Poem "Old Ironsides" by Oliver Wendell Holmes - an explication of the poem

Essay by deiselaewireless November 2006

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"Old Ironsides" is a poem entitled to an old U.S. battleship. After news spread that this ship would be destroyed, Holmes nicknamed the ship as "Old Ironsides" to help construct a foundation of defense so that this battleship would not be demolished. The poem saved the ship from being destroyed and gave Holmes national recognition as a poet.

The first stanza talks about tearing the flag down off the ship because it will no longer sail on the water. The word meteor is used as a metaphor because the ship is an object of attention in the ocean just as a meteor is an object of attention in the sky. The emotional appeal a reader receives from the stanza is loud anger. For example "Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!" is a line from the first stanza that implies the strong emotion of anger.

The second stanza talks about the ship's past during the War of 1812. The first half is about the ship being a part of a battle. This implies the ship's importance to the war. The last half of the stanza explains that the ship shall no longer be part of any such venture anymore.

The third stanza implies that the ship should not be destroyed but instead active until the ship gets destroyed by an enemy. The stanza also expresses that the ship's "grave" should be the ocean.