Verse > Anthologies > Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. > Yale Book of American Verse
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Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. (1838–1915). Yale Book of American Verse.  1912.
 
Oliver Wendell Holmes. 1809–1894
 
94. My Aunt
 
MY aunt! my dear unmarried aunt! 
  Long years have o'er her flown; 
Yet still she strains the aching clasp 
  That binds her virgin zone; 
I know it hurts her,—though she looks         5
  As cheerful as she can; 
Her waist is ampler than her life, 
  For life is but a span. 
  
My aunt! my poor deluded aunt! 
  Her hair is almost gray;  10
Why will she train that winter curl 
  In such a springlike way? 
How can she lay her glasses down, 
  And say she reads as well, 
When, through a double convex lens,  15
  She just makes out to spell? 
  
Her father—grandpapa! forgive 
  This erring lip its smiles— 
Vowed she should make the finest girl 
  Within a hundred miles;  20
He sent her to a stylish school; 
  'T was in her thirteenth June; 
And with her, as the rules required, 
  "Two towels and a spoon." 
  
They braced my aunt against a board,  25
  To make her straight and tall; 
They laced her up, they starved her down, 
  To make her light and small; 
They pinched her feet, they singed her hair, 
  They screwed it up with pins;—  30
O never mortal suffered more 
  In penance for her sins. 
  
So, when my precious aunt was done, 
  My grandsire brought her back; 
(By daylight, lest some rabid youth  35
  Might follow on the track;) 
"Ah!" said my grandsire, as he shook 
  Some powder in his pan, 
"What could this lovely creature do 
  Against a desperate man!"  40
  
Alas! nor chariot, nor barouche, 
  Nor bandit cavalcade, 
Tore from the trembling father's arms 
  His all-accomplished maid. 
For her how happy had it been!  45
  And Heaven had spared to me 
To see one sad, ungathered rose 
  On my ancestral tree. 
 
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