"One Sad, Ungathered Rose"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In this humorous poem, Holmes describes his aunt, a "dear, unmarried, deluded" old lady who still preserves the mannerisms of her lost youth. She still wears a painful girdle, combs her gray hair in a "spring-like way," and refuses to wear glasses. Holmes's aunt became an eternally eligible maiden as a result of her training in the fashionable "finishing school" to which her father sent her, hoping "she should make the finest girl/ Within a hundred miles." Holmes brilliantly satirizes the ridiculously ineffectual training which these "finishing schools" provided. The object was to make a young girl irresistibly attractive and charming. The poor aunt was "braced against a board," "laced up," and "starved down": "Oh, never mortal suffered more/ In penance for her sins." When she returned home, the girl was so ravishing that her father feared the helpless creature would be abducted and attacked by some "rabid youth." But the father need not have worried about his daughter's safety, for the "finishing school" unfortunately produced a rose which was destined to remain unplucked:

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.