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What do you think the parson found,
End of the wonderful one-hoss shay.
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES.
HELPS TO STUDY
The dialect in this poem is that of New England, humorously exaggerated. Georgius Secundus is Latin for George II, who was King of England in 1755. Although he was descended from English Kings he was much more German than English.
Read the poem with the aid of the Glossary.
1. What was the deacon's masterpiece? 2. Just when did he finish it? 3. What events happened the same day? 4. Who was King of England then ? 5. Why do chaises usually break down? 6. How did the deacon think that he could make a chaise that would not break down ? 7. What were some of the materials he used ? 8. How long did the “shay ” last? 9. When did it begin to show some sign of age? Repeat the line that describes its getting old. 10. Tell fully the story of its end. 11. What is meant by logic? why was the "shay" built in a logical way?
12. What moral does the poet throw into the middle of the poem “ without charge”? 13. If you think that the story has a lesson, tell what it is. 14. Repeat some of the lines that you can't help remembering. 15. What other poems by Holmes have you read ?
For Study with the Glossary: shay (chaise), logical, hub, tire, felloe, thill, sill, thoroughbrace, lurking, spokes, lancewood, blunt, frizzled, prop-iron, axle, linchpin, bison, boot, dasher, tanner, whipple-tree, encore, rat-tail, ewe-necked.
Phrases: done so brown (done completely), settler's ellum (long-standing elm).
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES
Oliver Wendell Holmes was born in the same year as Poe, Tennyson, and Lincoln, 1809, in Cambridge, not far from the Washington Elm. He lived all his life in Cambridge or Boston, his longest absence lasting only two years. It was he who playfully named Boston "the hub of the universe." He was brought up in a refined home very much as Longfellow and Lowell were brought up. His favorite book as a boy was a translation of Homer. After graduating from Harvard he studied law a little and medicine a great deal, the last two years in Paris, where, as he wrote home, he spoke French, ate French, and drank French.
Though we think of Holmes as a writer, we must remember that for many years he practiced medicine and lectured on anatomy at the Harvard Medical School. Small, gentle, smiling, he was able to light up the dryest subject with his wit and humor. When he was nearly fifty he began writing prose for the Atlantic Monthly under the name of the Autocrat of the Breakfast Table,
and for many years he produced novels, delightful essays, and poems. He was the wittiest talker in Boston. This gift shone at the Saturday Club, to which belonged such men as Emerson, Longfellow, Lowell, Hawthorne, and Whittier. Holmes's genial happy life lasted until 1894, when all these old friends were dead. Near the end of his life he wrote, “I have always been good company to myself, either by day or night.”
Every American child knows “Old Ironsides,” Holmes's first famous poem, written when he was just out of college. It is in the FOURTH READER. A greater poem is “The Chambered Nautilus,” which tells how the soul may keep on growing all the time. But people familiar with the best poetry like his “Last Leaf” even better. It describes an old man in a very beautiful blending of the humorous and the grave. The last stanza reads:
And if I should live to be
In the spring,
Where I cling.