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
96. The Music-Grinders
THERE are three ways in which men take 
  One's money from his purse, 
And very hard it is to tell 
  Which of the three is worse; 
But all of them are bad enough         5
  To make a body curse. 
You 're riding out some pleasant day, 
  And counting up your gains; 
A fellow jumps from out a bush, 
  And takes your horse's reins,  10
Another hints some words about 
  A bullet in your brains. 
It 's hard to meet such pressing friends 
  In such a lonely spot; 
It 's very hard to lose your cash,  15
  But harder to be shot; 
And so you take your wallet out, 
  Though you would rather not. 
Perhaps you 're going out to dine,— 
  Some odious creature begs  20
You 'll hear about the cannon-ball 
  That carried off his pegs, 
And says it is a dreadful thing 
  For men to lose their legs. 
He tells you of his starving wife,  25
  His children to be fed, 
Poor little, lovely innocents, 
  All clamorous for bread,— 
And so you kindly help to put 
  A bachelor to bed.  30
You 're sitting on your window-seat, 
  Beneath a cloudless moon; 
You hear a sound, that seems to wear 
  The semblance of a tune, 
As if a broken fife should strive  35
  To drown a cracked bassoon. 
And nearer, nearer still, the tide 
  Of music seems to come, 
There 's something like a human voice, 
  And something like a drum;  40
You sit in speechless agony, 
  Until your ear is numb. 
Poor "home, sweet home" should seem to be 
  A very dismal place; 
Your "auld acquaintance" all at once  45
  Is altered in the face; 
Their discords sting through Burns and Moore, 
  Like hedgehogs dressed in lace. 
You think they are crusaders, sent 
  From some infernal clime,  50
To pluck the eyes of Sentiment, 
  And dock the tail of Rhyme, 
To crack the voice of Melody, 
  And break the legs of Time. 
But hark! the air again is still,  55
  The music all is ground, 
And silence, like a poultice, comes 
  To heal the blows of sound; 
It cannot be,—it is,—it is,— 
  A hat is going round!  60
No! Pay the dentist when he leaves 
  A fracture in your jaw, 
And pay the owner of the bear 
  That stunned you with his paw, 
And buy the lobster that has had  65
  Your knuckles in his claw; 
But if you are a portly man, 
  Put on your fiercest frown, 
And talk about a constable 
  To turn them out of town;  70
Then close your sentence with an oath, 
  And shut the window down! 
And if you are a slender man, 
  Not big enough for that, 
Or, if you cannot make a speech,  75
  Because you are a flat, 
Go very quietly and drop 
  A button in the hat! 

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