Your arguments for modern things with me cannot avail; my father reaped his grain by hand and thrashed it with a flail; then who am I to strike new paths and buy machinery? The methods good enough for dad are good enough for me! I want no hydrant by my house—such doodads I won't keep! My father drew the water from a well three furlongs deep, and skinned his hands and broke his back a-pulling at the rope, and methods that my father used will do for me, I hope! Don't talk of your electric light; a candle's all I need; my father always went to bed when 'twas too dark to read; I want no books or magazines to clutter up my shack; my father never read a thing but Johnson's almanac. A bathroom? Blowing wealth for that ridiculous appears; my father never used to bathe, and lived for ninety years. I care not for your "progress" talk, "reform" or other tricks; my father never used to vote or fuss with politics; he never cared three whoops in Troy which side should win or lose, and I'm content to go his gait, and wear my father's shoes.
You ask me why I weep and moan, like some lost spirit in despair, and why I wonder [Transcriber's note: wander?] off alone, and paw the ground and tear my hair? You ask me why I pack this gun, all loaded up, prepared to shoot? Alas! my troubles have begun—the women folk are canning fruit! There is no place for me to eat, unless I eat upon the floor; and peelings get beneath my feet, and make me fall a block or more; the odors from the boiling jam, all day assail my weary snoot; you find me, then, the wreck I am—the women folk are canning fruit! O, they have peaches on the chairs, and moldy apples on the floor, and wormy plums upon the stairs, and piles of pears outside the door; and they are boiling pulp and juice, and you may hear them yell and hoot; a man's existence is the deuce—the women folk are canning fruit!
ODE TO KANSAS
Kansas: Where we've torn the shackles From the farmer's leg; Kansas: Where the hen that cackles, Always lays an egg; Where the cows are fairly achin' To go on with record breakin', And the hogs are raising bacon By the keg!
It is good to watch dear father as he blithely skips along, on his face no sign of bother, on his lips a cheerful song; peeling spuds and scraping fishes, putting doilies on the chairs, sweeping floors and washing dishes, busy with his household cares. Now the kitchen fire is burning; to get supper he will start—mother soon will be returning from her labors in the mart.
Poor tired mother! Daily toiling to provide our meat and bread! Where the eager crowd is moiling, struggling on with weary tread! Battling with stockjobbing ladies, meeting all their wiles and tricks, or embarking in the Hades of the city's politics! But forgotten is the pother, all the work day cares are gone, when she comes home to dear father with his nice clean apron on! There's your chair, he says; "sit in it; supper will be cooked eftsoons: I will dish it in a minute—scrambled eggs and shredded prunes." It is good to watch him moving round the stove with eager zeal, in his every action proving that his love goes with the meal.
When the evening meal is eaten and the things are cleared away, then we sit around repeatin' cares and triumphs of the day; and the high resounding rafter echoes to our harmless jokes, to our buoyant peals of laughter, while tired mother sits and smokes. Thus her jaded mind relaxes in an atmosphere so gay, and she thinks no more of taxes or of bills that she must pay; smiles are soon her face adorning, in our nets of love enmeshed, and she goes to work next morning like a giantess refreshed.
He had written lovely verses, touching hollyhocks and hearses, lotus-eaters, ladies, lilies, porcupines and pigs and pies, nothing human was beyond him, and admiring people conned him, adoration in their bosoms and a rapture in their eyes. He had sung of figs and quinces in the tents of Bedouin princes, he'd embalmed the Roman Forum and the Parthenon of Greece; many of his odes were written in the shrouding fogs of Britain, while he watched the suffrage ladies mixing things with the police.
So we met to do him honor; worshipper and eager fawner begged a tassel of his whiskers, or his autograph in ink; never was there so much sighin' round a pallid human lion, as he stood his lines explaining, taking out the hitch and kink!
All were in a joyous flutter, till we heard some fellow mutter: "Here comes Griggs, the southpaw pitcher, fairly burdened with his fame! He it was who beat the Phillies—gave the Quaker bugs the willies—he it was who saved our bacon in that 'leven-inning game!"
Then we crowded round the pitcher, making that great man the richer by a ton of adulation, in a red-hot fervor flung; and the poet, in a pickle, mused upon the false and fickle plaudits of the heartless rabble, till the dinner gong was rung!
THE VIRTUOUS EDITOR
I use my Trenchant, fertile pen to help along the cause of men and make the sad world brighter, to give all good ambitions wings, to help the poor to better things and make their burdens lighter. The page whereon my screeds appear envoys a sacred atmosphere; it's helpful and uplifting; it hands out morals by the ton, and shows the people how to shun the rocks to which they're drifting.
You say my other pages reek with filthy "cures for cancer"? Impertinently, sir, you speak, and I refuse to answer.
All causes good and true and pure, and everything that should endure I'm always found supporting; and in my lighter moments I to heights of inspiration fly, the soft-eyed muses courting. To those who wander far astray I, like a shepherd, point the way to paths and fields Elysian; no sordid motives soil my pen as I assist my fellow men, no meanness mars my vision.
You say I print too many ads, unfit for youths' perusal, of fakers' pills and liver pads? I gave you one refusal to argue that, so quit your fuss and cease your foolish chatter; it is beneath me to discuss a purely business matter.
I point out all the shabby tricks which now disgrace our politics, those tricks which shame the devil; I ask the voters to deface corruption and our country place upon a higher level. Through endless wastes of words I roam to make the Fireside and the Home the nation's shrine and glory; and Purity must ring again in every offspring of my pen, in every screed and story.
You say my paper isn't fit for aught but toughs and muckers? That all the fakers come to it when they would fleece the suckers? Your criticism takes the buns! It's surely most surprising! You'll have to see the man who runs the foreign advertising.
THIS DISMAL AGE
"It is a humdrum world," he said, "in which we now abide! alas! the good old times are dead when brave knights used to ride to war upon their armored steeds; then bloodshed was in style; then men could do heroic deeds, and life was worth the while. If I should go with lance and sword to enemy of mine—to one by whom I've long been bored, and cleave him to the chine, there'd be no plaudits long and loud, no wreaths from ladies pale; the cops would seek me in a crowd, and hustle me to jail. If down the highway I should press, beneath the summer skies, to rescue damsels in distress and wipe their weeping eyes, I'd win no praises from the sports; they'd call me a galoot; I'd have to answer in the courts to breach-of-promise suit. Adventure is a thing that's dead, we've reached a low estate, and I was born, alas!" he said, "five hundred years too late."
He took the morning paper then, which reeked with thrilling things, with tales of fighting modern men; the strife of money kings; the eager, busy, human streams throughout this mundane hive; the struggle of the baseball teams, which for the pennant strive; the polar hero and his sled; the race of motor cars; the flight of aernauts o'erhead, outlined against the stars.
"It is a humdrum age," he sighed, "of avarice the fruit. Upon a steed I'd like to ride, and wear a cast iron suit, and live as lived the knights of old, the heroes of romance; I'd like to carry spurs of gold and wield a sword and lance; but in this drear and pallid age, from Denver to Des Moines, there's naught to stir a noble rage—there's nothing counts but coin!"
Don't sit supinely on your roost, but come along and help us boost, for better things of every kind, and leave your kicking clothes behind. O let us boost for better streets, and softer beds, and longer sheets; for smoother lawns and better lights, and shorter-winded blatherskites; for finer homes, and larger trees, for bats and boots and bumble bees; for shorter hours and longer pay, and fewer thistles in our hay, for better grub, and bigger pies, for two more moons to light the skies. And let the wolves of war be loosed on every man who doesn't boost!
He had braved the hungry ocean when the same was in commotion, he had floated on the wreckage of his tempest-shattered bark; he had flirted in deep waters with the merman's wives and daughters, he had scrapped through seven sessions with a large man-eating shark.
He had roamed in regions polar, where there's no effulgence solar, he had slain the festive walrus and the haughty arctic bear; and his watchword had been spoken in the wastes by whites unbroken, and he shelled out many gumdrops to the natives living there.
In the jungles, dark and fearful, where the tiger, fat and cheerful, gnaws the bones of foreign hunters, he had gone, unscathed, his way; he had whipped a big constrictor, and emerged the smiling victor from a scrimmage with a hippo, which was fond of deadly fray.
He was shot with poisoned arrows and his tale of anguish harrows up the bosom of the reader, but he lived to journey home; he was chased by wolves in Russia, thrown in prison cell in Prussia, and was captured by fierce bandits in the neighborhood of Rome. He had lived where dwells the savage whose ambition is to ravage and to fill his cozy wigwam with a handsome line of scalps; he had lived with desert races, sought the strange and distant places, he had stood upon the summit of the loftiest of Alps.
To his home at last returning, filled with sentimental yearning, "Now," he cried, "farewell to danger—I have left its stormy track!" Far from scenes of strife and riot he desired long years of quiet, but a casting from an airship fell three miles and broke his back.
THEY ALL COME BACK
The stars will come back to the azure vault when the clouds are all blown away; and the sun will come back when the night is done, and give us another day; the cows will come back from the meadows lush, and the birds to their trysting tree, but the money I paid to a mining shark will never come back to me! The leaves will come back to the naked boughs, the flowers to the frosty brae; the spring will come back like a blooming bride, and the breezes that blow in May; and joy will come back to the stricken heart, and laughter and hope and glee, but the money I blew for some mining stock will never come back to me!
Old Bullion has a stack of rich things in his shack; of Persian rugs and antique jugs and costly bric-a-brac. There's art work in the hall, fine paintings on the wall; and yet a gloom as of the tomb is hanging over all. Here costly books abound. "This cost a thousand pound; that trade-mark blur means Elzivir—I've nothing cheap around. Here's Venus in the foam; the statue came from Rome; I bought the best the world possessed when I built up this home." Thus proudly Bullion talks, as through his home he walks, and tells the cost of things embossed, of vases, screens and crocks. No children's laughter rings, among those costly things; no sounds of play by night or day; no happy housewife sings. For romping girl or boy might easily destroy a priceless jug, or stain a rug, and ruin Bullion's joy. The guests of Bullion yawn, impatient to be gone, afraid they'll mar some lacquered jar, or tread some fan upon.
Down here where Tiller dwells you hear triumphant yells of girls and boys who play with toys, with hoops and horns and bells. There are no costly screens; no relics of dead queens; but on the stand, close to your hand, cheap books and magazines. There's no Egyptian crock, or painted jabberwock, but by the wall there stands a tall and loud six-dollar clock. Old Tiller can't impart much lore concerning art, or tell the price of virtu nice until he breaks your heart. But in his home abide those joys which seem denied to stately halls upon whose walls are works of pomp and pride. That pomp which smothers joy, and chills a girl or boy, may have and hold the hue of gold, but it has base alloy.
FAILURE AND SUCCESS
He was selling tacks and turnips in a gloomy corner store, and he never washed his windows and he never swept the floor, and he let the cobwebs gather on the ceiling and the walls, and he let his whiskers flourish till they brushed his overalls. So his customers forsook him—for his patrons were not chumps—and the sheriff came and got him and that merchant bumped the bumps.
He was selling hens and hammocks, as he'd done since days of youth, and he queered himself with many, for he never told the truth. Oh, he thought it rather cunning if he sold a rooster old as a young and tender pullet through the artful lies he told; and he'd sell a shoddy hammock as a thing of silken thread, and the customer would bust it and fall out upon his head; so his customers forsook him, and he sadly watched them flit, and the sheriff came and got him, and that merchant hit the grit.
He was selling shoes and sugar—sugar from the sunny South—and he'd roast the opposition when he should have shut his mouth. He would stand and rant and rumble by the hour of Mr. Tweet, who was selling shoes and sugar in the shack across the street; and he'd vow all kinds of vengeance, and he'd tell all kinds of tales, till his wearied patrons sometimes rose and smote him with his scales; for they cared about his troubles and his sorrows not three whoops, and the sheriff came and got him, and that merchant looped the loops.
He was selling books and beeswax, and his store was neat and clean, and the place was bright and cheerful, and the atmosphere serene. He was tidy in his person, and his clerks were much the same, and no precious time was wasted, in the tiresome knocking game. And the customer who entered was with courtesy received, and he felt quite proud and happy when of cash he was relieved. And the merchant's word was golden, what he said was always true, and he sold no moldy beeswax, saying it was good as new. And his trade kept on increasing till his bank account was fat, and the sheriff, when he met him, always bowed and tipped his hat.
THE OPEN ROAD
To walk again the open road I have a springtime longing; I yearn to leave my town abode, the jostling and the thronging, and tread again the quiet lanes, among the woodland creatures; where birds are singing joyous strains to beat the music teachers. Afar from honks of motor cars, and all the city's clamor, I'd like to sleep beneath the stars, and feel no katzenjammer when in the vernal dawn I wake, as chipper as the foxes, to eat my frugal oatmeal cake put up in paper boxes. I fain would revel in the breeze that blows across the clover, and drink from brooks, with stately trees, like Druids, bending over. I'd leave the pavement and the wall, the too persistent neighbor, and hear the rooster's early call that wakes the world to labor. I'd seek the hayfields whose perfume the jaded heart doth nourish, I'd go where wayside roses bloom and johnny-jump-ups flourish. I'd see the pasture flecked with sheep and mule and colt and heifer, and let my spirit lie asleep upon the twilight zephyr. Oh, town, I leave you for a week, your burdens and your duties! The country calls me—I must seek its glories and its beauties!
Gee whiz! I'd give a million bones to be back home a-sleeping! My shoes are full of burs and stones, and I am tired of weeping. Last night I sought a stack of hay, where slumber's fetters bound me, and at the cold, bleak break of day a husky farmer found me. I tried to pacify his nibs when he stood there and blessed me; alas, his pitchfork smote my ribs, his cowhide shoes caressed me. The dogs throughout this countryside all seem to think they need me; they've gathered samples of my hide, and many times they've treed me. And when I roamed the woodland path to see the wild-flowers' tinting, a bull pursued me in its wrath and broke all records sprinting. At noontide I sat down to rest, and rose depressed and dizzy; I'd sat upon a hornet's nest, and all the birds got busy. My whiskers now are full of hay, my legs are lame and weary; it's been a-raining every day, and all the world is dreary. The road will do for those who like a pathway rough and gritty; I've had enough—just watch me hike back to the good old city.
They like to make the people think that all their piles of yellow chink, are weary burdens, to be borne, with eyes that weep and hearts that mourn; but as you jog along the road, you see no millionaires unload. They like to talk and drone and drool, to growing youths in Sunday school, and tell them that the poor man's lot is just the thing that hits the spot; to warn them of ambition's goad—they talk, and talk, but don't unload. They like to talk of days long gone, when life for them was at its dawn, and they were poor and bent with toil, and drew their living from the soil, and lived in some obscure abode—and so they dream, but don't unload. They like to take a check in hand, and, headed by the village band, present it to some charity—'twould mean five cents to you or me; then they're embalmed in song and ode; they smirk and smile, but don't unload.
I used to trade at Grocer Gregg's and paid him heaps of cash for flour and cheese and germ-proof eggs, and cans of succotash. But now he doesn't get my trade—that's why his bosom aches; I had to quit him, for he made so many small mistakes.
He'd send me stale and wilted greens when I had ordered fresh; he's send me gutta percha beans, all string and little flesh. And when I journeyed to his store to read the riot act, three score apologies or more he'd offer for the fact. That doggone clerk of his, he'd say, had got the order wrong; and always, in the same old way, he'd sing the same old song. He seemed to think apologies were all I should desire, when he had sent me moldy cheese or herrings made of wire.
And when his bill came in, by jings, it always made me hot; he'd have me charged with divers things I knew I never bought. Then I would call on Grocer Gregg in wrath and discontent, and seize him firmly by the leg and ask him what he meant. Then grief was in the grocer's looks, frowns came, his eyes betwixt; "The idiot who keeps my books," he'd say, "has got things mixed. I wouldn't have such breaks as these for forty million yen; I offer my apologies and hope you'll come again."
He'd often send the things I bought to Colonel Jones, up town, and I would get a bunch of rot that should have gone to Brown. And oft at home I'd wait and wait, in vain for Sweitzer cheese; instead of that I'd get a crate of codfish, prunes or peas. And then I'd go to Grocer Gregg, and mutter as I went; "I'll take that merchant down a peg, and in him make a dent." He'd spring the same old platitudes when I had reached his den: "That vampire who delivers goods has balled things up again."
Apologies are good enough, excuses are the same; but forty-seven are enough to tire one of that game. It's better far to shun mistakes, and do things right at first, than to explain your dizzy breaks till your suspenders burst.
When things are moving slick as grease, it's easy to be moral then, to wear a gentle smile of peace, and talk about good will to men. Such virtue doesn't greatly weigh, in making up the books of life; the man who cheerful is and gay, in times of sorrow and of strife, is better worth a word of praise, than all the gents of smiling mien, who swear in forty different ways when life has ceased to be serene. This morning, as I ambled down, a neighbor fell (the walk was slick) and slid half-way across the town, and landed on a pile of brick. He slid along at such a rate the ice was melted as he went; his shins were barked, and on his pate there was a large unsightly dent. And when he'd breath enough to talk, he didn't cave around and swear, or blank the blanked old icy walk; he merely cried: "Well, I declare!"
Some years ago I wrote a book, and no one read it save myself; it occupies a dusty nook, all sad and lonesome, on the shelf. And having found I couldn't write such stories as would please the mob, I sternly said, "I'll wreak my spite on those who can hold down the job." So now I sit in gloomy state and roast an author every day, and show he's a misguided skate who should be busy baling hay. The people read me as I cook my victims, and exclaim with glee, "If he would only write a book, oh where would Scott and Dickens be?"
I used to think that I could sing, but when a few sweet trills I'd shed, the people would arise and fling dead cats and cabbage at my head. Then, realizing that my throat was modeled on the foghorn plan, I said, "If I can't sing a note, I'll surely roast the folks who can!" I go to concerts and look wise, and shudder as in misery; in vain the prima donna tries to win approving smiles from me; in vain the tenor or the bass, to gain from me admiring looks, pours floods of music through his face—I squirm as though on tenderhooks. And people watch my curves and sigh; "He has it all by heart, by jing! What melody would reach the sky if he would but consent to sing!"
When I was young I painted signs, but not a soul my work would buy, for all my figures and my lines were out of drawing and awry. And so I said; "It breaks my heart that I can't sell a single sign; but in the noble realms of art as critic I shall surely shine!" And so I grew a Vandyke beard, and let my hair grow long as grass, and studied up a jargon weird, and learned to wear a single glass. Then to the galleries I went and looked at paintings with a frown, and wept in dismal discontent that art's so crushed and beaten down. And people followed in my tracks to ascertain my point of view; whenever I applied the ax they gaily swung the cleaver, too. And often, through a solemn hush, I'd hear my rapt admirers say: "If he would only use the brush, Mike Angelo would fade away!"
THE OLD TIMER
You've built up quite a city here, with stately business blocks, and wires a-running far and near, and handsome concrete walks. The trolley cars go whizzing by, and smoke from noisy mills is trailing slowly to the sky, and blotting out the hills. And thirty years ago I stood upon this same old mound, with not a house of brick or wood for twenty miles around! I'm mighty glad to be alive, to see the change you've made; it's good to watch this human hive, and hear the hum of trade!
I list to the moans and wails Of your town, with its toiling hands, But O for the lonely trails That led to the unknown lands!
I used to camp right where we stand, among these motor cars, and silence brooded o'er the land, as I lay 'neath the stars, save when the drowsy cattle lowed, or when a broncho neighed; and now you have an asphalt road, and palaces of trade! We hear the clamor of the host on every wind that blows, when people take the time to boast of how their city grows! I do not doubt that you will rise to greater heights of fame, and maybe paint across the skies your city's lustrous name!
I list to the ceaseless tramp Of the host, with its hopes and fears; But O for the midnight camp And the sound of the milling steers!
THE BRIGHT FACE
Things are moving slowly? Business seems unholy? Better things are coming, though they seem delayed! Sitting down and scowling, standing up and growling, fussing round complaining will not bring the trade! Here comes Mr. Perkins for a quart of gherkins—don't begin to tell him all about your woes; you will only bore him, laying griefs before him, and he'll be disgusted when he ups and goes. Show him that you're cheerful, for the merchant tearful always jars his patrons, always makes them groan; they don't want to hearken to the ills that darken over you for they have troubles of their own.
Here comes Mrs. Twutter for three yards of butter—let her see you smiling, let her find you gay; be as bright and chipper as a new tin dipper, show you're optimistic, in the good old way! If you mope and mumble this good dame will tumble, and she'll tell her neighbors that your head is sore; no one likes a dealer who's a dismal squealer, so your friends will toddle to some other store. When the luck seems balky, and the trade is rocky, that's the time to whistle, that's the time to grin! Time to make a showing that your trade is growing, time to show your grit and rustle round like sin.
Here comes Mr. Bunyan for a shredded onion, bullion in his trousers, checkbook in his coat; give him no suspicion that the dull condition in the world of commerce has destroyed your goat!
LADIES AND GENTS
When I was younger kids were kids, in Kansas or in Cadiz; now all the boys are gentlemen, and all the girls are ladies. Where are the kids who climbed the trees, the tousled young carousers, who got their faces black with dirt, and tore their little trousers? Where are the lads who scrapped by rounds, while other lads kept tallies? The maids who made their pies of mud, and danced in dirty alleys? They're making calf-love somewhere now, exchanging cards and kisses, they're all fixed up in Sunday togs, and they are Sirs and Misses. Real kids have vanished from the world—which fact is surely hades; and all the boys are gentlemen, and all the girls are ladies.
The summer days have gone their ways, to join the days of summers olden; the eager air is making bare the trees, the leaves are red and golden; the flowers that bloomed are now entombed, the morn is chill, the night is dreary; and I confront the same old stunt that all my life has made me weary. Hard by yon grove our heating stove is standing red and fierce and rusty; and I must black its front and back, and get myself all scratched and dusty. And I must pack it on my back, about a mile, up to our shanty, and work with wire and pipes and fire, the while I quote warm things from Dante.
THE LAND OF BORES
In the country of the bores people never shut the doors, and they leave the windows open, so you're always catching cold; and they lean against your breast while relating moldy jest that had long and flowing whiskers when by Father Adam told. In the country of the bores people carry sample ores, and they talk of mines prolific till you buy ten thousand shares; and they sell you orange groves and revolving fireless stoves, while they loll upon your divan with their feet upon your chairs. In the country of the bores every other fellow roars of the sins of public servants and the need of better things; in a nation full of vice he alone is pure and nice, he alone has got a halo and a flossy pair of wings. In the country of the bores men who wish to do their chores are disturbed by agitators who declaim of iron heels, urging toiling men to rise, with chain lightning in their eyes and do something to the tyrant and his car with bloody wheels. In the country of the bores evermore the talksmith pours floods of language on the people, who were better left alone. But that land is far away, and we should rejoice today that we're living in a country where no bores were ever known.
The pumpmaker came to my humble abode, for the pump was in need of repair; his auto he left by the side of the road, and his diamonds he placed on a chair. And he said that the weather was really too cold, for comfort, this time of the year; and he thought from Japan—though she's haughty and bold—this country has nothing to fear. He thought that our navy should equal the best, for a navy's a warrant of peace; and he said when a man has a cold on his chest, there's nothing as good as goose grease. He thought that the peach crop is ruined for good, and the home team is playing good ball; and the currency question is not understood, by the voters he said, not at all. Then he looked at the pump and he gave it a whack and he kicked at the spout and said "Shucks!" And he joggled the handle three times up and back, and soaked me for seventeen bucks.
AN EDITORIAL SOLILOQUY
I sit all day in my gorgeous den and I am the boss of a hundred men; my enemies shake at my slightest scowl, I make the country sit up and howl; to the farthest ends of this blooming land men feel the weight of my iron hand.
But, oh, for the old, old shop, Where I printed the Punktown Dirk, And the toil and stress with the darned old press That always refused to work!
I soothe my face with a rich cigar and ride around in a motor car; I go to a swell cafe to dine and soak my works in the rarest wine. Oh, nothing's too rich for your Uncle Jones, whose check is good for a heap of bones!
But, oh, for the old, old shop, Where I set up the auction bills, And printed an ad of a liver pad, And took out the pay in pills!
I've won the prize in the worldly game, my name's inscribed on the roll of fame; my home is stately, in stately grounds, I have my yacht and I ride to hounds; nothing I've longed for has been denied; is it any wonder I point with pride?
But, oh, for the old, old shop, In the dusty Punktown street! I was full of hope as I wrote my dope, Though I hadn't enough to eat!
"My lads," quoth the father, "come forth to the garden, and merrily work in the glow of the sun; to loiter about is a crime beyond pardon, when there's so much hoeing that has to be done! It pains me to mark that you'd fain be retreating away from the hoes and such weapons as these; you're diligent, though, when the time comes for eating the turnips and lettuce and cabbage and peas."
"Alas," sigh the boys, "that our father must work us like galley slaves, thus, at the hoe and the spade! More fortunate lads all have gone to the circus, they revel in peanuts and pink lemonade! Oh, what is the profit of pruning and trimming, and sowing the radish, and planting the yam, when everyone knows there is excellent swimming two miles up the creek at the foot of the dam?
"Sail in!" cries the parent, "the daytime is speeding, the night will be here in the space of three shakes! Oh, this is the season for digging and seeding, for doing great deeds with the long-handled rakes! Consider the maxims of Franklin, the printer, the rede of the prophets, of poets who sing; in comfort they live through the stress of the winter, who toil like the ants or the bees in the spring!"
"For maxims and proverbs it's little we're wishing," the boys mutter low, as they wearily delve; "the neighbor boy says there is elegant fishing—he went after catfish and came home with twelve. We have to stay here doing labors that cramp us, while others are pulling out fish by the pound! They're playing baseball every day on the campus, and down in the grove there's a merry-go-round!"
Alack! If the parents could see with the vision of boys and if boys used the eyes of their sires, then fun would be labor, with rapture elysian, and toil would be play, to the music of lyres!
Now the day is fading slowly and the week is near its close; comes the Sabbath, calm and holy, with its quiet and repose; then the wheels no more are driven, and the noise no longer swells and like whisperings of heaven, sound the far-off Sabbath bells. Are we striving, are we reaching, for the life serene and sweet? Not by platitudes and preaching, not by praying on the street, but by doing deeds of kindness, comforting some heart that's sore, helping those who grope in blindness, giving something from our store. If it be our strong endeavor to make others' lives less hard, then forever and forever Sunday brings a rich reward.
I like to find the gifted youth, the youth of brains and virtue, and whisper in his ears: "In truth, one flagon will not hurt you. He who eschews the painted breath is nothing but a fossil; just try a drink of liquid death—just join me in high wassail." At first my words may not avail, they but offend and fret him, but I keep camping on his trail until at last I get him.
And having marked him for my own, I glory in the reaping; I feel that death, and death alone, can take him from my keeping. He's mine to do with as I will, he's mine, both soul and body; his one ambition is to fill his outcast form with toddy. At first I take away his pride, destroy his sense of honor, and when I see these things have died, I know he is a goner. I house him in a squalid den, and take his decent garments, and entertain him now and then with rats and other varmints. I place a mortgage on his shack, despite his feeble ravings, I put old rags upon his back, and confiscate his savings. And thus I take what is a man, here in your Christian city, and make him, by my ancient plan, a thing to scorn and pity.
My victims lie in Potter's Fields in regiments and legions; John Barleycorn his scepter wields o'er all these smiling regions. I find new victims every day as I go blithely roaming; a million feet I lead astray between the dawn and gloaming. With sparkling beer and foaming ale I am my friends befriending, and to the poorhouse and the jail my followers are wending. You hear the pageant's dreary song as down the road it ambles; I wonder, oftentimes, how long you'll stand my cheerful gambols?
It is the day of kindness, and for this day we're freed from all the sordid blindness of selfishness and greed; we have a thought for others, we'd ease their load of care; and all men are our brothers, and all the world is fair.
This is the day of laughter, wherein no shadows fall; and 'neath the cottage rafter, and in the mullioned hall, are happy cries ascending, and songs of joy and peace; why should they have an ending? Why should the music cease? The music! When we hear it, we old men softly sigh; "Could but the Christmas spirit live on, and never die!"
This is the day of giving, and giving with a smile makes this gray life we're living seem doubly worth the while. When giving we're forgetting the counting-room and mart, and all the work-day fretting—and this improves the heart; forgetting bonds and leases, and every sordid goal—this sort of thing increases the stature of the soul!
This is the day of smiling, and faces stern and drear, on which few smiles beguiling are seen throughout the year, are lighted up with pleasure and eyes are soft today, and old men trip a measure with children in their play. And graybeards laugh when pelted with snow by springalds flung, and frozen hearts are melted, and ancient hearts are young.
It is a day for singing old songs our fathers knew, while gladsome bells are ringing a message sweet to you; a day that brings us nearer to heaven's neighborhood, that makes our vision clearer for all that's true and good.
On with the Christmas revels in cottage and in hall! While from the starry levels smiles Christ, who loves us all!
A CRANK'S THANKSGIVING
Like others, I'm grateful for plenty to eat; I'm fond of a plateful of rich turkey meat. For pies in the cupboard, and coal in the bin, for tires that are rubbered, and motors that spin; for all of my treasures, for all that I earn, for comforts and pleasures, my thanks I return. I'm glad that the nation is greasy and rich, acquiring high station with nary a hitch; her barns are a-bursting with mountains of grain; her people are thirsting for glory and gain. She'll ne'er backward linger, this land of our dads, for she is a dinger at nailing the scads. I'm glad that our vessels bring cargoes across, while counting rooms wrestle with profit and loss; that men know the beauties of figures and dates, and tariffs and duties and railway rebates.
I'm glad there are dreamers not industry-drunk, surrounded by schemers whose god is the plunk. I'm glad we've remaining incompetent jays, not always a-straining, in four hundred ways, to run down and collar one big rouble more, to add to the dollar they nailed just before. I'm glad there are writers more proud of their screeds than board of trade fighters of options and deeds. I'm glad there are preachers who tell of a shore where wealth-weary creatures need scheme never more.
For books that were written by masters of thought; for harps that were smitten with Homeric swat; for canvases painted by monarchs of art; for all things untainted by tricks of the mart; for hearts that are kindly, with virtue and peace, and not seeking blindly a hoard to increase; for those who are grieving o'er life's sordid plan; for souls still believing in heaven and man; for homes that are lowly with love at the board; for things that are holy, I thank thee, O Lord!
THE BRIEF VISIT
I won't be long in this vale of tears; my works may run for a few more years, but even that is a risky bet, and the sports are hedging already yet. At morning a gent feels gay and nice; and evening finds him upon the ice, with his folded hands and his long white gown, and his toes turned up and his plans turned down. So, viewing this sad uncertainty, and hearing the wash of the Dead Man's sea, I want to chortle the best I can, and try to cheer up my fellow man; to make a fellow forget his care, and make him laugh when he wants to swear, is as much as a poet can hope to do, whose lyre is twisted and broke in two.