Thomas Bailey Aldrich

American poet, novelist, editor (1836-1907)

Thomas Bailey Aldrich (November 11, 1836March 19, 1907) was a poet and novelist born in Portsmouth, USA.

Thomas Bailey Aldrich


  • In her eyes a thought
    Grew sweet and sweeter, deepening like the dawn—
    A mystical forewarning!
    • "Pythagoras", Pampinea and Other Poems (New York: Budd & Carleton, 1861), p. 19
  • What is more cheerful, now, in the fall of the year, than an open-wood-fire? Do you hear those little chirps and twitters coming out of that piece of apple-wood? Those are the ghosts of the robins and blue-birds that sang upon the bough when it was in blossom last Spring. In Summer whole flocks of them come fluttering about the fruit-trees under the window: so I have singing birds all the year round.
    • "Miss Mehetabel's Son", Marjorie Daw and Other People (Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1873), p. 168
  • The ability to secure your own way and yet impress others with the idea that they are having their own way is rare among men; in women it is as common as eyebrows.
    • The Queen of Sheba (Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1877), ch. I. "Mary", p. 16
  • We weep when we are born, not when we die!
    • "The Metempsychosis", The Poems of Thomas Bailey Aldrich (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1882), p. 139
  • My dear Mr. Morse: It was very pleasant to me to get a letter from you the other day. Perhaps I should have found it pleasanter if I had been able to decipher it. I don't think that I mastered anything beyond the date (which I knew) and the signature (which I guessed at). There's a singular and a perpetual charm in a letter of yours; it never grows old, it never loses its novelty. One can say to one's self every morning: "There's that letter of Morse's. I haven't read it yet. I think I'll take another shy at it to-day, and maybe I shall be able in the course of a few years to make out what he means by those t's that look like w's and those i's that haven't any eyebrows." Other letters are read and thrown away and forgotten, but yours are kept forever—unread. One of them will last a reasonable man a lifetime.
    • Letter to Edward S. Morse, as reported in Science, Vol. XV. No. 363 (January 17, 1890), "Notes and News", p. 41
    • The letter is introduced thus: "The Boston correspondent of The Book Buyer quotes an amusing letter sent by Mr. Aldrich to Professor E. S. Morse, ex-president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Professor Morse, it should be said, has a handwriting quite indescribable in illegibility."
  • That was indeed to live—
    At one bold swoop to wrest
    From darkling death the best
    That Death to Life can give!
    • "An Ode on the Unveiling of the Shaw Memorial on Boston Common. May Thirty-First, 1897", The Poems of Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Vol. II (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1897), p. 207
Boston: Fields, Osgood, & Co., 1870)
  • My father invested his money so securely in the banking business that he was never able to get any of it out again.
    • Ch. II. "In Which I Entertain Peculiar Views", p. 11
  • We visit […] a neighboring graveyard. I am by this time in a condition of mind to become a willing inmate of the place.
    • Ch. VI. "Lights and Shadows", p. 70
  • It is the Lord's Day, and I do believe that cheerful hearts and faces are not unpleasant in His sight.
    • Ch. VI. "Lights and Shadows", p. 71
  • There's a special Providence that watches over idiots, drunken men, and boys.
    • Ch. XVII. "How We Astonished the Rivermouthians", p. 202

Flower and Thorn (1882)

Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1882
  • Somewhere—in desolate wind-swept space—
    In Twilight-land—in No-man’s land—
    Two hurrying Shapes met face to face,
    And bade each other stand.

    “And who are you?” cried one, a-gape,
    Shuddering in the gloaming light.
    “I know not,” said the second Shape,
    “I only died last night!”
    • "Identity", p. 71
  • Black Tragedy lets slip her grim disguise
    And shows you laughing lips and rougish eyes.
    But when, unmasked, gay Comedy appears,
    'Tis ten to one you find the girl in tears.
    • "Quatrains 9. Masks", p. 86
  • Or light or dark, or short or tall,
    She sets a springe to snare them all:
    All's one to her—above her fan
    She'd make sweet eyes at Caliban.
    • "Quatrains 10. Coquette", p. 86
  • They fail, and they alone, who have not striven.
    • "Enamoured Architect of Airy Rhyme", p. 143

An Old Town by the Sea (1893)

Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1893
  • If you chance to live in a town where the authorities cannot rest until they have destroyed every precious tree within their blighting reach, you will be especially charmed by the beauty of the streets of Portsmouth. In some parts of the town, when the chestnuts are in blossom, you would fancy yourself in a garden in fairyland.
    • Ch. III. "A Stroll about Town", pp. 22–23
  • When Washington visited Portsmouth in 1789 he was not much impressed by the architecture of the little town that had stood by him so stoutly in the struggle for independence.
    • Ch. IV. "A Stroll about Town (continued)", p. 34
  • Famous old houses seem to have an intuitive perception of the value of corner lots. If it is a possible thing, they always set themselves down on the most desirable spot.
    • Ch. IV. "A Stroll about Town (continued)", p. 44
  • Dwellers by the sea are generally superstitious; sailors always are. There is something in the illimitable expanse of sky and water that dilates the imagination.
    • Ch. V. "Old Strawberry Bank", p. 68
  • Conservatism and respectability have their values, certainly; but has not the unconventional its values also?
    • Ch. VI. "Some Old Portsmouth Profiles", p. 83

Unguarded Gates and Other Poems (1895)

Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1895
  • Wide open and unguarded stand our gates,
    Named of the four winds, North, South, East and West;
    Portals that lead to an enchanted land
    Of cities, forests, fields of living gold
    Vast prairies, lordly summits touched with snow,
    Majestic rivers sweeping proudly past
    The Arab's date-palm and the Norseman's pine—
    A realm wherein are fruits of every zone,
    Airs of all climes, for lo! throughout the year
    The red rose blossoms somewhere—a rich land
    A later Eden planted in the wilds,
    With not an inch of earth within its bound
    But if a slave's foot press it sets him free.
    Here, it is written, Toil shall have its wage
    And Honor honor, and the humblest man
    Stand level with the highest in the law.
    Of such a land have men in dungeons dreamed
    And with the vision brightening in their eyes
    Gone smiling to the fagot and the sword.

    Wide open and unguarded stand our gates,
    And through them press a wild, a motley throng—
    Men from the Volga and the Tartar steppes,
    Featureless figures of the Hoang-Ho,
    Malayan, Scythian, Teuton, Kelt, and Slav,
    Flying the Old World’s poverty and scorn;
    These bringing with them unknown gods and rites,
    Those tiger passions, here to stretch their claws.
    In street and alley what strange tongues are these,
    Accents of menace alien to our air,
    Voices that once the Tower of Babel knew!
    O, Liberty, white goddess, is it well
    To leave the gate unguarded? On thy breast
    Fold Sorrow's children, soothe the hurts of fate,
    Lift the downtrodden, but with the hand of steel
    Stay those who to thy sacred portals come
    To waste the gifts of freedom. Have a care
    Lest from thy brow the clustered stars be torn
    And trampled in the dust. For so of old
    The thronging Goth and Vandal trampled Rome,
    And where the temples of the Caesars stood
    The lean wolf unmolested made her lair.
  • What is lovely never dies,
    But passes into other loveliness,
    Star-dust, or sea-foam, or wingëd air.
    • "A Shadow of the Night", p. 26
  • O harp of life, so speedily unstrung!
    • "Interludes: Two Moods", p. 55
  • Dear Lord, though I be changed to senseless clay.
    And serve the potter as he turns his wheel,
    I thank thee for the precious gift of tears!
    • "Interludes: Two Moods", p. 56
  • So precious life is! Even to the old
    The hours are as a miser’s coins!
    • "Interludes: Broken Music", p. 70
  • Here is woe, a self and not the mask of woe.
    • "Seven Sonnets: Andromeda", p. 98
  • When friends are at your hearthside met,
    Sweet courtesy has done its most
    If you have made each guest forget
    That he himself is not the host.
    • "Footnotes: Hospitality", p. 120
  • If my best wines mislike thy taste,
    And my best service win thy frown,
    Then tarry not, I bid thee haste;
    There's many another Inn in town.
    • "Footnotes: Quits", p. 121

Ponkapog Papers (1903)

Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1903
  • The man who suspects his own tediousness is yet to be born.
    • "Leaves from a Note Book", p. 8
  • Humor is a delicate shrub, with the passing hectic flush of its time. The current-topic variety is especially subject to early frosts, as is also the dialectic species.
    • "Leaves from a Note Book", p. 17
  • After a debauch of thunder-shower, the weather takes the pledge and signs it with a rainbow.
    • "Leaves from a Note Book", p. 18
  • I like to have a thing suggested rather than told in full. When every detail is given, the mind rests satisfied, and the imagination loses the desire to use its own wings.
    • "Leaves from a Note Book", p. 18
  • Books that have become classics—books that have had their day and now get more praise than perusal—always remind me of venerable colonels and majors and captains who, having reached the age limit, find themselves retired on half pay.
    • "Leaves from a Note Book", pp. 20–21
  • The possession of gold has ruined fewer men than the lack of it. What noble enterprises have been checked and what fine souls have been blighted in the gloom of poverty the world will never know.
    • "Leaves from a Note Book", p. 23
  • Dialect tempered with slang is an admirable medium of communication between persons who have nothing to say and persons who would not care for anything properly said.
    • "Leaves from a Note Book", p. 23
  • The possession of unlimited power will make a despot of almost any man. There is a possible Nero in the gentlest human creature that walks.
    • "Leaves from a Note Book", p. 25.
  • Between the reputation of the author living and the reputation of the same author dead there is ever a wide discrepancy.
    • "Leaves from a Note Book", p. 27
  • Great orators who are not also great writers become very indistinct shadows to the generations following them. The spell vanishes with the voice.
    • "Leaves from a Note Book", p. 28
  • The laurels of an orator who is not a master of literary art wither quickly.
    • "Leaves from a Note Book", p. 29
  • All the best sands of my life are somehow getting into the wrong end of the hour-glass. If I could only reverse it! Were it in my power to do so, would I?
    • "Leaves from a Note Book", p. 29
  • Shakespeare is forever coming into our affairs—putting in his oar, so to speak—with some pat word or sentence.
    • "Leaves from a Note Book", p. 29
  • There is always a heavy demand for fresh mediocrity. In every generation the least cultivated taste has the largest appetite.
    • "Leaves from a Note Book", p. 38
  • He has the courage of his conviction and the intolerance of his courage. He is opposed to the death penalty for murder, but he would willingly have anyone electrocuted who disagreed with him on the subject.
    • "Leaves from a Note Book", p. 38
  • A man is known by the company his mind keeps.
    • "Leaves from a Note Book", p. 40
  • True art selects and paraphrases, but seldom gives a verbatim translation.
    • "Leaves from a Note Book", p. 42
  • Civilization is the lamb's skin in which barbarism masquerades.
    • "Leaves from a Note Book", p. 43
  • What is slang in one age sometimes goes into the vocabulary of the purist in the next.
    • "Leaves from a Note Book", p. 43
  • To keep the heart unwrinkled, to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent—that is to triumph over old age.
    • "Leaves from a Note Book", p. 46
  • Decoration Day is the most beautiful of our national holidays.[…] The grim cannon have turned into palm branches, and the shell and shrapnel into peach blossoms.
    • "Asides: Decoration Day", p. 96
  • The fate of the worm refutes the pretended ethical teaching of the proverb which assumes to illustrate the advantage of early rising and does so by showing how extremely dangerous it is.
    • "Asides: On Early Rising", p. 102
  • It is only your habitual late riser who takes in the full flavor of Nature at those rare intervals when he gets up to go a-fishing. He brings virginal emotions and unsatiated eyes to the sparkling freshness of earth and stream and sky.
    • "Asides: On Early Rising", p. 105
  • The ring of a false coin is not more recognizable than that of a rhyme setting forth a simulated sorrow.
    • "Asides: On a Certain Affectation", p. 119
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