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Epistle to Joe _______________   Leave a comment

Above:  A Pencil

(This piece is an attempt to reply to an enlogium, in verse, inscribed to the Author by a friend, and I must say that I consider his piece more worthy of publication than the reply.–T)

Old Fortune is a partial deil,

Should I say goddess?  No.  I feel

Her slights too forcibly to thus

Speak with respect of that old cuss.

I sometimes almost want to swear,

And blamed if I do quite forbear

When I but think with what degree

Of injury she’s treated me.

She’s placed me here upon this earth

An heir of poverty from birth,

With pocket-book in flatter fix

Than Bingham is in politics,

Yet given all the whims of man

To satisfy as best I can;

Has given a bread box to be filled,

But wherewithal–blame her–withheld;

With pride enough beset my breast

To make me like to be well dressed,

And yet, I’m situated so

That such a joy I must forego.

And here’s I’m forced to toil and scrub

To clothe myself and earn my grub

Through broiling hot and freezing weather.

And thus it’s been throughout my life,

A ceaseless toil and endless strife,

And that completeness might not lack–

Excuse the slang, to cap the stack,

That all my pleasures might be riven,

To spoil the little sense she’s given,

She’s coupled on a disposition

To ceaseless care and no fruition;

A melancholy, dreamy mood,

Which, tho’ it shuns, like solitude,

And which when you have longer known me

Will make e’en you, kind sir, disown me.

And what was worst of all, betimes

She roped me into making rhymes,

And now she has me, tho’ few know it,

To fancying that I am a poet,

And e’en with business I now mingle

The travail of some idle jingle,

And thoughts, which tho’ with rhythm dressed,

Are not worth reading when expressed.

++++++++++

And what has thus my mind beguiled

I know not but that some have smiled

When listening to my doggerel lays,

And given a little pretended praise,

And said, tho’ from the tongue, not heart,

That I had talent for the art.

++++++++++

Now, if my spirits would relent,

And could I from these dreams dissent,

And from these fancies could get free,

There is no cause, that I can see,

But that ere long I too might strut,

And swell and blow–a true “hight-cut,”

And scornful pass “poor folks” unseen,

As I myself have often been;

And with a pen behind my ear

As dry goods clerk of bank cashier

I’d rear me back on my dew claws

Wile all in admiration pause;

And I may be, who’s there can say?

A railroad president some day.

Then blame my cats if I don’t stop,

The author’s pen right here I’ll drop,

For to be honored in this lan’

Is to be called a “moneyed man.”

Then, business airs I hence put on

And bid my half-breed muse be gone;

And high I’ll hang –or sink or swim–

By banjo on a “hick’ry limb,”

And this shall be the last, last time

You’ll hear of me making a rhyme.

++++++++++

P.S.

Kind friend, to what is writ above,

Tho’ not your patience more to prove,

But that my wrongs I may confess,

I’d like to add a short P.S.

++++++++++

Since thinking all this matter o’er,

I’m forced to rue the vow I swore;

I must confess, last afternoon

My harp was somewhat out of tune.

In vain I wound and thumped the string,

In vain implored my muse to sing;

I threatened, reared, and cussed and brayed,

But could not budge the lazy jade.

She’s weakly, yet she’s hard to rule,

And stubborner than Baalam’s mule;

And when she once makes up her mind,

I’d just as well talk to the wind.

She told me how to sing she couldn’t,

And if she could, by George, she wouldn’t.

So then I, not to be outdone,

Without the aid of muse begun,

And thus I prosed the ‘bove narration,

Or, rather, doleful lamentation;

And being thus in spirits tried,

I frankly tell you that I lied;

But now, if longer you’ll indulge,

The naked truth I will divulge.

++++++++++

I hold this as my highest end:

Myself, my life, my all to spend;

To serve my God and country well,

And steer my bark secure from hell;

And next to these, nor far below,

To serve such friends as you, Dear Joe:

For should I from this last refrain

Pretentions to the first are vain.

Let av’rice hoard the glittering ore;

Ambition wade to thrones through gore;

And powers of body and of min’

Be sacrificed at passion’s shrine.

But let me rule a few large hearts

With kindness’ wiles and friendships arts,

With one above them all most true,

One fair, sweet child, I won’t say who,

And then, so long as I’m supplied

With rags to cover up my hide,

And good, coarse grub for my carcass,

I’ll be as free as any lark is;

And envy not the rich and great,

But spurn their wealth and pomp of state.

Now “sour grapes,” I don’t deny,

May be the only reason why;

Should I taste honor, I might love it,

But ’tis a thing I do not covet.

++++++++++

I prize your compliments on me,

However undeserved they be;

Yet how dare your defying hand

To place me ‘mongst the “Orphan Band?”

Did I not trust your power of min’

Twixt bone and marrow to define;

If I suspected you a bit

Of saying aught, not meaning it,

I’d tell you that you misconceived,

Or plainly that I disbelieved;

So this must be the right surmise:

You’ve looked at me with partial eyes.

++++++++++

My fondest with wold real prove,

Could I, inspired with zeal and love,

But wake to song the living lyre,

And strike the never-dying fire,

And wrap my country in a flame

Of bright and never waning fame;

Or add one note to swell the lays

Of God, the mighty Maker’s praise.

Yet such an honor Heaven denies,

The reasons are unknown, but wise.

The simple boom alone remains

To chant my lays in humbler strains.

I don’t expect, nor much desire,

Mankind to patronize my lyre.

It is too simple–yet I say,

Mine is a truly heartfelt lay.

The feelings of my inward soul,

My spirit’s fire and passion’s roll,

I can’t restrain, they must find vent,

Or else my very soul be rent.

So, long as Joseph lends an ear,

I’ll sing, nor care, tho’ none else hear.

JOHN DODSON TAYLOR, SR.

Posted March 4, 2012 by neatnik2009 in John Dodson Taylor Sr.--Poems

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