Can you annotate the poem: "No Time Like the Old Time" by Oliver Wendell Holmes?There is no time like the old time, when you and I were young, When the buds of April blossomed, and the birds of...

Can you annotate the poem: "No Time Like the Old Time" by Oliver Wendell Holmes?

There is no time like the old time,

when you and I were young,

When the buds of April blossomed,

and the birds of spring-time sung!

The gardens brightest glories

by summer suns are nursed,

But oh, the sweet, sweet violets,

the flowers that opened first!

There is no friend like the old friend,

who has shared our morning days,

No greeting like his welcome,

no homage like his praise:

Fame is the scentless sunflower,

with gaudy crown of gold;

But friendship is the breathing rose,

with sweets in every fold.

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kplhardison's profile pic

Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

To annotate a text is the same thing as glossing a text. To gloss (annotate) a text means to write a detailed commentary of a text. A commentary of this sort will be somewhat different from a critical analysis although some of the same topics may be covered.

Holmes opens his cheerful and light-hearted poem by modifying the expression "old times," meaning times of life gone by, to match and parallel another expression, "the old friend," which appears later on in the poem. So the focus of the poem is on the parallel ideas of "the old time" and "the old friend."

Holmes then employs a poetic convention by speaking of "the buds of April" blossoming, which symbolizes the spring time of life, or youth, while literally representing "the old time" that Holmes is focusing on. A second poetic convention of "birds of spring-time" singing symbolizes the happiness of youth and  also represents "the old time." It is probable that "gardens brightest glories / by summer suns" nursed is another convention that symbolizes growing to maturity in a garden of life and friendship while also again representing "the old time" in the literal garden from his recollection.

Holmes now leaves the garden and switches to the other half of the parallel focus, "the old friend." The phrase "morning days" operates the same as the phrases above: it symbolizes days of youth while representing literal mornings, probably spent in the garden of the first part of the poem. Holmes again switches and begins a long metaphor comparing friendship to fame. He says a friend's "welcome" and "homage" have no equal.

A colon follows "like his praise." The colon indicates that what comes after explains or expands upon what comes before the colon. In other words, because of the colon, we know that the last lines are the continuation of Holmes' thoughts about friends and not a new topic altogether.

The last five lines might be paraphrased like this: There is no homage (honor) like a friend's praise: This is because fame is like a scentless sunflower with no real sweet charm of its own and only the appearance of gold in its circlet of petals; but friendship is the real flower in the metaphoric garden of life--it is the sweet-scented rose that has fragrance in every petal. Holmes uses similes to compare fame to "the scentless sunflower" and friendship to "the breathing rose," while "breathing" also implies life-force and represents a personification of the rose.

bmadnick's profile pic

bmadnick | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

In the first eight lines of the poem, the speaker uses the rebirth of spring to symbolize his youth. In lines nine through twelve, the speaker introduces the theme of frienship in the poem. Then the speaker uses metaphor to compare fame to the sunflower that has no scent. It offers no beauty or worth with its "gaudy crown of gold". Friendship on the other hand is compared to the sweet-smelling rose. The beauty of the rose symbolizes the beauty of friendship. Nothing is more important than having a good friend who has been a part of your life for many years.

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