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To A Blank Sheet Of Paper by Oliver Wendell Holmes


"To A Blank Sheet Of Paper" is a poem written by Oliver Wendell Holmes. This writing is very obviously about Holmes staring at a piece of paper and wondering what he will do to it. Will he "stain thee" with a "poem or a tale"? He goes on to ask who will be in the tale. Will it be Lelia or Angelina? Will he be writing satire? At the end of the poem, he simply wishes that whatever he writes will be a success and "win some idle reader's smile".

This poem entitled "To A Blank Sheet of Paper" consists of eleven stanzas made up of four lines in each. the lines are rhymed as ABCB. It is written in iambic-tetrameter for the first three lines and iambic-triameter for the fourth.


To A Blank Sheet Of Paper

WAN-VISAGED thing! thy virgin leaf
To me looks more than deadly pale,
Unknowing what may stain thee yet,--
A poem or a tale.

Who can thy unborn meaning scan?
Can Seer or Sibyl read thee now?
No,--seek to trace the fate of man
Writ on his infant brow.

Love may light on thy snowy cheek,
And shake his Eden-breathing plumes;
Then shalt thou tell how Lelia smiles,
Or Angelina blooms.

Satire may lift his bearded lance,
Forestalling Time's slow-moving scythe,
And, scattered on thy little field,
Disjointed bards may writhe.

Perchance a vision of the night,
Some grizzled spectre, gaunt and thin,
Or sheeted corpse, may stalk along,
Or skeleton may grin.

If it should be in pensive hour
Some sorrow-moving theme I try,
Ah, maiden, how thy tears will fall,
For all I doom to die!

But if in merry mood I touch
Thy leaves, then shall the sight of thee
Sow smiles as thick on rosy lips
As ripples on the sea.

The Weekly press shall gladly stoop
To bind thee up among its sheaves;
The Daily steal thy shining ore,
To gild its leaden leaves.

Thou hast no tongue, yet thou canst speak,
Till distant shores shall hear the sound;
Thou hast no life, yet thou canst breathe
Fresh life on all around.

Thou art the arena of the wise,
The noiseless battle-ground of fame;
The sky where halos may be wreathed
Around the humblest name.

Take, then, this treasure to thy trust,
To win some idle reader's smile,
Then fade and moulder in the dust,
Or swell some bonfire's pile.

Next: The Two Streams
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