A Modest Request Poem Rhyme Scheme and Analysis


Complied With After The Dinner At President Everett's InaugurationA
Scene a back parlor in a certain squareB
Or court or lane in short no matter whereB
Time early morning dear to simple soulsC
Who love its sunshine and its fresh baked rollsC
Persons take pity on this telltale blushD
That like the AEthiop whispers Hush oh hushD
Delightful scene where smiling comfort broodsC
Nor business frets nor anxious care intrudesC
O si sic omnia I were it ever soC
But what is stable in this world belowC
Medio e fonte Virtue has her faultsC
The clearest fountains taste of Epsom saltsC
We snatch the cup and lift to drain it dryE
Its central dimple holds a drowning flyE
Strong is the pine by Maine's ambrosial streamsC
But stronger augers pierce its thickest beamsC
No iron gate no spiked and panelled doorF
Can keep out death the postman or the boreF
Oh for a world where peace and silence reignG
And blunted dulness verebrates in vainG
The door bell jingles enter Richard FoxC
And takes this letter from his leathern boxC
Dear SirH
In writing on a former dayI
One little matter I forgot to sayI
I now inform you in a single lineJ
On Thursday next our purpose is to dineJ
The act of feeding as you understandK
Is but a fraction of the work in handK
Its nobler half is that ethereal meatL
The papers call 'the intellectual treat '-
Songs speeches toasts around the festive boardM
Drowned in the juice the College pumps affordM
For only water flanks our knives and forksC
So sink or float we swim without the corksC
Yours is the art by native genius taughtN
To clothe in eloquence the naked thoughtN
Yours is the skill its music to prolongO
Through the sweet effluence of mellifluous songO
Yours the quaint trick to cram the pithy lineJ
That cracks so crisply over bubbling wineJ
And since success your various gifts attendsC
We that is I and all your numerous friendsC
Expect from you your single self a hostP
A speech a song excuse me and a toastP
Nay not to haggle on so small a claimQ
A few of each or several of the sameQ
Signed Yours most trulyR
No my sight must failS
If that ain't Judas on the largest scaleS
Well this is modest nothing else than thatT
My coat my boots my pantaloons my hatT
My stick my gloves as well as all my witsC
Learning and linen everything that fitsC
Jack said my lady is it grog you'll tryE
Or punch or toddy if perhaps you're dryE
Ah said the sailor though I can't refuseC
You know my lady 't ain't for me to chooseC
I'll take the grog to finish off my lunchU
And drink the toddy while you mix the punchU
THE SPEECH The speaker rising to be seenV
Looks very red because so very greenV
I rise I rise with unaffected fearW
Louder speak louder who the deuce can hearX
I rise I said with undisguised dismayI
Such are my feelings as I rise I sayI
Quite unprepared to face this learned throngO
Already gorged with eloquence and songO
Around my view are ranged on either handK
The genius wisdom virtue of the landK
Hands that the rod of empire might have swayedY
Close at my elbow stir their lemonadeY
Would you like Homer learn to write and speakZ
That bench is groaning with its weight of GreekZ
Behold the naturalist who in his teensC
Found six new species in a dish of greensC
And lo the master in a statelier walkA2
Whose annual ciphering takes a ton of chalkB2
And there the linguist who by common rootsC
Thro' all their nurseries tracks old Noah's shootsC
How Shem's proud children reared the Assyrian pilesC
While Ham's were scattered through the Sandwich IslesC
Fired at the thought of all the present showsC
My kindling fancy down the future flowsC
I see the glory of the coming daysC
O'er Time's horizon shoot its streaming raysC
Near and more near the radiant morning drawsC
In living lustre rapturous applauseC
From east to west the blazing heralds runA
Loosed from the chariot of the ascending sunA
Through the long vista of uncounted yearsC
In cloudless splendor three tremendous cheersC
My eye prophetic as the depths unfoldC2
Sees a new advent of the age of goldC2
While o'er the scene new generations pressC
New heroes rise the coming time to blessC
Not such as Homer's who we read in PopeD2
Dined without forks and never heard of soapD2
Not such as May to Marlborough Chapel bringsC
Lean hungry savage anti everythingsC
Copies of Luther in the pasteboard styleE2
But genuine articles the true CarlyleE2
While far on high the blazing orb shall shedF2
Its central light on Harvard's holy headF2
And learning's ensigns ever float unfurledG2
Here in the focus of the new born worldG2
The speaker stops and trampling down the pauseC
Roars through the hall the thunder of applauseC
One stormy gust of long suspended AhsC
One whirlwind chaos of insane hurrahsC
THE SONG But this demands a briefer lineJ
A shorter muse and not the old long NineJ
Long metre answers for a common songO
Though common metre does not answer longO
She came beneath the forest domeH2
To seek its peaceful shadeY
An exile from her ancient homeH2
A poor forsaken maidY
No banner flaunting high aboveI2
No blazoned cross she boreF
One holy book of light and loveI2
Was all her worldly storeF
The dark brown shadows passed awayI
And wider spread the greenV
And where the savage used to strayI
The rising mart was seenV
So when the laden winds had broughtN
Their showers of golden rainG
Her lap some precious gleanings caughtJ2
Like Ruth's amid the grainG
But wrath soon gathered uncontrolledC2
Among the baser churlsC
To see her ankles red with goldC2
Her forehead white with pearlsC
Who gave to thee the glittering bandsC
That lace thine azure veinsC
Who bade thee lift those snow white handsC
We bound in gilded chainsC
These are the gems my children gaveK2
The stately dame repliedL2
The wise the gentle and the braveK2
I nurtured at my sideL2
If envy still your bosom stingsC
Take back their rims of goldC2
My sons will melt their wedding ringsC
And give a hundred foldC2
THE TOAST Oh tell me ye who thoughtless askM2
Exhausted nature for a threefold taskM2
In wit or pathos if one share remainsC
A safe investment for an ounce of brainsC
Hard is the job to launch the desperate punA
A pun job dangerous as the Indian oneA
Turned by the current of some stronger witN2
Back from the object that you mean to hitN2
Like the strange missile which the Australian throwsC
Your verbal boomerang slaps you on the noseC
One vague inflection spoils the whole with doubtO2
One trivial letter ruins all left outO2
A knot can choke a felon into clayI
A not will save him spelt without the kI
The smallest word has some unguarded spotJ2
And danger lurks in i without a dotJ2
Thus great Achilles who had shown his zealP2
In healing wounds died of a wounded heelP2
Unhappy chief who when in childhood dousedQ2
Had saved his bacon had his feet been sousedQ2
Accursed heel that killed a hero stoutQ2
Oh had your mother known that you were outQ2
Death had not entered at the trifling partQ2
That still defies the small chirurgeon's artQ2
With corns and bunions not the glorious JohnR2
Who wrote the book we all have pondered onR2
But other bunions bound in fleecy hoseC
To Pilgrim's Progress unrelenting foesC
A HEALTH unmingled with the reveller's wineJ
To him whose title is indeed divineJ
Truth's sleepless watchman on her midnight towerH
Whose lamp burns brightest when the tempests lowerH
Oh who can tell with what a leaden flightQ2
Drag the long watches of his weary nightQ2
While at his feet the hoarse and blinding galeS
Strews the torn wreck and bursts the fragile sailS
When stars have faded when the wave is darkS2
When rocks and sands embrace the foundering barkS2
But still he pleads with unavailing cryE
Behold the light O wanderer look or dieE
A health fair Themis Would the enchanted vineJ
Wreathed its green tendrils round this cup of thineJ
If Learning's radiance fill thy modern courtQ2
Its glorious sunshine streams through Blackstone's portQ2
Lawyers are thirsty and their clients tooQ2
Witness at least if memory serve me trueQ2
Those old tribunals famed for dusty suitsC
Where men sought justice ere they brushed their bootsC
And what can match to solve a learned doubtQ2
The warmth within that comes from cold with outQ2
Health to the art whose glory is to giveT2
The crowning boon that makes it life to liveU2
Ask not her home the rock where nature flingsC
Her arctic lichen last of living thingsC
The gardens fragrant with the orient's balmV2
From the low jasmine to the star like palmV2
Hail her as mistress o'er the distant wavesC
And yield their tribute to her wandering slavesC
Wherever moistening the ungrateful soilW2
The tear of suffering tracks the path of toilW2
There in the anguish of his fevered hoursC
Her gracious finger points to healing flowersC
Where the lost felon steals away to dieE
Her soft hand waves before his closing eyeE
Where hunted misery finds his darkest lairB
The midnight taper shows her kneeling thereB
VIRTUE the guide that men and nations ownX2
And LAW the bulwark that protects her throneX2
And HEALTH to all its happiest charm that lendsC
These and their servants man's untiring friendsC
Pour the bright lymph that Heaven itself lets fallY2
In one fair bumper let us toast them allY2

Oliver Wendell Holmes


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