a crook is in his back, And a melancholy crack In his laugh.
I know it is a sin For me to sit and grin At him here; But the old three-cornered hat, And the breeches, and all that, Are so queer! And if I should live to be The last leaf upon the tree In the spring, Let them smile, as I do now, At the old forsaken bough Where I cling.


Written by Oliver Wendell Holmes | |

The Two Streams

 Behold the rocky wall 
That down its sloping sides 
Pours the swift rain-drops, blending, as they fall, 
In rushing river-tides! 
Yon stream, whose sources run 
Turned by a pebble's edge, 
Is Athabasca, rolling toward the sun 
Through the cleft mountain-ledge.
The slender rill had strayed, But for the slanting stone, To evening's ocean, with the tangled braid Of foam-flecked Oregon.
So from the heights of Will Life's parting stream descends, And, as a moment turns its slender rill, Each widening torrent bends, -- From the same cradle's side, From the same mother's knee, -- One to long darkness and the frozen tide, One to the Peaceful Sea!


Written by Oliver Wendell Holmes | |

The Old Man Dreams

 OH for one hour of youthful joy!
Give back my twentieth spring!
I'd rather laugh, a bright-haired boy,
Than reign, a gray-beard king.
Off with the spoils of wrinkled age! Away with Learning's crown! Tear out life's Wisdom-written page, And dash its trophies down! One moment let my life-blood stream From boyhood's fount of flame! Give me one giddy, reeling dream Of life all love and fame! .
.
.
.
.
My listening angel heard the prayer, And, calmly smiling, said, "If I but touch thy silvered hair Thy hasty wish hath sped.
"But is there nothing in thy track, To bid thee fondly stay, While the swift seasons hurry back To find the wished-for day?" "Ah, truest soul of womankind! Without thee what were life ? One bliss I cannot leave behind: I'll take-- my-- precious-- wife!" The angel took a sapphire pen And wrote in rainbow dew, The man would be a boy again, And be a husband too! "And is there nothing yet unsaid, Before the change appears? Remember, all their gifts have fled With those dissolving years.
" "Why, yes;" for memory would recall My fond paternal joys; "I could not bear to leave them all-- I'll take-- my-- girl-- and-- boys.
" The smiling angel dropped his pen,-- "Why, this will never do; The man would be a boy again, And be a father too!" .
.
.
.
.
And so I laughed,-- my laughter woke The household with its noise,-- And wrote my dream, when morning broke, To please the gray-haired boys.


More great poems below...

Written by Oliver Wendell Holmes | |

The Chambered Nautilus

 THIS is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
Sails the unshadowed main,--
The venturous bark that flings
On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,
And coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.
Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl; Wrecked is the ship of pearl! And every chambered cell, Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell, As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell, Before thee lies revealed,-- Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed! Year after year beheld the silent toil That spread his lustrous coil; Still, as the spiral grew, He left the past year's dwelling for the new, Stole with soft step its shining archway through, Built up its idle door, Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.
Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee, Child of the wandering sea, Cast from her lap, forlorn! From thy dead lips a clearer note is born Than ever Triton blew from wreathèd horn! While on mine ear it rings, Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:-- Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul, As the swift seasons roll! Leave thy low-vaulted past! Let each new temple, nobler than the last, Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast, Till thou at length art free, Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea!


Written by Oliver Wendell Holmes | |

A Parody on “A Psalm of Life”

 Life is real, life is earnest, 
And the shell is not its pen –
“Egg thou art, and egg remainest”
Was not spoken of the hen.
Art is long and Time is fleeting, Be our bills then sharpened well, And not like muffled drums be beating On the inside of the shell.
In the world’s broad field of battle, In the great barnyard of life, Be not like those lazy cattle! Be a rooster in the strife! Lives of roosters all remind us, We can make our lives sublime, And when roasted, leave behind us, Hen tracks on the sands of time.
Hen tracks that perhaps another Chicken drooping in the rain, Some forlorn and henpecked brother, When he sees, shall crow again.


Written by Oliver Wendell Holmes | |

Contentment

 "Man wants but little here below.
" LITTLE I ask; my wants are few; I only wish a hut of stone, (A very plain brown stone will do,) That I may call my own; And close at hand is such a one, In yonder street that fronts the sun.
Plain food is quite enough for me; Three courses are as good as ten;-- If Nature can subsist on three, Thank Heaven for three.
Amen! I always thought cold victual nice;-- My choice would be vanilla-ice.
I care not much for gold or land;-- Give me a mortgage here and there,-- Some good bank-stock, some note of hand, Or trifling railroad share,-- I only ask that Fortune send A little more than I shall spend.
Honors are silly toys, I know, And titles are but empty names; I would, perhaps, be Plenipo,-- But only near St.
James; I'm very sure I should not care To fill our Gubernator's chair.
Jewels are baubles; 't is a sin To care for such unfruitful things;-- One good-sized diamond in a pin,-- Some, not so large, in rings,-- A ruby, and a pearl, or so, Will do for me;--I laugh at show.
My dame should dress in cheap attire; (Good, heavy silks are never dear;) - I own perhaps I might desire Some shawls of true Cashmere,-- Some marrowy crapes of China silk, Like wrinkled skins on scalded milk.
I would not have the horse I drive So fast that folks must stop and stare; An easy gait--two forty-five-- Suits me; I do not care;-- Perhaps, for just a single spurt, Some seconds less would do no hurt.
Of pictures, I should like to own Titians aud Raphaels three or four,-- I love so much their style and tone, One Turner, and no more, (A landscape,--foreground golden dirt,-- The sunshine painted with a squirt.
) Of books but few,--some fifty score For daily use, and bound for wear; The rest upon an upper floor;-- Some little luxury there Of red morocco's gilded gleam And vellum rich as country cream.
Busts, cameos, gems,--such things as these, Which others often show for pride, I value for their power to please, And selfish churls deride;-- One Stradivarius, I confess, Two Meerschaums, I would fain possess.
Wealth's wasteful tricks I will not learn, Nor ape the glittering upstart fool;-- Shall not carved tables serve my turn, But all must be of buhl? Give grasping pomp its double share,-- I ask but one recumbent chair.
Thus humble let me live and die, Nor long for Midas' golden touch; If Heaven more generous gifts deny, I shall not miss them much,-- Too grateful for the blessing lent Of simple tastes and mind content!


Written by Oliver Wendell Holmes | |

The Boys

 HAS there any old fellow got mixed with the boys?
If there has, take him out, without making a noise.
Hang the Almanac's cheat and the Catalogue's spite! Old Time is a liar! We're twenty to-night! We're twenty! We're twenty! Who says we are more? He's tipsy,-- young jackanapes!-- show him the door! "Gray temples at twenty?"-- Yes ! white if we please; Where the snow-flakes fall thickest there's nothing can freeze! Was it snowing I spoke of? Excuse the mistake! Look close,-- you will see not a sign of a flake! We want some new garlands for those we have shed,-- And these are white roses in place of the red.
We've a trick, we young fellows, you may have been told, Of talking (in public) as if we were old:-- That boy we call "Doctor," and this we call "Judge;" It's a neat little fiction,-- of course it's all fudge.
That fellow's the "Speaker,"-- the one on the right; "Mr.
Mayor," my young one, how are you to-night? That's our "Member of Congress," we say when we chaff; There's the "Reverend" What's his name?-- don't make me laugh.
That boy with the grave mathematical look Made believe he had written a wonderful book, And the ROYAL SOCIETY thought it was true! So they chose him right in; a good joke it was, too! There's a boy, we pretend, with a three-decker brain, That could harness a team with a logical chain; When he spoke for our manhood in syllabled fire, We called him "The Justice," but now he's "The Squire.
" And there's a nice youngster of excellent pith,-- Fate tried to conceal him by naming him Smith; But he shouted a song for the brave and the free, Just read on his medal, "My country," "of thee!" You hear that boy laughing?-- You think he's all fun; But the angels laugh, too, at the good he has done; The children laugh loud as they troop to his call, And the poor man that knows him laughs loudest of all! Yes, we're boys, --always playing with tongue or with pen,-- And I sometimes have asked,-- Shall we ever be men? Shall we always be youthful, and laughing, and gay, Till the last dear companion drops smiling away? Then here's to our boyhood, its gold and its gray! The stars of its winter, the dews of its May! And when we have done with our life-lasting toys, Dear Father, take care of thy children, THE BOYS!


Written by Oliver Wendell Holmes | |

Old Ironsides

 Ay, tear her tattered ensign down! 
Long has it waved on high, 
And many an eye has danced to see 
That banner in the sky; 
Beneath it rung the battle shout, 
And burst the cannon's roar; -- 
The meteor of the ocean air 
Shall sweep the clouds no more.
Her deck, once red with heroes' blood, Where knelt the vanquished foe, When winds were hurrying o'er the flood, And waves were white below, No more shall feel the victor's tread, Or know the conquered knee; -- The harpies of the shore shall pluck The eagle of the sea! Oh, better that her shattered hulk Should sink beneath the wave; Her thunders shook the mighty deep, And there should be her grave; Nail to the mast her holy flag, Set every threadbare sail, And give her to the god of storms, The lightning and the gale!


Written by Oliver Wendell Holmes | |

Sun and Shadow

 As I look from the isle, o'er its billows of green,
To the billows of foam-crested blue,
Yon bark, that afar in the distance is seen,
Half dreaming, my eyes will pursue:
Now dark in the shadow, she scatters the spray
As the chaff in the stroke of the flail;
Now white as the sea-gull, she flies on her way,
The sun gleaming bright on her sail.
Yet her pilot is thinking of dangers to shun,-- Of breakers that whiten and roar; How little he cares, if in shadow or sun They see him who gaze from the shore! He looks to the beacon that looms from the reef, To the rock that is under his lee, As he drifts on the blast, like a wind-wafted leaf, O'er the gulfs of the desolate sea.
Thus drifting afar to the dim-vaulted caves Where life and its ventures are laid, The dreamers who gaze while we battle the waves May see us in sunshine or shade; Yet true to our course, though the shadows grow dark, We'll trim our broad sail as before, And stand by the rudder that governs the bark, Nor ask how we look from the shore!


Written by Oliver Wendell Holmes | |

The Flower of Liberty

 WHAT flower is this that greets the morn,
Its hues from Heaven so freshly born?
With burning star and flaming band
It kindles all the sunset land:
Oh tell us what its name may be,--
Is this the Flower of Liberty? 

It is the banner of the free,
The starry Flower of Liberty!

In savage Nature's far abode
Its tender seed our fathers sowed;
The storm-winds rocked its swelling bud,
Its opening leaves were streaked with blood,
Till lo! earth's tyrants shook to see
The full-blown Flower of Liberty! 

Then hail the banner of the free,
The starry Flower of Liberty!

Behold its streaming rays unite,
One mingling flood of braided light,--
The red that fires the Southern rose,
With spotless white from Northern snows,
And, spangled o'er its azure, see
The sister Stars of Liberty! 

Then hail the banner of the free,
The starry Flower of Liberty!

The blades of heroes fence it round,
Where'er it springs is holy ground;
From tower and dome its glories spread;
It waves where lonely sentries tread;
It makes the land as ocean free,
And plants an empire on the sea!

Then hail the banner of the free,
The starry Flower of Liberty!

Thy sacred leaves, fair Freedom's flower,
Shall ever float on dome and tower,
To all their heavenly colors true,
In blackening frost or crimson dew,--
And God love us as we love thee,
Thrice holy Flower of Liberty!

Then hail the banner of the free,
The starry FLOWER OF LIBERTY!


Written by Oliver Wendell Holmes | |

The Height of the Ridiculous

 I WROTE some lines once on a time 
In wondrous merry mood, 
And thought, as usual, men would say
They were exceeding good.
They were so queer, so very queer, I laughed as I would die; Albeit, in the general way, A sober man am I.
I called my servant, and he came; How kind it was of him To mind a slender man like me, He of the mighty limb.
"These to the printer," I exclaimed, And, in my humorous way, I added, (as a trifling jest,) "There'll be the devil to pay.
" He took the paper, and I watched, And saw him peep within; At the first line he read, his face Was all upon the grin.
He read the next; the grin grew broad, And shot from ear to ear; He read the third; a chuckling noise I now began to hear.
The fourth; he broke into a roar; The fifth; his waistband split; The sixth; he burst five buttons off, And tumbled in a fit.
Ten days and nights, with sleepless eye, I watched that wretched man, And since, I never dare to write As funny as I can.


Written by Oliver Wendell Holmes | |

Under the Violets

 HER hands are cold; her face is white;
No more her pulses come and go;
Her eyes are shut to life and light;--
Fold the white vesture, snow on snow,
And lay her where the violets blow.
But not beneath a graven stone, To plead for tears with alien eyes; A slender cross of wood alone Shall say, that here a maiden lies In peace beneath the peaceful skies.
And gray old trees of hugest limb Shall wheel their circling shadows round To make the scorching sunlight dim That drinks the greenness from the ground, And drop their dead leaves on her mound.
When o'er their boughs the squirrels run, And through their leaves the robins call, And, ripening in the autumn sun, The acorns and the chestnuts fall, Doubt not that she will heed them all.
For her the morning choir shall sing Its matins from the branches high, And every minstrel-voice of Spring, That trills beneath the April sky, Shall greet her with its earliest cry.
When, turning round their dial-track, Eastward the lengthening shadows pass, Her little mourners, clad in black, The crickets, sliding through the grass, Shall pipe for her an evening mass.
At last the rootlets of the trees Shall find the prison where she lies, And bear the buried dust they seize In leaves and blossoms to the skies.
So may the soul that warmed it rise! If any, born of kindlier blood, Should ask, What maiden lies below? Say only this: A tender bud, That tried to blossom in the snow, Lies withered where the violets blow.


Written by Oliver Wendell Holmes | |

A Farewell to Agassiz

 How the mountains talked together,
Looking down upon the weather,
When they heard our friend had planned his
Little trip among the Andes
How they'll bare their snowy scalps
To the climber of the Alps
When the cry goes through their passes,
"Here comes the great Agassiz!"
"Yes, I'm tall," says Chimborazo,
"But I wait for him to say so,--
That's the only thing that lacks,-- he
Must see me, Cotopaxi!"
"Ay! ay!" the fire-peak thunders,
"And he must view my wonders
I'm but a lonely crater
Till I have him for spectator!"
The mountain hearts are yearning,
The lava-torches burning,
The rivers bend to meet him,
The forests bow to greet him,
It thrills the spinal column
Of fossil fishes solemn,
And glaciers crawl the faster
To the feet of their old master!
Heaven keep him well and hearty,
Both him and all his party!
From the sun that broils and smites,
From the centipede that bites,
From the hail-storm and the thunder,
From the vampire and the condor,
From the gust upon the river,
From the sudden earthquake shiver,
From the trip of mule or donkey,
From the midnight howling monkey,
From the stroke of knife or dagger,
From the puma and the jaguar,
From the horrid boa-constrictor
That has scared us in the picture,
From the Indians of the Pampas
Who would dine upon their grampas,
From every beast and vermin
That to think of sets us squirmin',
From every snake that tries on
The traveller his p'ison,
From every pest of Natur',
Likewise the alligator,
And from two things left behind him,
(Be sure they'll try to find him,)
The tax-bill and assessor,--
Heaven keep the great Professor!
May he find, with his apostles,
That the land is full of fossils,
That the waters swarm with fishes
Shaped according to his wishes,
That every pool is fertile
In fancy kinds of turtle,
New birds around him singing,
New insects, never stinging,
With a million novel data
About the articulata,
And facts that strip off all husks
From the history of mollusks.
And when, with loud Te Deum, He returns to his Museum May he find the monstrous reptile That so long the land has kept ill By Grant and Sherman throttled, And by Father Abraham bottled, (All specked and streaked and mottled With the scars of murderous battles, Where he clashed the iron rattles That gods and men he shook at,) For all the world to look at! God bless the great Professor! And Madam, too, God bless her! Bless him and all his band, On the sea and on the land, Bless them head and heart and hand, Till their glorious raid is o'er, And they touch our ransomed shore! Then the welcome of a nation, With its shout of exultation, Shall awake the dumb creation, And the shapes of buried aeons Join the living creature's paeans, Till the fossil echoes roar; While the mighty megalosaurus Leads the palaeozoic chorus, God bless the great Professor, And the land his proud possessor,-- Bless them now and evermore!


Written by Oliver Wendell Holmes | |

Union and Liberty

 FLAG of the heroes who left us their glory,
Borne through their battle-fields' thunder and flame,
Blazoned in song and illumined in story,
Wave o'er us all who inherit their fame! 

Up with our banner bright,
Sprinkled with starry light,
Spread its fair emblems from mountain to shore,
While through the sounding sky
Loud rings the Nation's cry,
UNION AND LIBERTY! ONE EVERMORE!

Light of our firmament, guide of our Nation,
Pride of her children, and honored afar,
Let the wide beams of thy full constellation
Scatter each cloud that would darken a star! 

Up with our banner bright,
Sprinkled with starry light,
Spread its fair emblems from mountain to shore,
While through the sounding sky
Loud rings the Nation's cry,
UNION AND LIBERTY! ONE EVERMORE!

Empire unsceptred! what foe shall assail thee,
Bearing the standard of Liberty's van?
Think not the God of thy fathers shall fail thee,
Striving with men for the birthright of man! 

Up with our banner bright,
Sprinkled with starry light,
Spread its fair emblems from mountain to shore,
While through the sounding sky
Loud rings the Nation's cry,
UNION AND LIBERTY! ONE EVERMORE!

Yet if, by madness and treachery blighted,
Dawns the dark hour when the sword thou must draw,
Then with the arms of thy millions united,
Smite the bold traitors to Freedom and Law! 

Up with our banner bright,
Sprinkled with starry light,
Spread its fair emblems from mountain to shore,
While through the sounding sky
Loud rings the Nation's cry,
UNION AND LIBERTY! ONE EVERMORE!

Lord of the Universe! shield us and guide us,
Trusting Thee always, through shadow and sun!
Thou hast united us, who shall divide us?
Keep us, oh keep us the MANY IN ONE! 

Up with our banner bright,
Sprinkled with starry light,
Spread its fair emblems from mountain to shore,
While through the sounding sky
Loud rings the Nation's cry,
UNION AND LIBERTY! ONE EVERMORE!


Written by Oliver Wendell Holmes | |

The Silent Melody

 "BRING me my broken harp," he said;
"We both are wrecks,-- but as ye will,--
Though all its ringing tones have fled,
Their echoes linger round it still;
It had some golden strings, I know,
But that was long-- how long!-- ago.
"I cannot see its tarnished gold, I cannot hear its vanished tone, Scarce can my trembling fingers hold The pillared frame so long their own; We both are wrecks,-- awhile ago It had some silver strings, I know, "But on them Time too long has played The solemn strain that knows no change, And where of old my fingers strayed The chords they find are new and strange,-- Yes! iron strings,-- I know,-- I know,-- We both are wrecks of long ago.
"We both are wrecks,-- a shattered pair, Strange to ourselves in time's disguise What say ye to the lovesick air That brought the tears from Marian's eyes? Ay! trust me,-- under breasts of snow Hearts could be melted long ago! "Or will ye hear the storm-song's crash That from his dreams the soldier woke, And bade him face the lightning flash When battle's cloud in thunder broke? Wrecks,-- nought but wrecks!-- the time was when We two were worth a thousand men!" And so the broken harp they bring With pitying smiles that none could blame; Alas there's not a single string Of all that filled the tarnished frame! But see! like children overjoyed, His fingers rambling through the void! "I clasp thee! Ay .
.
.
mine ancient lyre.
.
.
Nay, guide my wandering fingers.
.
.
There! They love to dally with the wire As Isaac played with Esan's hair.
.
.
.
Hush! ye shall hear the famous tune That Marina called the Breath of June!" And so they softly gather round: Rapt in his tuneful trance he seems: His fingers move: but not a sound! A silence like the song of dreams.
.
.
.
"There! ye have heard the air," he cries, "That brought the tears from Marina's eyes!" Ah, smile not at his fond conceit, Nor deem his fancy wrought in vain; To him the unreal sounds are sweet,-- No discord mars the silent strain Scored on life's latest, starlit page-- The voiceless melody of age.
Sweet are the lips of all that sing, When Nature's music breathes unsought, But never yet could voice or string So truly shape our tenderest thought As when by life's decaying fire Our fingers sweep the stringless lyre!