by Oliver Wendell Holmes
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
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;
Why will she train that winter curl
In such a spring-like way?
How can she lay her glasses down,
And say she reads as well,
When through a double convex lens
She just makes out to spell?
Her father – grandpapa I forgive
This erring lip its smiles –
Vowed she should make the finest girl
Within a hundred miles;
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,
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; –
Oh 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
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!”
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
And Heaven had spared to me
To see one sad, ungathered rose
On my ancestral tree.