POEM OF THE DAY
TO THE PORTRAIT OF A GENTLEMAN IN THE ATHENAUM GALLERY
It may be so--perhaps thou hast
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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.