To John J. Knickerbocker, Jr.
Whereas, good friend, it doth appear
You do possess the notion
To his awhile away from here
To lands across the ocean;
Now, by these presents we would show
That, wheresoever wend you,
And wheresoever gales may blow,
Our friendship shall attend you.
What though on Scotia's banks and braes
You pluck the bonnie gowan,
Or chat of old Chicago days
O'er Berlin brew with Cowen;
What though you stroll some boulevard
In Paris (c'est la belle ville!),
Or make the round of Scotland Yard
With our lamented Melville?
Shall paltry leagues of foaming brine
True heart from true hearts sever?
No--in this draught of honest wine
We pledge it, comrade--never!
Though mountain waves between us roll,
Come fortune or disaster--
'Twill knit us closer soul to soul
And bind our friendships faster.
So here's a bowl that shall be quaff'd
To loyalty's devotion,
And here's to fortune that shall waft
Your ship across the ocean,
And here's a smile for those who prate
Of Davy Jones's locker,
And here's a pray'r in every fate--
God bless you, Knickerbocker!
One day upon a topmost shelf
I found a precious prize indeed,
Which father used to read himself,
But did not want us boys to read;
A brown old book of certain age
(As type and binding seemed to show),
While on the spotted title-page
Appeared the name 'Boccaccio.'
I'd never heard that name before,
But in due season it became
To him who fondly brooded o'er
Those pages a belovèd name!
Adown the centuries I walked
Mid pastoral scenes and royal show;
With seigneurs and their dames I talked--
The crony of Boccaccio!
Those courtly knights and sprightly maids,
Who really seemed disposed to shine
In gallantries and escapades,
Anon became great friends of mine.
Yet was there sentiment with fun,
And oftentimes my tears would flow
At some quaint tale of valor done,
As told by my Boccaccio.
In boyish dreams I saw again
Bucolic belles and dames of court,
The princely youths and monkish men
Arrayed for sacrifice or sport.
Again I heard the nightingale
Sing as she sang those years ago
In his embowered Italian vale
To my revered Boccaccio.
And still I love that brown old book
I found upon the topmost shelf--
I love it so I let none look
Upon the treasure but myself!
And yet I have a strapping boy
Who (I have every cause to know)
Would to its full extent enjoy
The friendship of Boccaccio!
But boys are, oh! so different now
From what they were when I was one!
I fear my boy would not know how
To take that old raconteur's fun!
In your companionship, O friend,
I think it wise alone to go
Plucking the gracious fruits that bend
Wheree'er you lead, Boccaccio.
So rest you there upon the shelf,
Clad in your garb of faded brown;
Perhaps, sometime, my boy himself
Shall find you out and take you down.
Then may he feel the joy once more
That thrilled me, filled me years ago
When reverently I brooded o'er
The glories of Boccaccio!
The Bench-Legged Fyce
Speakin' of dorgs, my bench-legged fyce
Hed most o' the virtues, an' nary a vice.
Some folks called him Sooner, a name that arose
From his predisposition to chronic repose;
But, rouse his ambition, he couldn't be beat -
Yer bet yer he got thar on all his four feet!
Mos' dorgs hez some forte - like huntin' an' such,
But the sports o' the field didn't bother him much;
Wuz just a plain dorg, an' contented to be
On peaceable terms with the neighbors an' me;
Used to fiddle an' squirm, and grunt "Oh, how nice!"
When I tickled the back of that bench-legged fyce!
He wuz long in the bar'l, like a fyce oughter be;
His color wuz yaller as ever you see;
His tail, curlin' upward, wuz long, loose, an' slim -
When he didn't wag it, why, the tail it wagged him!
His legs wuz so crooked, my bench-legged pup
Wuz as tall settin' down as he wuz standin' up!
He'd lie by the stove of a night an' regret
The various vittles an' things he had et;
When a stranger, most likely a tramp, come along,
He'd lift up his voice in significant song -
You wondered, by gum! how there ever wuz space
In that bosom o' his'n to hold so much bass!
Of daytimes he'd sneak to the road an' lie down,
An' tackle the country dorgs comin' to town;
By common consent he wuz boss in St. Joe,
For what he took hold of he never let go!
An' a dude that come courtin' our girl left a slice
Of his white flannel suit with our bench-legged fyce!
He wuz good to us kids - when we pulled at his fur
Or twisted his tail he would never demur;
He seemed to enjoy all our play an' our chaff,
For his tongue 'u'd hang out an' he'd laff an' he'd laff;
An' once, when the Hobart boy fell through the ice,
He wuz drug clean ashore by that bench-legged fyce!
We all hev our choice, an' you, like the rest,
Allow that the dorg which you've got is the best;
I wouldn't give much for the boy 'at grows up
With no friendship subsistin' 'tween him an' a pup!
When a fellow gits old - I tell you it's nice
To think of his youth and his bench-legged fyce!
To think of the springtime 'way back in St. Joe -
Of the peach-trees abloom an' the daisies ablow;
To think of the play in the medder an' grove,
When little legs wrassled an' little han's strove;
To think of the loyalty, valor, an' truth
Of the friendships that hallow the season of youth!
A Dream Of Sunshine
I'm weary of this weather and I hanker for the ways
Which people read of in the psalms and preachers paraphrase--
The grassy fields, the leafy woods, the banks where I can lie
And listen to the music of the brook that flutters by,
Or, by the pond out yonder, hear the redwing blackbird's call
Where he makes believe he has a nest, but hasn't one at all;
And by my side should be a friend--a trusty, genial friend,
With plenteous store of tales galore and natural leaf to lend;
Oh, how I pine and hanker for the gracious boon of spring--
For _then_ I'm going a-fishing with John Lyle King!
How like to pigmies will appear creation, as we float
Upon the bosom of the tide in a three-by-thirteen boat--
Forgotten all vexations and all vanities shall be,
As we cast our cares to windward and our anchor to the lee;
Anon the minnow-bucket will emit batrachian sobs,
And the devil's darning-needles shall come wooing of our bobs;
The sun shall kiss our noses and the breezes toss our hair
(This latter metaphoric--we've no fimbriae to spare!);
And I--transported by the bliss--shan't do a plaguey thing
But cut the bait and string the fish for John Lyle King!
Or, if I angle, it will be for bullheads and the like,
While he shall fish for gamey bass, for pickerel, and for pike;
I really do not care a rap for all the fish that swim--
But it's worth the wealth of Indies just to be along with him
In grassy fields, in leafy woods, beside the water-brooks,
And hear him tell of things he's seen or read of in his books--
To hear the sweet philosophy that trickles in and out
The while he is discoursing of the things we talk about;
A fountain-head refreshing--a clear, perennial spring
Is the genial conversation of John Lyle King!
Should varying winds or shifting tides redound to our despite--
In other words, should we return all bootless home at night,
I'd back him up in anything he had a mind to say
Of mighty bass he'd left behind or lost upon the way;
I'd nod assent to every yarn involving piscine game--
I'd cross my heart and make my affidavit to the same;
For what is friendship but a scheme to help a fellow out--
And what a paltry fish or two to make such bones about!
Nay, Sentiment a mantle of sweet charity would fling
O'er perjuries committed for John Lyle King.
At night, when as the camp-fire cast a ruddy, genial flame,
He'd bring his tuneful fiddle out and play upon the same;
No diabolic engine this--no instrument of sin--
No relative at all to that lewd toy, the violin!
But a godly hoosier fiddle--a quaint archaic thing
Full of all the proper melodies our grandmas used to sing;
With 'Bonnie Doon,' and 'Nellie Gray,' and 'Sitting on the Stile,'
'The Heart Bowed Down,' the 'White Cockade,' and 'Charming Annie Lisle'
Our hearts would echo and the sombre empyrean ring
Beneath the wizard sorcery of John Lyle King.
The subsequent proceedings should interest me no more--
Wrapped in a woolen blanket should I calmly dream and snore;
The finny game that swims by day is my supreme delight--
And _not_ the scaly game that flies in darkness of the night!
Let those who are so minded pursue this latter game
But not repine if they should lose a boodle in the same;
For an example to you all one paragon should serve--
He towers a very monument to valor and to nerve;
No bob-tail flush, no nine-spot high, no measly pair can wring
A groan of desperation from John Lyle King!
A truce to badinage--I hope far distant is the day
When from these scenes terrestrial our friend shall pass away!
We like to hear his cheery voice uplifted in the land,
To see his calm, benignant face, to grasp his honest hand;
We like him for his learning, his sincerity, his truth,
His gallantry to woman and his kindliness to youth,
For the lenience of his nature, for the vigor of his mind,
For the fulness of that charity he bears to all mankind--
That's why we folks who know him best so reverently cling
(And that is why I pen these lines) to John Lyle King.
And now adieu, a fond adieu to thee, O muse of rhyme--
I do remand thee to the shades until that happier time
When fields are green, and posies gay are budding everywhere,
And there's a smell of clover bloom upon the vernal air;
When by the pond out yonder the redwing blackbird calls,
And distant hills are wed to Spring in veils of water-falls;
When from his aqueous element the famished pickerel springs
Two hundred feet into the air for butterflies and things--
_Then_ come again, O gracious muse, and teach me how to sing
The glory of a fishing cruise with John Lyle King!