The Last Leaf

By Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. 1809–1894 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.

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 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.

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Poet Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. 1809–1894

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Subjects Growing Old, Time & Brevity, Living

Poetic Terms Metaphor, Rhymed Stanza

 Oliver  Wendell Holmes Sr.

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 Growing Old, Time & Brevity, Living

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Poetic Terms Metaphor, Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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