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POEM OF THE DAY

TO THE PORTRAIT OF A GENTLEMAN IN THE ATHENAUM GALLERY

It may be so--perhaps thou hast
        A warm and loving heart;
I will not blame thee for thy face,
        Poor devil as thou art.

That thing, thou fondly deem'st a nose,
        Unsightly though it be,--
In spite of all the cold world's scorn,
        It may be much to thee.

Those eyes,--among thine elder friends
        Perhaps they pass for blue;--
No matter,--if a man can see,
        What more have eyes to do?

Thy mouth--that fissure in thy face
        By something like a chin,--
May be a very useful place
        To put thy victual in.

I know thou hast a wife at home,
        I know thou hast a child,
By that subdued, domestic smile
        Upon thy features mild.

That wife sits fearless by thy side,
        That cherub on thy knee;
They do not shudder at thy looks,
        They do not shrink from thee.

Above thy mantel is a hook,--
        A portrait once was there;
It was thine only ornament,--
        Alas! that hook is bare.

She begged thee not to let it go,
        She begged thee all in vain:
She wept,--and breathed a trembling prayer
        To meet it safe again.

It was a bitter sight to see
        That picture torn away;
It was a solemn thought to think
        What all her friends would say!

And often in her calmer hours,
        And in her happy dreams,
Upon its long-deserted hook
        The absent portrait seems.

Thy wretched infant turns his head
        In melancholy wise,
And looks to meet the placid stare
        Of those unbending eyes.

I never saw thee, lovely one,--
        Perchance I never may;
It is not often that we cross
        Such people in our way;

But if we meet in distant years,
        Or on some foreign shore,
Sure I can take my Bible oath
        I've seen that face before.

             Oliver Wendell Holmes.

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