poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

Oliver Wendell Holmes was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on August 29, 1809. A member of the Fireside Poets, he was mainly known for his Harvard University lectures and book The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table (Phillips, Sampson, 1858), in which some of his poems were featured. He died on October 7, 1894, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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!

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Oliver Wendell Holmes was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on August 29, 1809.

by this poet

poem
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
poem
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
poem
Yes, dear departed, cherished days,
   Could Memory’s hand restore
Your morning light, your evening rays
   From Time’s gray urn once more,—
Then might this restless heart be still,
   This straining eye might close,
And Hope her fainting pinions fold,
   While the fair phantoms rose.

But, like a child in ocean’