The Old Man Of The Sea - A Nightmare Dream By Daylight

A poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes

Do you know the Old Man of the Sea, of the Sea?
Have you met with that dreadful old man?
If you have n't been caught, you will be, you will be;
For catch you he must and he can.

He does n't hold on by your throat, by your throat,
As of old in the terrible tale;
But he grapples you tight by the coat, by the coat,
Till its buttons and button-holes fail.

There's the charm of a snake in his eye, in his eye,
And a polypus-grip in his hands;
You cannot go back, nor get by, nor get by,
If you look at the spot where he stands.

Oh, you're grabbed! See his claw on your sleeve, on your sleeve!
It is Sinbad's Old Man of the Sea!
You're a Christian, no doubt you believe, you believe
You're a martyr, whatever you be!

Is the breakfast-hour past? They must wait, they must wait,
While the coffee boils sullenly down,
While the Johnny-cake burns on the grate, on the grate,
And the toast is done frightfully brown.

Yes, your dinner will keep; let it cool, let it cool,
And Madam may worry and fret,
And children half-starved go to school, go to school;
He can't think of sparing you yet.

Hark! the bell for the train! "Come along! Come along!
For there is n't a second to lose."
"ALL ABOARD!" (He holds on.) "Fsht I ding-dong! Fsht! ding-dong!" -
You can follow on foot, if you choose.

There's a maid with a cheek like a peach, like a peach,
That is waiting for you in the church; -
But he clings to your side like a leech, like a leech,
And you leave your lost bride in the lurch.

There's a babe in a fit, - hurry quick! hurry quick!
To the doctor's as fast as you can!
The baby is off, while you stick, while you stick,
In the grip of the dreadful Old Man!

I have looked on the face of the Bore, of the Bore;
The voice of the Simple I know;
I have welcomed the Flat at my door, at my door;
I have sat by the side of the Slow;

I have walked like a lamb by the friend, by the friend,
That stuck to my skirts like a bur;
I have borne the stale talk without end, without end,
Of the sitter whom nothing could stir.

But my hamstrings grow loose, and I shake, and I shake,
At the sight of the dreadful Old Man;
Yea, I quiver and quake, and I take, and I take,
To my legs with what vigor I can!

Oh the dreadful Old Man of the Sea, of the Sea
He's come back like the Wandering Jew!
He has had his cold claw upon me, upon me, -
And be sure that he 'll have it on you!

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