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A poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes

The Archbishop And Gil Blas

Title:     The Archbishop And Gil Blas
Author: Oliver Wendell Holmes [More Titles by Holmes]



I DON'T think I feel much older; I'm aware I'm rather gray,
But so are many young folks; I meet 'em every day.
I confess I 'm more particular in what I eat and drink,
But one's taste improves with culture; that is all it means, I think.

_Can you read as once you used to?_ Well, the printing is so bad,
No young folks' eyes can read it like the books that once we had.
_Are you quite as quick of hearing?_ Please to say that once again.
_Don't I use plain words, your Reverence?_ Yes, I often use a cane,

But it's not because I need it,--no, I always liked a stick;
And as one might lean upon it, 't is as well it should be thick.
Oh, I'm smart, I'm spry, I'm lively,--I can walk, yes, that I can,
On the days I feel like walking, just as well as you, young man!

_Don't you get a little sleepy after dinner every day?_
Well, I doze a little, sometimes, but that always was my way.
_Don't you cry a little easier than some twenty years ago?_
Well, my heart is very tender, but I think 't was always so.

_Don't you find it sometimes happens that you can't recall a name?_
Yes, I know such lots of people,--but my memory 's not to blame.
What! You think my memory's failing! Why, it's just as bright and clear,
I remember my great-grandma! She's been dead these sixty year!

_Is your voice a little trembly?_ Well, it may be, now and then,
But I write as well as ever with a good old-fashioned pen;
It 's the Gillotts make the trouble,--not at all my finger-ends,--
That is why my hand looks shaky when I sign for dividends.

_Don't you stoop a little, walking?_ It 's a way I 've always had,
I have always been round-shouldered, ever since I was a lad.
_Don't you hate to tie your shoe-strings?_ Yes, I own it--that is true.
_Don't you tell old stories over?_ I am not aware I do.

_Don't you stay at home of evenings? Don't you love a cushioned seat_
_In a corner, by the fireside, with your slippers on your feet?_
_Don't you wear warm fleecy flannels? Don't you muffle up your throat_
_Don't you like to have one help you when you're putting on your coat?_

_Don't you like old books you've dogs-eared, you can't remember when?_
_Don't you call it late at nine o'clock and go to bed at ten?_
_How many cronies can you count of all you used to know_
_Who called you by your Christian name some fifty years ago?_

_How look the prizes to you that used to fire your brain?_
_You've reared your mound-how high is it above the level plain?_
_You 've drained the brimming golden cup that made your fancy reel,_
_You've slept the giddy potion off,--now tell us how you feel!_

_You've watched the harvest ripening till every stem was cropped,_
_You 've seen the rose of beauty fade till every petal dropped,_
_You've told your thought, you 've done your task, you've tracked your
dial round,_
--I backing down! Thank Heaven, not yet! I'm hale and brisk and sound,

And good for many a tussle, as you shall live to see;
My shoes are not quite ready yet,--don't think you're rid of me!
Old Parr was in his lusty prime when he was older far,
And where will you be if I live to beat old Thomas Parr?

_Ah well,--I know,--at every age life has a certain charm,_--
_You're going? Come, permit me, please, I beg you'll take my arm._
I take your arm! Why take your arm? I 'd thank you to be told
I 'm old enough to walk alone, but not so _very_ old!

[The end]
Oliver Wendell Holmes's poem: Archbishop And Gil Blas