Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Last Leaf by Oliver Wendell Holmes

“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.” -Last Leaf by O.W. Holmes

For nearly all of his eighty-five years, Oliver Wendell Holmes lived in Cambridge and was an authentic New England Brahmin.
“They say that in his prime,
Ere the pruning-knife of time
Cut him down
Not a better man was found
Through the town. –Last Leaf by O.W.Holmes

Called the “most intelligent man in New England,” he was professor of anatomy at Harvard Medical School and a poet.
“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.” -Last Leaf by O.W. Holmes

He was also a rationalist who held skeptical contempt for what he saw as humanity’s crippling submission to traditions, particularly Puritan Calvinism. Stick that in your Pilgrim’s Hat and smoke it!
“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.” -Last Leaf by O.W. Holmes

My favorite quote: “I never read a novel on Sunday until after sundown.”
“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.” -Last Leaf by O.W. Holmes

On a break today I left the books open on the desk and the papers held by an old coffee mug beside the window in the floating lilies of light and walked down the canal beside the park. I have a red pen, a pocket knife, two sticks of gum, and three dollars in change in my pocket. Inside the anthology under my arm I keep a picture of some favorite day long ago, and I climbed on one of the lean sycamores beside the temple. No one is there as I step higher into the shaded cover. There in the cloak of leaves, I read poety and carve my name in the bark. No one knows I am there, until now.

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