Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Last Leaf....

Sometimes it is really relaxing to examine an old poem and comprehend the truth and beauty in its meter, meaning and rhyme.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr  1809---1894
Oliver Wendell Holmes was a famous American poet, lecturer, essayist and anatomist at Harvard University.  He was also the father of famous supreme court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

In 1831 he authored a wonderful poem entitled "The Last Leaf".  This poem was praised by no less a literary giant than Edgar Allan Poe.  Abraham Lincoln counted it as one of his favorites.

Funny, isn't it, how great works are sometimes largely forgotten over time?

Please read the poem slowly, and ponder the meaning of each verse. 

The old man that Holmes writes about was a well known person in Boston in the first few decades of the 19th century.  His name was Major Thomas Melville.  He was a participant in the Boston Tea Party of 1774, and was the grandfather of famous author Herman Melville. 

    The Last Leaf
            Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1831

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 he 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.



  1. Most poetry I find too sad and melancholy to read... I need to go sit in the sun now...

  2. I remember us reading this poem not long ago ... such is life. I do love this poem. It appears the subject was given a good and long life on earth.

  3. Great poem. I have never read that one before.

  4. It is a blessing to have length of days, but also very lonely when all those who you have shared experiences with are gone, and you are alone in memories.

  5. While I was reading this poem, I began to dwell on the years that have passed me by and all of the folks I have met along the way. Time stands still for no one and when the last leaf falls from the tree...who will be there to remember me. Blessing my friend. Lloyd

  6. I have never read or heared from him before. Thanks for your post and the chance to read the great poem.

    Greetings Petra

  7. Petra---I am having trouble commenting on your blog site. I don't understand why. I'll keep trying.

  8. Time travel poetry. Beautiful, yet melancholic.