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Old Ironsides Essay

Oliver Wendell Holmes
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David Kelly is an instructor of literature and writing at several community colleges in Illinois, as well as a fiction writer and playwright. Here, he examines the unique qualities of "Old Ironsides" and why the poem cannot be judged by ordinary poetic standards.

Given that there does not seem to be anything tricky or complex about Oliver Wendell Holmes's love poem to an old battle ship, it hardly makes sense that "Old Ironsides" has lasted as long as it has in the standard corpus of American literary classics. However, the poem (as well as the ship that is its focus) has proven to be indestructible. This is unique. It upsets all expectations of how things generally go. It isn't a very good poem by conventional measures, nor is the ship useful, and yet both have stayed with us, capturing the imaginations of new audiences year after year. We...

(read more from the Critical Essay #1 section)

This section contains 1,652 words
(approx. 5 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Old Ironsides Study Guide
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Poetry for Students
Old Ironsides from Poetry for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.