Posts Tagged ‘Oliver Wendell Holmes’

The Last Leaf

July 1, 2011

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. image from the HubPages website

Background: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., wrote a poem entitled, “The Last Leaf,”  about the American patriot, Major Thomas Melvill(e). In turn, this poem, a parody of Holmes’ version, is about Holmes, himself:

The Last Leaf

We see the patriarch still
Briskly treading Beacon Hill
Full of joy.
For his heart is pure and glad
As the good Sir Galahad,
Or a boy.

By the tea cups when he sat —
The unrivaled Autocrat —
Did he know
He would some day cling, ah me! —
Last leaf on the lonely tree
Bent with snow!

Had he felt and had he known
He would wear the bays alone.
Still I hold
Never would have blanched that cheek.
Still his harp had blessed the weak,
Charmed the old.

His the gospel of good cheer,
Doctor’s art and poet’s ear
Joined to bless,
Heart with human kind atouch,
Like the Master healing such
In the press.

Writing no impassioned screeds
To uphold a party’s creeds
Or its wrongs.
Broader than his Brahmin caste,
He has won the world at last
With his songs.

Still he walks the Boston streets,
And he smiles at those he meets
As he roams;
Ah! we love that gray haired man,
Grasp his hand, dear, if you can;
That’s our Holmes!


The News (Frederick, Maryland) Mar 20, 1890

Image and poem from The Melville Family website, where you can read an interesting history of this poem:

“The Last Leaf”

By Oliver Wendell Holmes (1831)
A poem on Major Thomas Melvill(e), grandfather of Herman Melville, last of the Boston Tea Party Indians

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.

Freedom’s Teacup

December 16, 2009


— The 16th of December, being the Centennial anniversary of the great Boston Tea Party, when the Pioneers of American Liberty steeped British tea in the briny waters of the Atlantic, the ladies of the Presbyterian Church of this city purpose giving on that evening a Memorial Tea Drinking.

All in whom the patriotic pulse still beats time to liberty’s song of one hundred years ago, are most heartily invited to participate with them on this occasion. There will be addresses and songs, and an abundant supply of the refreshing beverage, so dearly prized, and yet so willingly sacrificed by our noble forefathers, that we might drink of the cup and eat of the fruit of Liberty.

The Portsmouth Times (Portsmouth, Ohio) Nov 29, 1873

A Center of Patriotism.

The convention which voted not to drink a drop of tea that was brought to Maryland in English ships and taxed to support the British crown, was held in Frederick, where an intense spirit of patriotism prevailed throughout the entire period of the colonial struggle.

The indignation of the people of the colony against oppressive taxation reached its climax at Annapolis, where the brig “Peggy Stewart,” loaded with tea, was burned by her owner in compliance with the threats of the people. This occurred 119 years ago, and the descendants of American revolutionary fathers in Baltimore yesterday celebrated the anniversary of an event that was of equal import with the Boston tea party.

There is no doubt the liberty-impregnated atmosphere of Frederick and the hatred of oppression which prevailed among her people had great influence upon the convention that assembled here to discuss the problem of taxation without representation. That spirit of patriotism to the nation has never flagged. It has made Frederick a center out of which the spirit of loyalty has constantly emanated.

The Boston tea party attracted the attention of poets, romancers and historians, but the burning of the Peggy Stewart and the previous convention that incited the deed were far more striking and original examples of the righteous indignation of an oppressed people seeking to throw off the yoke.

The News (Frederick, Maryland) Oct 15, 1893

A Ballad of the Boston Tea-Party
By Oliver Wendell Holmes

No! never such a draught was poured
Since Hebe served with nectar
The bright Olympians and their Lord,
Her over-kind protector,–
Since Father Noah squeezed the grape
And took to such behaving
As would have shamed our grandsire ape
Before the days of shaving,–
No! ne’er was mingled such a draught
In palace, hall, or arbor,
As freemen brewed and tyrants quaffed
That night in Boston Harbor!
It kept King George so long awake
His brain at last got addled,
It made the nerves of Britain shake,
With sevenscore millions saddled;
Before that bitter cup was drained,
Amid the roar of cannon,
The Western war-cloud’s crimson stained
The Thames, the Clyde, the Shannon;
Full many a six-foot grenadier
The flattened grass had measured,
And many a mother many a year
Her tearful memories treasured;
Fast spread the tempest’s darkening pall,
The mighty realms were troubled,
The storm broke loose, bnt first of all
The Boston teapot bubbled!

An evening party,– only that,
No formal invitation,
No gold-laced coat, no stiff cravat,
No feast in contemplation,
No silk-robed dames, no fiddling band,
No flowers, no songs, no dancing,–
A tribe of red men, axe in hand,–
Behold the guests advancing!
How fast the stragglers join the throng,
From stall and workshop gathered!
The lively barber skips along
And leaves a chin half-lathered;
The smith has flung his hammer down,–
The horseshoe still is glowing;
The truant tapster at the Crown
Has left a beer-cask flowing;
The cooper’s boys have dropped the adze,
And trot behind their master;
Up run the tarry ship-yard lads,–
The crowd is hurrying faster,–
Out from the Millpond’s purlieus gush
The streams of white-faced millers,
And down their slippery alleys rush
The lusty young Fort-Hillers;
The rope walk lends its ‘prentice crew,–
The tories seize the omen:
“Ay, boys, you’ll soon have work to do
For England’s rebel foemen,
‘King Hancock,’ Adams, and their gang,
That fire the mob with treason,–
When these we shoot and those we hang
The town will come to reason.”

On– on to where the tea-ships ride!
And now their ranks are forming,–
A rush, and up the Dartmouth’s side
The Mohawk band is swarming!
See the fierce natives! What a glimpse
Of paint and fur and feather,
As all at once the full-grown imps
Light on the deck together!
A scarf the pigtail’s secret keeps,
A blanket hides the breeches,–
And out the cursèd cargo leaps,
And overboard it pitches!
O woman, at the evening board
So gracious, sweet, and purring,
So happy while the tea is poured,
So blest while spoons are stirring,
What martyr can compare with thee,
The mother, wife, or daughter,
That night, instead of best Bohea,
Condemned to milk and water!

Ah, little dreams the quiet dame
Who plies with rock and spindle
The patient flax, how great a flame
Yon little spark shall kindle!
The lurid morning shall reveal
A fire no king can smother
Where British flint and Boston steel
Have clashed against each other!
Old charters shrivel in its track,
His Worship’s bench has crumbled,
It climbs and clasps the union-jack,
Its blazoned pomp is humbled,
The flags go down on land and sea
Like corn before the reapers;
So burned the fire that brewed the tea
That Boston served her keepers!

The waves that wrought a century’s wreck
Have rolled o’er whig and tory;
The Mohawks on the Dartmouth’s deck
Still live in song and story;
The waters in the rebel bay
Have kept the tea-leaf savor;
Our old North-Enders in their spray
Still taste a Hyson flavor;
And Freedom’s teacup still o’erflows
With ever fresh libations,
To cheat of slumber all her foes
And cheer the wakening nations!

Edwardsville Intelligencer (Edwardsville, Illinois) Feb 5, 1874