Posted by: Tom Triumph | March 23, 2009

23. Height of the Ridiculous: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

I am fascinated by the Fireside Poets and the white, old men with three names that make this group up, and have such a bad reputation for being stale and tired. They can be so, but their work also has some good humor, a sappy emotion and a straightforward plot. This poem is light, a break from some deeper offerings. It can lead to a good discussion on hyperbole. Ask your students for their best appropriate joke and see if measures up to Holmes’.

Height of the Ridiculous
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

I wrote some lines once on a time
In wondrous merry mood,
And thought, as usual, men would say
They were exceeding good.

They were so queer, so very queer,
I laughed as I would die;
Albeit, in the general way,
A sober man am I.

I called my servant, and he came;
How kind it was of him
To mind a slender man like me,
He of the mighty limb.

“These to the printer,” I exclaimed,
And, in my humorous way,
I added, (as a trifling jest,)
“There’ll be the devil to pay.”

He took the paper, and I watched,
And saw him peep within;
At the first line he read, his face
Was all upon the grin.

He read the next; the grin grew broad,
And shot from ear to ear;
He read the third; a chuckling noise
I now began to hear.

The fourth; he broke into a roar;
The fifth; his waistband split;
The sixth; he burst five buttons off,
And tumbled in a fit.

Ten days and nights, with sleepless eye,
I watched that wretched man,
And since, I never dare to write
As funny as I can.

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