Whatever I do, and whatever I say,
Aunt Tabitha tells me that is n’t the way;
When she was a girl (forty summers ago)
Aunt Tabitha tells me they never did so.
Dear aunt! If I only would take her advice!
But I like my own way, and I find it so nice
And besides, I forget half the things I am told;
But they all will come back to me – when I am old.
If a youth passes by, it may happen, no doubt,
He may chance to look in as I chance to look out;
She would never endure an impertinent stare, –
It is horrid, she says, and I must n’t sit there.
A walk in the moonlight has pleasures, I own,
But it is n’t quite safe to be walking alone;
So I take a lad’s arm, – just for safety, you know, –
But Aunt Tabitha tells me they did n’t do so.
How wicked we are, and how good they were then!
They kept at arm’s length those detestable men;
What an era of virtue she lived in! – But stay –
Were the men all such rogues in Aunt Tabitha’s day?
If the men were so wicked, I ‘ll ask my papa
How he dared to propose to my darling mamma;
Was he like the rest of them? Goodness! Who knows?
And what shall I say, if a wretch should propose?
I am thinking if Aunt knew so little of sin,
What a wonder Aunt Tabitha’s aunt must have been!
And her grand-aunt – it scares me – how shockingly sad
That we girls of to-day are so frightfully bad!
A martyr will save us, and nothing else can;
Let me perish – to rescue some wretched young man!
Though when to the altar a victim I go,
Aunt Tabitha ‘ll tell me she never did so.
by OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES (1809-1894)
Public Domain Poetry