Verse > Anthologies > Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. > Yale Book of American Verse
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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