I experienced him once before,As he passed through the door,And againThe pavement stones resound,As the totters o"er the groundWith his cane.

You are watching: The last leaf by oliver wendell holmes

They say the in his prime,Ere the pruning-knife the TimeCut that down,Not a better man was foundBy the Crier ~ above his roundThrough the town.

But currently he walks the streets,And the looks at all he meetsSad and also wan,And he shakes his feeble head,That it appears as if the said,"They space gone!"

The mossy marbles restOn the lips that he has prestIn your bloom,And the name he love to hearHave been carved for numerous a yearOn the tomb.

My grandmamma has said--Poor old lady, she is deadLong ago--That he had actually a roman inn nose,And his cheek was favor a roseIn the snow;

But currently his nose is thin,And it rests ~ above his chinLike a staff,And a crook is in his back,And a melancholy crackIn his laugh.

I recognize it is a sinFor me to sit and also grinAt him here;But the old three-cornered hat,And the breeches, and all that,Are for this reason queer!

And if I should live come beThe last leaf upon the treeIn the spring,Let them smile, as I perform now,At the old forsaken boughWhere i cling.


THE background OF THIS POEM

(by the author)My publishers tell me that it would add tothe attention of the poem if ns would mention anycircumstances associated with its composition,publication, and also reception. This request must bethe excuse of mine communicativeness. Just when itwas created I cannot precisely say, nor in whatpaper or periodical it was an initial published. Itmust have been written prior to April, 1833;probably in 1831 or 1832. It to be republished inthe first edition of mine poems, in the year 1836.

The poem was suggested by the sight of a figurewell known to Bostonians of the year justmentioned, the of major Thomas Melville, "thelast of the cocked hats," as he to be sometimescalled. The major had to be a personable youngman, an extremely evidently, and also retained evidence of itin

"The monumental pomp the age,"--

which had actually something imposing and also something oddabout it because that youthful eyes prefer mine. That wasoften pointed at as one of the "Indians" the thefamous "Boston Tea-Party" the 1774. His aspectamong the crowds of a later generation reminded meof a withered leaf which has held come its stemthrough the storms that autumn and winter, and also findsitself quiet clinging to its bough while the newgrowths the spring room bursting their buds andspreading your foliage all about it. Ns makethis explanation for the advantage of those whohave been confused by the lines

The last sheet upon the treeIn the Spring.

The way in which it happened written in asomewhat singular measure up was this. I had actually becomea small known together a versifier, and I thought thatone or two other young authors were following myefforts through imitations, not expected as parodies andhardly to be taken into consideration improvements on theirmodels. I determined to write in a measure whichwould at once betray any kind of copyist. So far as itwas suggested by any type of previous poem, the echo musthave come native Campbell"s "Battle the the Baltic,"with its quick terminal lines, such as the last ofthese two,

By her wild and stormy steep,Elsinore.

But I perform not remember any kind of poem in the samemeasure, other than such as have been created sinceits publication.

The city as very first written had one the those falserhymes which create a shudder in every educatedpersons, also in the Poems the Keats and also others whoought to have actually known far better than to admit them.The guilty verse ran thus:--

But currently he to walk the streets,And the looks at every he meets Soforlorn, and also he shakes his feeblehead that it seems as if he said"They are gone!"

A little more experience, come say nothing of thesneer of an American movie critic in one Englishperiodical, verified me that this would never do.Here was what is referred to as a "cockney rhyme,"--one inwhich the sound of the letter r isneglected,--maltreated together the letter h isinsulted by the average Briton through leaving the outeverywhere except where it need to he silent. Suchan ill-mated pair together "forlorn" and also "gone" couldnot probably pass current in great rhyming society.But what come do about it to be the question. Imust keep

"They room gone!"

and I might not think of any type of rhyme which i couldwork in satisfactorily. In this perplexity myfriend, Mrs. Folsom, wife of the excellentscholar, Mr. Charles Folsom, then and also for a longtime the unsparing and also infallible corrector the thepress in ~ Cambridge, suggested

"Sad and wan,"

which ns thankfully embraced and have alwaysretained.

The Poem has been sometimes imitated, oftenreprinted, and also not rarely talked well of. Ns hopeI shall it is in forgiven for pointing out three tributeswhich have been particularly noteworthy in mine ownremembrance.

Good Abraham Lincoln had a an excellent liking for it,and repeated it from storage to governor Andrew, asthe branch himself called me.

I have actually a copy of the made by the hand that EdgarAllan Poe, v an introduce remark i beg your pardon Iwill quote in connection with the one whichprecedes it.

"If us regard at the very same timeaccuracy, rhythm, melody, and invention, or novelcombination of metre, ns would have no hesitationin saying the a young and also true poetess ofKentucky, Mrs. Amelia Welby, has done much more in theway of really an excellent verse than any individual amongus. Ns shall be pardoned, nevertheless, forquoting and commenting ~ above an excellently wellconceived and well regulated specimen ofversification, i beg your pardon will aid in developing someof the propositions already expressed. It is the"Last Leaf" of Oliver W. Holmes."

Then complies with the entirety poem closely copied inthe renowned delicate hand that the well known poetand critic. The role of manuscript practically fivefeet long closes through this poem, so the thepromised comment is missing. The manuscript wasgiven me by the so late Mr. Robert Carter, a formercollaborator through Mr. James Russell Lowell, oneof Poe"s biographers. Poe to be not constantly overcivil in speaking of brand-new England poets. Come suchas were perceptible to his vitriolic criticism, histoleration was tranquillizing, and his praiseencouraging. Fifty years earlier those couple of words ofhis would have pleased me if they had actually beenpublished, i beg your pardon they never were. However the morningdew means little to the withered leaf.

The last pleasant tribute antecedent to thisvolume that illustrations, that which it is not for meto speak, is the printing of the poem, amongothers, in elevated letters for the use of theblind.

Reminiscences--idle, perhaps, to a new generation.It is every right; if this egotisms amuse castle theyamuse me, too, as I look castle over; and so

Let them laugh as I carry out nowAt the old forsaken bough wherein Icling.

OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES.

BEVERLY FARMS, July 9, 1885.

Author"s note

"Beverly Farms, July 9, 1894

"I have actually read the evidence you sent me and also findnothing in that which i feel dubbed upon to transform orexplain.

"I have lasted long enough to serve as anillustration that my own poem. Ns am among the verylast that the leaves which tho cling come the boughof life that budded in the feather of thenineteenth century. The work of my years arethreescore and also twenty, and I to be almost half way upthe steep incline which leader me toward the baseof the brand-new century so close to to i m sorry I have actually alreadyclimbed.

"I am pleased to find that this poem, carryingwith it the clues of having actually been composed in thejocund morning that life, is quiet read and also caredfor. That was v a smile on my lips that i wroteit; ns cannot read it without a sigh the tenderremembrance. I hope it will certainly not sadden mine olderreaders, when it may amuse few of the youngerones to who its experiences space as however onlyfloating fancies.

"Oliver Wendell Holmes.">

Online editor"s note

As copy-text we use the Boston PublicLibrary"s turn copy in ~ PS1957.A1, 1895,Houghton Mifflin and Company, as well as the 1895Cambridge execution of the complete Poetical functions of OliverWendell Holmes, 811.4 H752c, pp 4-5.

The exclamationmark offered in the author"s comments after the phrase,"They room gone" is printed as a periodin the complete Works, however we retain the exclamation mark,as in the illustrated text.

Major Melvill typically spelled his surname withoutthe last "e". He was the grandfather ofHerman Melville. Holmes met Melville in ~ the famouspicnic at Monument Mountain, Lenox, Massachusetts,August 5, 1850, along with Hawthorne and others. Holmeslived in Boston yet spent many of his beforehand summersin Pittsfield, Mass., wherein his mother"s household ownedsome 26,000 acres. Holmes to be an anatomy professorat Harvard clinical School and was fairly familiarwith withered old bodies and also the psychology neededfor us to address them, v respect, love, andhumor.

The Bostonian society museum in the Old StateHouse, Boston, Massachusetts, has actually some artifactsof Melvill. You can see on display (admission fee)the three-cornered hat he to be the critical to wear inBoston. It is stiff and black. In a tiny glassjar are some tea leaves uncovered in his bootsafter the Boston Tea Party. And also there is a really nicesketch of his youthful and also handsome face.

A further vital reference come this poem, amongst many,can be found online in part criticism by mark Twain ofthe writings of wilhelm Dean Howells.

The illustrated edition was published in a largeand a small edition (we supplied the tiny one forscanning purposes). In the large edition, thepoem text was published from engravings of handwritten cursive script instead of set in type. The smalledition has red ink on few of the title page; therest is black and also white. We have actually not reproducedthe beautiful yellow enbossed binding, i m sorry madethe editions suitable for presentation in ~ birthdaysof older new England readers. (We"ve seen some editionsyou can buy native rare book stores for about $75, if you room a withered sheet this HTML version does no satisfy, or you"d ratherspend her money ~ above hardbound publications than downloadtime over the Internet.)

We have explained the elaboratelydecorative illustrations in the other file only briefly, after every picture, or inthe ALT text, instead of in separate notes.One illustration shows the old guy walking up the Boston common toward the newState House, and also the house Mifflinoffices. An additional shows a beautiful maiden in abonnet. She has a jaw and mouth like Holmes"s.The final snapshot is of a graveyard.

See more: What Does The Name Rusty Mean Ing Of The Name Rusty? Name Rusty Meaning, Origin Etc

One small artist joke requirements explanation.The name on one gravestone is "Prudence Prynne."The adulteress in Hawthorne"s The Scarlet Letter is named Hester Prynne. Atthe end of the book, she dies and also is (fictionally) hidden in King"s ChapelBurying Ground, Boston. Literate visitors to Boston subsequently look forher tomb in vain.