Representative Poetry Online
  Poet Index   Poem Index   Random   Search  
  Introduction   Timeline   Calendar   Glossary   Criticism   Bibliography  
  RPO   Canadian Poetry   UTEL  
by Name
by Date
by Title
by First Line
by Last Line
Short poem

Selected Poetry of Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)

from Representative Poetry On-line
Prepared by members of the Department of English at the University of Toronto
from 1912 to the present and published by the University of Toronto Press from 1912 to 1967.
RPO Edited by Ian Lancashire
A UTEL (University of Toronto English Library) Edition
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries
© 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto

Index to poems

Plain food is quite enough for me;
Three courses are as good as ten; --
If Nature can subsist on three,
Thank Heaven for three. Amen!
I always thought cold victual nice; --
My choice would be vanilla-ice.
  1. Cacoethes Scribendi
  2. The Chambered Nautilus
  3. Contentment
  4. Daily Trials by a Sensitive Man
  5. The Deacon's Masterpiece or, the Wonderful "One-hoss Shay": A Logical Story
  6. The Flâneur
  7. The Last Leaf
  8. The Living Temple
  9. Old Ironsides
  10. The Two Streams

Notes on Life and Works

Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on August 29, 1809, Oliver Wendell Holmes proceeded to Phillips Academy and Harvard, from which he graduated in 1829. His first, most popular poem, written at 21, was "Old Ironsides." Like most of Holmes' poems, this was an occasional piece, prompted by some incident. After his degree, he studied in Boston, Harvard, and Paris medical schools before graduating with a Harvard M.D. in 1835. He published Poems the next year. His career then turned to medical writing and teaching with his appointment as a professor of anatomy at Dartmouth College in 1838, and firmed up when he became Parkman Professor of Anatomy and Physiology, and Dean, at Harvard Medical School in 1847. Holmes kept up his old love of literature, serializing his The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table in the Atlantic Monthly and then bringing it out as a book in 1858. This included what Holmes reasonably believed to be his best poems, "The Chambered Nautilus" and "The Deacon's Masterpiece, or the Wonderful `One-Hoss-Shay.'" Composition never prevented Holmes from literary criticism. In 1853 he delivered a dozen lectures on the English poets at the Lovell Institute in Boston, and in 1872 the third of his "Breakfast-Table" books was published, The Poet at the Breakfast-Table. Besides issuing enlarged editions of his 1836 Poems, he published four subsequent volumes, Songs in Many Keys (1862), Songs of Many Seasons (1875), The Iron Gate, and Other Poems (1880), and Before the Curfew and Other Poems (1887). He wrote three novels that took advantage of his medical knowledge. His collected poems came out from Cambridge in 1895. Holmes died in Boston on October 7, 1894. His marriage to Amelia Lee Jackson in 1840 produced three children, one of whom (his namesake) became a justice of the Supreme Court.

See also

Biographical information

Given name: Oliver Wendell
Family name: Holmes
Birth date: 29 August 1809
Death date: 7 October 1894
Nationality: American