Saturday, December 29, 2012

Review of Old Ironsides by Oliver Wendell Holmes

Most of the famous poem Old Ironsides by Oliver Wendell Holmes (b. 1809) was offered by Poets.org's Poem-A-Day on December 29, 2012.  Of course, it is a beautiful, moving poem by one of the beloved "Fireside Poets."

It is unclear why the editor chose to omit the stirring first line:

"Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!"

The first line really sets the ironic, sarcastic, bitter tone of the whole poem of 3 stanzas of 8 lines each (not 7-8-8).  I am baffled by the omission.

According to www.eldritchpress.org (which has the entire poem), Dr. Holmes wrote Old Ironsides in 1830 when it was proposed that the famous wooden sailing ship be decommissioned and scrapped.  It appears that his poem changed history, for the USS Constitution aka "Old Ironsides" was instead lovingly preserved and remains to this day the oldest commissioned ship in the US Navy.

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