Verse > Anthologies > Fuess and Stearns, eds. > The Little Book of Society Verse
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Fuess and Stearns, comps.  The Little Book of Society Verse.  1922.
 
The Portrait of “A Gentleman”
By Oliver Wendell Holmes
 
In the Athenæum Gallery

IT may be so,—perhaps thou hast
  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,        5
  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;—        10
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        15
  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.        20
 
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,—        25
  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;        30
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        35
  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.        40
 
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,—        45
  Perhaps 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,        50
Sure I can take my Bible oath,
  I’ve seen that face before.
 
 
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