Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. was a 19th century elite physician, curmudgeon, essayist, and poet. His works were numerous, insightful, entertaining, and characteristic of the pre-Civil War, Civil War, and Gilded age eras. Many of his shorter poems are taught in high school as examples of late 19th century works, as they are relatively easy to memorize and understand. Holmes and the Fireside Poets (Emerson, Longfellow, and Lowell, among others) created works that, in their time, were read aloud by fathers and mothers to their family because the poems often centered around values, morals, and historic events. "Old Ironsides" is characteristic of the type of work for which the Fireside Poets became famous. It is an entertaining poem to read, study, and hear, particularly when linking it to the oldest ship in the world, still afloat and sailing around Boston Bay.
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