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Just the hour of the Earthquake shock!
Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!
And many an eye has danced to see
5 Beneath it rung the battle shout,
And burst the cannon's roar:—
The meteor of the ocean air
Her deck, once red with heroes' blood,
O better that her shattered hulk
HELPS TO STUDY
Historical: Old Ironsides was the name given the frigate Constitution. It was proposed by the Secretary of the Navy to dispose of the ship as it had become unfit for service. Popular sentiment did not approve of this. It was said a ship which was the pride of the nation should continue to be the property of the Navy and be rebuilt for service when needed. Holmes wrote this poem at the time of this discussion.
Notes and Questions Of what does the first stanza treat? | What is meant by lines 15 and 16?
The second? Where does Holmes say should be What does the third stanza tell the grave of Old Ironsides?
you? Why? To what does “tattered ensign” Explain lines 23 and 24.
refer? Which lines do you like best ? What is “The meteor of the ocean Why?
HAs there any old fellow got mixed with the boys?
S We're twenty We’re twenty! Who says we are more?
Was it snowing I spoke off Excuse the mistake
10 Look close, you will see not a sign of a flake!
We've a trick, we young fellows, you may have been told,
15 That boy we call “Doctor,” and this we call “Judge”;
That fellow's the “Speaker,”—the one on the right;
“Mr. Mayor,” my young one, how are you tonight?
That's our “Member of Congress,” we say when we chaff;
There's the “Reverend” What’s his name?—don’t make me laugh.
That boy with the grave mathematical look
There's a boy, we pretend, with a three-decker brain,
And there’s a nice youngster of excellent pith,
You hear that boy laughing?—You think he's all fun;
Yes, we’re boys, always playing with tongue or with pen,_
Then here’s to our boyhood, its gold and its gray !
HELPS TO STUDY
Historical: This poem was read by Oliver Wendell Holmes at a re
union of his college class thirty years after their graduation.
Notes and Questions
Who were “the boys”? What was the ‘‘Almanac's cheat” 2 What catalogue do you think Holmes meant? How could it be interpreted as showing spite against “the boys”? How did the poet defend “gray temples at twenty’’? What was the significance in early times of the garland or wreath upon the head? What do you think the garlands which the poet imagines his classmates “have shed ” represent? Of what does Holmes say their new garlands were made? What might the “new garlands” represent?
What fancy does the poet carry out in the next stanza 3 What song did the ‘‘nice youngSter’’. Write? What is his full name? What word is omitted from the line of the song quoted by Holmes? How do you think Holmes felt toward the laughing ‘‘boy’’? Why do you think so? Can you name anything besides ‘‘tongue and pen?” with which men may be said to play? What time of life is meant by the “gold”? By the “gray”? How much of this poem is fun? Which stanza do you like best? Why? What do you know about Oliver Wendell Holmes from this poemf
The pavement stones resound, 5 As he totters o'er the ground With his cane.