Various.

Little Masterpieces of American Wit and Humor online

. (page 5 of 11)
Online LibraryVariousLittle Masterpieces of American Wit and Humor → online text (page 5 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


now they were nowhere to be seen.

She demanded to be told what had become of them, and the professor
explained that, as they had made a good deal of noise, he had put them
to bed without waiting for her or calling a maid.

"I hope they gave you no trouble," she said.

"No," replied the professor, "with the exception of the one in the cot
here. He objected a good deal to my undressing him and putting him to
bed."

The wife went to inspect the cot.

"Why," she exclaimed, "that's little Johnny Green, from next door."


FIVE LIVES

Five mites of monads dwelt in a round drop
That twinkled on a leaf by a pool in the sun.
To the naked eye they lived invisible;
Specks, for a world of whom the empty shell
Of a mustard-seed had been a hollow sky.

One was a meditative monad, called a sage;
And, shrinking all his mind within, he thought:
"Tradition, handed down for hours and hours,
Tells that our globe, this quivering crystal world,
Is slowly dying. What if, seconds hence
When I am very old, yon shimmering doom
Comes drawing down and down, till all things end?"
Then with a wizen smirk he proudly felt
No other mote of God had ever gained
Such giant grasp of universal truth.

One was a transcendental monad; thin
And long and slim of mind; and thus he mused:
"Oh, vast, unfathomable monad-souls!
Made in the image" - a hoarse frog croaks from the pool,
"Hark! 'twas some god, voicing his glorious thought
In thunder music. Yea, we hear their voice,
And we may guess their minds from ours, their work.
Some taste they have like ours, some tendency
To wriggle about, and munch a trace of scum."
He floated up on a pin-point bubble of gas
That burst, pricked by the air, and he was gone.

One was a barren-minded monad, called
A positivist; and he knew positively;
"There was no world beyond this certain drop.
Prove me another! Let the dreamers dream
Of their faint gleams, and noises from without,
And higher and lower; life is life enough."
Then swaggering half a hair's breadth hungrily,
He seized upon an atom of bug, and fed.

One was a tattered monad, called a poet;
And with a shrill voice ecstatic thus he sang:
"Oh, little female monad's lips!
Oh, little female monad's eyes!
Ah, the little, little, female, female monad!"
The last was a strong-minded monadess,
Who dashed amid the infusoria,
Danced high and low, and wildly spun and dove,
Till the dizzy others held their breath to see.

But while they led their wondrous little lives
├ćonian moments had gone wheeling by,
The burning drop had shrunk with fearful speed:
A glistening film - 'twas gone; the leaf was dry.
The little ghost of an inaudible squeak
Was lost to the frog that goggled from his stone;
Who, at the huge, slow tread of a thoughtful ox
Coming to drink, stirred sideways fatly, plunged,
Launched backward twice, and all the pool was still.

EDWARD ROWLAND SILL.




JAMES T. FIELDS


THE OWL-CRITIC

A Lesson to Fault-finders

"Who stuffed that white owl?" No one spoke in the shop:
The barber was busy, and he couldn't stop;
The customers, waiting their turns, were all reading
The _Daily_, the _Herald_, the _Post_, little heeding
The young man who blurted out such a blunt question;
Not one raised a head or even made a suggestion;
And the barber kept on shaving.

"Don't you see, Mister Brown,"
Cried the youth, with a frown,
"How wrong the whole thing is,
How preposterous each wing is,
How flattened the head is, how jammed down the neck is -
In short, the whole owl, what an ignorant wreck 'tis!
I make no apology;
I've learned owl-eology.
I've passed days and nights in a hundred collections,
And cannot be blinded to any deflections
Arising from unskilful fingers that fail
To stuff a bird right, from his beak to his tail.
Mister Brown! Mister Brown!
Do take that bird down,
Or you'll soon be the laughing-stock all over town!"
And the barber kept on shaving.

"I've _studied_ owls,
And other night fowls,
And I tell you
What I know to be true:
An owl cannot roost
With his limbs so unloosed;
No owl in this world
Ever had his claws curled,
Ever had his legs slanted,
Ever had his bill canted,
Ever had his neck screwed
Into that attitude.
He can't _do_ it, because
'Tis against all bird-laws
Anatomy teaches,
Ornithology preaches
An owl has a toe
That _can't_ turn out so!
I've made the white owl my study for years,
And to see such a job almost moves me to tears!
Mister Brown, I'm amazed
You should be so gone crazed
As to put up a bird
In that posture absurd!
To _look_ at that owl really brings on a dizziness;
The man who stuffed _him_ don't half know his business!"
And the barber kept on shaving.

"Examine those eyes.
I'm filled with surprise
Taxidermists should pass
Off on you such poor glass;
So unnatural they seem
They'd make Audubon scream,
And John Burroughs laugh
To encounter such chaff.
Do take that bird down;
Have him stuffed again, Brown!"
And the barber kept on shaving.

"With some sawdust and bark
I would stuff in the dark
An owl better than that;
I could make an old hat
Look more like an owl
Than that horrid fowl,
Stuck up there so stiff like a side of coarse leather.
In fact, about _him_ there's not one natural feather."

Just then, with a wink and a sly normal lurch,
The owl, very gravely, got down from his perch,
Walked round, and regarded his fault-finding critic
(Who thought he was stuffed) with a glance analytic,
And then fairly hooted, as if he should say:
"Your learning's at fault _this_ time, anyway;
Don't waste it again on a live bird, I pray.
I'm an owl; you're another. Sir Critic, good-day!"
And the barber kept on shaving.


A CAUSE FOR THANKS

A country parson, in encountering a storm the past season in the voyage
across the Atlantic, was reminded of the following: A clergyman was so
unfortunate as to be caught in a severe gale in the voyage out. The
water was exceedingly rough, and the ship persistently buried her nose
in the sea. The rolling was constant, and at last the good man got
thoroughly frightened. He believed they were destined for a watery
grave. He asked the captain if he could not have prayers. The captain
took him by the arm and led him down to the forecastle, where the tars
were singing and swearing. "There," said he, "when you hear them
swearing, you may know there is no danger." He went back feeling better,
but the storm increased his alarm. Disconsolate and unassisted, he
managed to stagger to the forecastle again. The ancient mariners were
swearing as ever. "Mary," he said to his sympathetic wife, as he crawled
into his berth after tacking across a wet deck, "Mary, thank God they're
swearing yet."




JOHN HAY


LITTLE BREECHES

I don't go much on religion,
I never ain't had no show;
But I've got a middlin' tight grip, sir,
On the handful o' things I know.
I don't pan out on the prophets
And free-will and that sort of thing - -
But I b'lieve in God and the angels,
Ever sence one night last spring.

I come into town with some turnips,
And my little Gabe come along - -
No four-year-old in the county
Could beat him for pretty and strong,
Peart and chipper and sassy,
Always ready to swear and fight - -
And I'd larnt him to chaw terbacker
Jest to keep his milk-teeth white.

The snow come down like a blanket
As I passed by Taggart's store;
I went in for a jug of molasses
And left the team at the door.
They scared at something and started - -
I heard one little squall,
And hell-to-split over the prairie
Went team, Little Breeches and all.

Hell-to-split over the prairie!
I was almost froze with skeer;
But we rousted up some torches,
And sarched for 'em far and near.
At last we struck horses and wagon,
Snowed under a soft white mound,
Upsot, dead beat - but of little Gabe
Nor hide nor hair was found.

And here all hope soured on me,
Of my fellow-critter's aid - -
I jest flopped down on my marrow-bones,
Crotch-deep in the snow, and prayed.

By this, the torches was played out,
And me and Isrul Parr
Went off for some wood to a sheepfold
That he said was somewhar thar.

We found it at last, and a little shed
Where they shut up the lambs at night.
We looked in and seen them huddled thar,
So warm and sleepy and white;
And THAR sot Little Breeches, and chirped,
As peart as ever you see:
"I want a chaw of terbacker,
And that's what's the matter of me."

How did he git thar? Angels.
He could never have walked in that storm;
They jest scooped down and toted him
To whar it was safe and warm.

And I think that saving a little child,
And bringing him to his own,
Is a derned sight better business
Than loafing around The Throne.

* * * * *

Artemus Ward, when in London, gave a children's party. One of John
Bright's sons was invited, and returned home radiant. "Oh, papa," he
explained, on being asked whether he had enjoyed himself, "indeed I did.
And Mr. Browne gave me such a nice name for you, papa."

"What was that?"

"Why, he asked me how that gay and festive cuss, the governor, was!"
replied the boy.

* * * * *

It was on a train going through Indiana. Among the passengers were a
newly married couple, who made themselves known to such an extent that
the occupants of the car commenced passing sarcastic remarks about them.
The bride and groom stood the remarks for some time, but finally the
latter, who was a man of tremendous size, broke out in the following
language at his tormenters: "Yes, we're married - just married. We are
going 160 miles farther, and I am going to 'spoon' all the way. If you
don't like it, you can get out and walk. She's my violet and I'm her
sheltering oak."

During the remainder of the journey they were left in peace.




HENRY W. SHAW ("Josh Billings")


NATRAL AND UNNATRAL ARISTOKRATS

Natur furnishes all the nobleman we hav.

She holds the pattent.

Pedigree haz no more to do in making a man aktually grater than he iz,
than a pekok's feather in his hat haz in making him aktually taller.

This iz a hard phakt for some tew learn.

This mundane earth iz thik with male and femail ones who think they are
grate bekause their ansesstor waz luckey in the sope or tobacco trade;
and altho the sope haz run out sumtime since, they try tew phool
themselves and other folks with the suds.

Sope-suds iz a prekarious bubble.

Thare ain't nothing so thin on the ribs az a sope-suds aristokrat.

When the world stands in need ov an aristokrat, natur pitches one into
it, and furnishes him papers without enny flaw in them.

Aristokrasy kant be transmitted - natur sez so - in the papers.

Titles are a plan got up bi humans tew assist natur in promulgating
aristokrasy.

Titles ain't ov enny more real use or necessity than dog collars are.

I hav seen dog collars that kost 3 dollars on dogs that wan't worth, in
enny market, over 87-1/2 cents.

This iz a grate waste of collar; and a grate damage tew the dog.

Natur don't put but one ingredient into her kind ov aristokrasy, and
that iz virtew.

She wets up the virtew, sumtimes, with a little pepper sass, just tew
make it lively.

She sez that all other kinds are false; and i beleave natur.

I wish every man and woman on earth waz a bloated aristokrat - bloated
with virtew.

Earthly manufaktured aristokrats are made principally out ov munny.

Forty years ago it took about 85 thousand dollars tew make a good-sized
aristokrat, and innokulate his family with the same disseaze, but it
takes now about 600 thousand tew throw the partys into fits.

Aristokrasy, like of the other bred stuffs, haz riz.

It don't take enny more virtew tew make an aristokrat now, nor clothes,
than it did in the daze ov Abraham.

Virtew don't vary.

Virtew is the standard ov values.

Clothes ain't.

Titles ain't.

A man kan go barefoot and be virtewous, and be an aristokrat.

Diogoneze waz an aristokrat.

His brown-stun front waz a tub, and it want on end, at that.

Moneyed aristokrasy iz very good to liv on in the present hi kondishun
ov kodphis and wearing apparel, provided yu see the munny, but if the
munny kind of tires out and don't reach yu, and you don't git ennything
but the aristokrasy, you hay got to diet, that's all.

I kno ov thousands who are now dieting on aristokrasy.

They say it tastes good.

I presume they lie without knowing it.

Not enny ov this sort ov aristokrasy for Joshua Billings.

I never should think ov mixing munny and aristokrasy together; i will
take mine seperate, if yu pleze.

I don't never expekt tew be an aristokrat, nor an angel; i don't kno az
i want tew be one.

I certainly should make a miserable angel.

I certainly never shall hav munny enuff tew make an aristokrat.

Raizing aristokrats iz a dredful poor bizzness; yu don't never git your
seed back.

One democrat iz worth more tew the world than 60 thousand manufaktured
aristokrats.

An Amerikan aristokrat iz the most ridikilus thing in market. They are
generally ashamed ov their ansesstors; and, if they hav enny, and live
long enuff, they generally hav cauze tew be ashamed ov their posterity.

I kno ov sevral familys in Amerika who are trieing tew liv on their
aristokrasy. The money and branes giv out sumtime ago.

It iz hard skratching for them.

Yu kan warm up kold potatoze and liv on them, but yu kant warm up
aristokratik pride and git even a smell.

Yu might az well undertake tew raze a krop ov korn in a deserted
brikyard by manuring the ground heavy with tanbark.

Yung man, set down, and keep still - yu will hay plenty ov chances yet to
make a phool ov yureself before yu die.

* * * * *

It is told of an old Baptist parson, famous in Virginia, that he once
visited a plantation where the colored servant who met him at the gate
asked which barn he would have his horse put in.

"Have you two barns?" asked the minister.

"Yes, sah," replied the servant; "dar's de old barn, and Mas'r Wales has
jest built a new one."

"Where do you usually put the horses of clergymen who come to see your
master?"

"Well, sah, if dey's Methodist or Baptist we gen'ally puts 'em in de ole
barn, but if dey's 'Piscopals we puts 'em in the new one."

"Well, Bob, you can put my horse in the new barn; I'm a Baptist, but my
horse is an Episcopalian."




JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL


THE YANKEE RECRUIT

Mister Buckinum, the follerin Billet was writ hum by a Yung feller of
our town that wuz cussed fool enuff to goe a-trottin inter Miss Chiff
arter a Drum and fife. It ain't Nater for a feller to let on that he's
sick o' any bizness that he went intu off his own free will and a Cord,
but I rather cal'late he's middlin tired o' voluntearin By this time. I
bleeve yu may put dependunts on his statemence. For I never heered
nothin bad on him let Alone his havin what Parson Wilbur cals a
_pongshong_ for cocktales, and ses it wuz a soshiashun of idees sot him
agoin arter the Crootin Sargient cos he wore a cocktale onto his hat.

His Folks gin the letter to me and I shew it to parson Wilbur and he ses
it oughter Bee printed, send It to mister Buckinum, ses he, i don't
ollers agree with him, ses he, but by Time, ses he, I _du_ like a feller
that ain't a Feared.

I have intusspussed a Few refleckshuns hear and thair. We're kind o'
prest with Hayin.
Ewers respecfly,

HOSEA BIGLOW.

This kind o' sogerin' aint a mite like our October trainin',
A chap could clear right out from there ef't only looked like rainin'.
An' th' Cunnles, tu, could kiver up their shappoes with bandanners,
An' sen the insines skootin' to the barroom with their banners
(Fear o' gittin' on 'em spotted), an' a feller could cry quarter,
Ef he fired away his ramrod artur tu much rum an' water.
Recollect wut fun we hed, you'n I on' Ezry Hollis,
Up there to Waltham plain last fall, ahavin' the Cornwallis?
This sort o' thing aint _jest_ like thet - I wished thet I wuz furder -
Nimepunce a day fer killin' folks comes kind o' low for murder
(Wy I've worked out to slarterin' some fer Deacon Cephas Billins,
An' in the hardest times there wuz I ollers teched ten shillins),
There's sutthin' gits into my throat thet makes it hard to swaller,
It comes so nateral to think about a hempen collar;
It's glory - but, in spite o' all my tryin' to git callous,
I feel a kind o' in a cart, aridin' to the gallus.
But wen it comes to _bein'_ killed - I tell ye I felt streaked
The fust time ever I found out wy baggonets wuz peaked;
Here's how it wuz: I started out to go to a fan-dango,
The sentinul he ups an' sez "Thet's furder 'an you can go."
"None o' your sarse," sez I; sez he, "Stan' back!" "Aint you a buster?"
Sez I, "I'm up to all thet air, I guess I've ben to muster;
I know wy sentinuls air sot; you aint agoin' to eat us;
Caleb haint no monopoly to court the scenoreetas;
My folks to hum hir full ez good ez hisn be, by golly!"
An' so ez I wuz goin' by, not thinkin' wut would folly,
The everlastin' cus he stuck his one-pronged pitchfork in me
An' made a hole right thru my close ez ef I was an in'my.
Wal, it beats all how big I felt hoorawin' in old Funnel
Wen Mister Bolles he gin the sword to our Leftenant Cunnle
(It's Mister Secondary Bolles, thet writ the prize peace essay;
Thet's wy he didn't list himself along o' us, I dessay).
An' Rantoul, tu, talked pooty loud, but don't put _his_ foot in it,
Coz human life's so sacred thet he's principled agin' it - -
Though I myself can't rightly see it's any wus achokin' on 'em
Than puttin' bullets thru their lights, or with a bagnet pokin' on 'em;
How dreffle slick he reeled it off (like Blitz at our lyceam
Ahaulin' ribbins from his chops so quick you skeercely see 'em),
About the Anglo-Saxon race (an' saxons would be handy
To du the buryin' down here upon the Rio Grandy),
About our patriotic pas an' our star-spangled banner,
Our country's bird alookin' on an' singin' out hosanner,
An' how he (Mister B - - himself) wuz happy fer Ameriky - -
I felt, ez sister Patience sez, a leetle mite histericky.
I felt, I swon, ez though it wuz a dreffle kind o' privilege
Atrampin' round thru Boston streets among the gutter's drivelage;
I act'lly thought it wuz a treat to hear a little drummin',
An' it did bonyfidy seem millanyum wuz a-comin';
Wen all on us gots suits (darned like them wore in the state prison),
An' every feller felt ez though all Mexico was hisn.
This 'ere's about the meanest place a skunk could wal diskiver
(Saltillo's Mexican, I b'lieve, fer wut we call Salt river).
The sort o' trash a feller gits to eat doos beat all nater,
I'd give a year's pay fer a smell o' one good blue-nose tater;
The country here thet Mister Bolles declared to be so charmin'
Throughout is swarmin' with the most alarmin' kind o' varmin'.
He talked about delishes froots, but then it was a wopper all,
The holl on't 's mud an' prickly pears, with here an' there a chapparal;
You see a feller peekin' out, an', fust you know, a lariat
Is round your throat an' you a copse, 'fore you can say, "Wut air ye at?"
You never see sech darned gret bugs (it may not be irrelevant
To say I've seen a _scarab├Žus pilularius_[A] big ez a year old elephant),
The rigiment come up one day in time to stop a red bug
From runnin' off with Cunnle Wright - 'twuz jest a common
_cimex lectularius_.
One night I started up on eend an thought I wuz to hum agin,
I heern a horn, thinks I it's Sol the fisherman hez come agin,
_His_ bellowses is sound enough - ez I'm a livin' creeter,
I felt a thing go thru my leg - 'twuz nothin' more 'n a skeeter!
Then there's the yeller fever, tu, they call it here _el vomito_ -
(Come, thet wun't du, you landcrab there, I tell ye to le' go my toe!
My gracious! it's a scorpion thet's took a shine to play with 't,
I darsn't skeer the tarnel thing fer fear he'd run away with 't).
Afore I came away from hum I hed a strong persuasion
Thet Mexicans worn't human beans - an ourang outang nation,
A sort o' folks a chap could kill an' never dream on't arter,
No more'n a feller'd dream o' pigs thet he had hed to slarter;
I'd an idee thet they were built arter the darkie fashion all,
And kickin' colored folks about, you know, 's a kind o' national;
But wen I jined I won't so wise ez thet air queen o' Sheby,
Fer, come to look at 'em, they aint much diff'rent from wut we be,
An' here we air ascrougin' 'em out o' thir own dominions,
Ashelterin' 'em, ez Caleb sez, under our eagle's pinions,
Wich means to take a feller up jest by the slack o' 's trowsis
An' walk him Spanish clean right out o' all his homes and houses;
Wal, it does seem a curus way, but then hooraw fer Jackson!
It must be right, fer Caleb sez it's reg'lar Anglo-Saxon.
The Mex'cans don't fight fair, they say, they piz'n all the water,
An' du amazin' lots o' things thet isn't wut they ough' to;
Bein' they haint no lead, they make their bullets out o' copper
An' shoot the darned things at us, tu, wich Caleb sez ain't proper;
He sez they'd ough' to stan' right up an' let us pop 'em fairly
(Guess wen he ketches 'em at thet he'll hev to git up airly),
Thet our nation's bigger'n theirn an' so its rights air bigger,
An' thet it's all to make 'em free thet we air pullin' trigger,
Thet Anglo-Saxondom's idee's abreakin' 'em to pieces,
An' thet idee's thet every man doos jest wut he damn pleases;
Ef I don't make his meanin' clear, perhaps in some respex I can,
I know thet "every man" don't mean a nigger or a Mexican;
An' there's another thing I know, an' thet is, ef these creeturs,
Thet stick an Anglo-Saxon mask onto State prison feeturs,
Should come to Jalam Center fer to argify an' spout on 't,
The gals 'ould count the silver spoons the minnit they cleared out on 't.

This goin' ware glory waits ye haint one agreeable feetur,
And ef it worn't fer wakin' snakes, I'd home agin short meter;
O, wouldn't I be off, quick time, ef't worn't thet I wuz sartin
They'd let the daylight into me to pay me fer desartin!
I don't approve o' tellin' tales, but jest to you I may state
Our ossifers aint wut they wuz afore they left the Bay State;
Then it wuz "Mister Sawin, sir, you're midd'lin well now, be ye?
Step up an' take a nipper, sir; I'm dreffle glad to see ye;"
But now it's, "Ware's my eppylet? Here, Sawin, step an' fetch it!
An' mind your eye, be thund'rin spry, or damn ye, you shall ketch it!"
Wal, ez the Doctor sez, some pork will bile so, but by mighty,
Ef I hed some on 'em to hum, I'd give 'em linkumvity,
I'd play the rogue's march on their hides an' other music follerin' - -
But I must close my letter here for one on 'em 's a hollerin',
These Anglosaxon ossifers - wal, taint no use a jawin',
I'm safe enlisted fer the war,

Yourn,
BIRDOFREDOM SAWIN.

[Footnote A: it wuz "tumblebug" as he Writ it, but the parson put the
Latten instid. i said tother maid better meeter, but he said tha was
eddykated peepl to Boston and tha wouldn't stan' it no how, idnow as tha
_wood_ and idnow _as_ tha wood. - H. B.]

* * * * *

Two dusky small boys were quarreling; one was pouring forth a volume of
vituperous epithets, while the other leaned against a fence and calmly
contemplated him. When the flow of language was exhausted he said:

"Are you troo?"

"Yes."

"You ain't got nuffin' more to say?"

"Well, all dem tings what you called me, you is."




CHARLES DUDLEY WARNER


MY SUMMER IN A GARDEN

SECOND WEEK

Next to deciding when to start your garden, the most important matter is
what to put in it. It is difficult to decide what to order for dinner on
a given day: how much more oppressive is it to order in a lump an
endless vista of dinners, so to speak! For, unless your garden is a
boundless prairie (and mine seems to me to be that when I hoe it on hot


1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11

Online LibraryVariousLittle Masterpieces of American Wit and Humor → online text (page 5 of 11)