Oliver Wendell Holmes

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Aug 29, 1809 - Oct 7, 1894


To The Portrait Of A Gentleman.

by Oliver Wendell Holmes

In the Atheanæum Gallery.

It may be so, -- perhaps thou hast
A warm and loving heart;
I will not blame thee for thy face,
Poor devil as thou art.

That thing, thou fondly deem'st a nose,
Unsightly though it be, --
In spite of all the cold world's scorn,
It may be much to thee.

Those eyes, -- among thine elder friends
Perhaps they pass for blue; --
No matter, -- if a man can see,
What more have eyes to do?

Thy mouth, -- that fissure in thy face
By something like a chin, --
May be a very useful place
To put thy victual in.

I know thou hast a wife at home,
I know thou hast a child,
By that subdued, domestic smile
Upon thy features mild.

That wife sits fearless by thy side,
That cherub on thy knee;
They do not shudder at thy looks,
They do not shrink from thee.

Above thy mantel is a hook, --
A portrait once was there,
It was thine only ornament, --
Alas! that hook is bare.

She begged thee not to let it go,
She begged thee all in vain;
She wept, -- and breathed a trembling prayer
To meet it safe again.

It was a bitter sight to see
That picture torn away;
It was a solemn thought to think
What all her friends would say!

And often in her calmer hours,
And in her happy dreams,
Upon its long-deserted hook
The absent portrait seems.

Thy wretched infant turns his head
In melancholy wise,
And looks to meet the placid stare
Of those unbending eyes.

I never saw thee, lovely one, --
Perchance I never may;
It is not often that we cross
Such people in our way;

But if we meet in distant years,
Or on some foreign shore,
Sure I can take my Bible oath,
I've seen that face before.


Copyright 1861
Boston: Ticknor And Fields