Verse > Anthologies > Fuess and Stearns, eds. > The Little Book of Society Verse
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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