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THE GALAXY, November 1870




Out of a rusty and dusty old scrap-book a friend in Nevada resurrects the following verses for us. Thirty years ago they were very popular. It was on a wager as to whether this poem originated in the "Noctes Ambrosianae" or not that Leicester won two thousand pounds:


Whereas, on sundry boughs and sprays
Now divers birds are heard to sing,
And sundry flowers their heads upraise
To hail the coming on of Spring;

The songs of the said birds arouse
The mem'ry of our youthful hours --
As young and green as the said boughs,
As fresh and fair as the said flowers.

The birds aforesaid, happy pairs,
Love 'midst the aforesaid boughs enshrines
In household nests -- themselves, their heirs,
Administrators, and assigns.

O busiest time of Cupid's court,
When tender plaintiffs actions bring!
Season of frolic and of sport,
Hail, as aforesaid, coming Spring!


Occasionally from suffering soul there comes to this department a frantic appeal for help, which just boils an entire essay down into one exhaustive sentence, and leaves nothing more to be said upon that subject. Now, can the reader find any difficulty in picturing to himself what this "Subscriber" has been going through out there at Hazel Green, Wisconsin?


MY DEAR SIR: Do not, in your MEMORANDA, forget the travelling book agents. They are about as tolerable as lightning-rod men, especially the "red-nosed chaps" who sell "juveniles," temperance tracts, and such like delectable fodder.

Yours, etc.,


Such subscription canvassers, probably, are all this correspondent's fancy paints them. None but those canvassers who sell compact concentrations of solid wisdom, like the work entitled "The Innocents Abroad," can really be said to be indispensable to the nation.


In a graceful feminine hand comes the following, from a city of Illinois:

Reading your remarks upon "innocents" in a recent GALAXY, I must tell you how that touching little obituary was received here.

I attended a lecture, and sat beside and was introduced to a young minister from Pennsylvania, a few evenings since. Having my GALAXY in my hand and knowing the proverbial ministerial love of a joke, I handed him the little poem, simply whispering "Mark Twain."

He read it through gravely, and in the most serious manner turned to me and whispered, "Did Mark Twain write that?"

"Breathes there a man with soul so dead!"

If this is a specimen of your Eastern young ministers, we Western girls will take no more at present, I thank you.

Speaking of ministers reminds me of a joke that I always thought worth publishing; it is a fact, too, which all the jokes published are not.

The Rev. Dr. B. was minister in our stylish little city some years since. He was a pompous, important, flowery sort of preacher -- very popular with the masses. He exchanged pulpits with old Solomon N., the plain, meek old minister of the little C. Church, one Sabbath; and the expectant little congregation were surprised when the grand Dr. arose and gave out as his text:

"For behold a greater than Solomon is here!"


It is said that once a man of small consequence died, and the Rev. T. K. Beecher was asked to preach the funeral sermon -- a man who abhors the lauding of people, either dead or alive, except in dignified and simple language, and then only for merits which they actually possessed or possess, not merits which they merely ought to have possessed. The friends of the deceased got up a stately funeral. They must have had misgivings that the corpse might not be praised strongly enough, for they prepared some manuscript headings and notes in which nothing was left unsaid on that subject that a fervid imagination and an unabridged dictionary could compile, and these they handed to the minister as he entered the pulpit. They were merely intended as suggestions, and so the friends were filled with consternation when the minister stood up in the pulpit and proceeded to read off the curious odds and ends in ghastly detail and in a loud voice! And their consternation solidified to petrifaction when he paused at the end, contemplated the multitude reflectively, and then said impressively:

"The man would be a fool who tried to add anything to that. Let us pray!"


And with the same strict adhesion to truth it can be said that the man would be a fool who tried to add anything to the following transcendent obituary poem. There is something so innocent, so guileless, so complacent, so unearthly serene and self-satisfied about this peerless "hogwash," that the man must be made of stone who can read it without a dulcet ecstasy creeping along his backbone and quivering in his marrow. There is no need to say that this poem is genuine and in earnest, for its proofs are written all over its face. An ingenious scribbler might imitate it after a fashion, but Shakespeare himself could not counterfeit it. It is noticeable that the country editor who published it did not know that it was a treasure and the most perfect thing of its kind that the storehouses and museums of literature could show. He did not dare to say no to the dread poet -- for such a poet must have been something of an apparition -- but he just shovelled it into his paper anywhere that came handy, and felt ashamed, and put that disgusted "Published by Request" over it, and hoped that his subscribers would overlook or not feel an impulse to read it:

[Published by Request.]


Composed on the death of Samuel and Catharine Belknap's children.


Friends and neighbors all draw near,
And listen to what I have to say;
And never leave your children dear
When they are small, and go away

But always think of that sad fate,
That happened in year of '63;
Four children with a house did burn,
Think of their awful agony.

Their mother she had gone away,
And left them there alone to stay;
The house took fire and down did burn,
Before their mother did return.

Their piteous cry the neighbors heard,
And then the cry of fire was given;
But, ah! before they could reach,
Their little spirits had flown to heaven.

Their father he to war had gone,
And on the battle-field was slain;
But little did he think when he went away,
But what on earth they would meet again.

The neighbors often told his wife
Not to leave his children there,
Unless she got some one to stay,
And of the little ones take care.

The oldest he was years not six,
And the youngest only eleven months old,
But often she had left them there alone,
As, by the neighbors, I have been told.

How can she bear to see the place,
Where she so oft has left them there,
Without a single one to look to them,
Or of the little ones to take good care.

Oh, can she look upon the spot,
Where under their little burnt bones lay,
But what she thinks she hears them say,
"Twas God had pity, and took us on high."

And there may she kneel down and pray,
And ask God her to forgive;
And she may lead a different life
While she on earth remains to live.

Her husband and her children, too,
God has took from pain and woe.
May she reform and mend her ways,
That she may also to them go.

And when it is God's holy will,
O, may she be prepared
To meet her God and friends in peace,
And leave this world of care.

Nicholson, Pa., Feb. 8, 1863.

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