Fashions change in poetry just as they do in music or clothes. Once, Oliver Wendell Holmes was all the rage, and counted Poe and Lincoln among his admirers. Now, except perhaps for "Old Ironsides" and "The Chambered Nautilus," he is remembered mostly as the father of the Supreme Court justice. Often witty, rarely personal, Holmes's poetry has passed into the realm of the specialist and historian. Yet in Peter Marinker's sensitive narrations, the many charms of these poems emerge. Marinker lets the meter and rhyme stand on their own, speaking in sentences rather than forcing the lines and respecting the sentiment without falling into sentimentality.
Though by profession a doctor (he coined the word anesthesia) Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894) was one of the leading 19th century American poets and a member of the famous Saturday Club with Emerson, Longfellow, and Lowell. The 200th anniversary of his birth occurs in 2009.
Here are his major poems, including "Old Ironsides" and "The Last Leaf" in a rare audiobook collection read by Peter Marinker.