Daily Trials by a Sensitive Man

By Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. 1809–1894 Oliver Wendell Holmes
   Oh, there are times
When all this fret and tumult that we hear
Do seem more stale than to the sexton’s ear
   His own dull chimes.

   Ding dong! ding dong!
The world is in a simmer like a sea
Over a pent volcano,—woe is me
   All the day long!

   From crib to shroud!
Nurse o’er our cradles screameth lullaby,
And friends in boots tramp round us as we die,
   Snuffling aloud.

   At morning’s call
The small-voiced pug-dog welcomes in the sun,
And flea-bit mongrels, wakening one by one,
   Give answer all.

   When evening dim
Draws round us, then the lonely caterwaul,
Tart solo, sour duet, and general squall,—
   These are our hymn.

   Women, with tongues
Like polar needles, ever on the jar;
Men, plugless word-spouts, whose deep fountains are
   Within their lungs.

   Children, with drums
Strapped round them by the fond paternal ass;
Peripatetics with a blade of grass
   Between their thumbs.

   Vagrants, whose arts
Have caged some devil in their mad machine,
Which grinding, squeaks, with husky groans between,
   Come out by starts.

   Cockneys that kill
Thin horses of a Sunday,—men, with clams,
Hoarse as young bisons roaring for their dams
   From hill to hill.

   Soldiers, with guns,
Making a nuisance of the blessed air,
Child-crying bellman, children in despair,
   Screeching for buns.

   Storms, thunders, waves!
Howl, crash, and bellow till ye get your fill;
Ye sometimes rest; men never can be still
   But in their graves.

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Poet Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. 1809–1894

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Subjects Time & Brevity, Living

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

Biography

Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was a brilliant doctor who was well known for his witty lectures at Harvard. Also a poet and essayist, Holmes’s prose series “The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table” first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly with its inaugural issue in 1857. A year later it was published as a book, which also included some of his most memorable poetry.

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Time & Brevity, Living

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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