Joseph Crosby Lincoln.

Cape Cod Ballads, and Other Verse online

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The fielder like a bullock falls, the ball rolls on the ground.
Around the bases on the wing the gallant Muggsy speeds,
And follows swiftly in the track where fast his comrade leads.
And from the field of chaos where the dusty billows float,
With calm, majestic mien there stalks O'Reilly's billy-goat.

Above the crags of Shantytown the flaunting pennant waves,
And cheering myriads chant the praise of Muggsy's lusty braves.
The children shout in gladsome glee, each fair one waves her hand,
As down the street the heroes march with lively German band;
But wilder grows the tumult when, with ribboned horns and coat,
They see, on high in triumph borne, O'Reilly's billy-goat.

* * * * *

THE CUCKOO CLOCK

When Ezry, that's my sister's son, come home from furrin parts,
He fetched the folks a lot of things ter brighten up their hearts;
He fetched 'em silks and gloves and clothes, and knick-knacks, too, a
stock,
But all he fetched fer us was jest a fancy cuckoo clock.
'T was all fixed up with paint and gilt, and had a little door
Where sat the cutest little bird, and when 't was three or four
Or five or six or any time, that bird would jest come out
And, 'cordin' ter what time it was, he'd flap his wings and shout:
"_Hoo_-hoo! _Hoo_-hoo! _Hoo_-hoo!"

Well, fust along we had it, why, I thought 'twas simply prime!
And used to poke the hands around ter make it "cuckoo" time;
And allers when we'd company come, they had ter see the thing,
And, course they almost had a fit when "birdie" come ter sing.
But, by and by, b'gosh! I found it somehow lost its joys,
I found it kind er made me sick to hear that senseless noise;
I wished 't was jest a common clock, that struck a gong, yer know,
And didn't have no foolish bird ter flap his wings and go:
"_Hoo_-hoo! _Hoo_-hoo! _Hoo_-hoo!"

Well, things git on from bad to wuss, until I'm free ter grant,
I'd smash it into kindlin', but a present, so, I can't!
And, though a member of the church, and deacon, I declare,
That thing jest sets me up on end and makes me want ter swear!
I try ter be religious and ter tread the narrer way,
But seems as if that critter knew when I knelt down ter pray,
And all my thoughts of heaven go a-tumblin' down ter, - well,
A different kind of climate - when that bird sets out ter yell:
"_Hoo_-hoo! _Hoo_-hoo! _Hoo_-hoo!"

I read once in a poetry book, that Ezry had ter home,
The awful fuss a feller made about a crow, that come
And pestered him about ter death and made him sick and sore,
By settin' on his mantel-piece and hollerin' "Nevermore!"
But, say, I'd ruther have the crow, with all his fuss and row,
His bellerin' had _some_ sense, b'gosh! 'T was _English_, anyhow;
And all the crows in Christendom that talked a Christian talk
Would seem like nightingales, compared ter that air furrin squawk:
"_Hoo_-hoo! _Hoo_-hoo! _Hoo_-hoo!"

* * * * *

THE POPULAR SONG

I never was naturally vicious;
My spirit was lamb-like and mild;
I never was bad or malicious;
I loved with the trust of a child.
But hate now my bosom is burning,
And all through my being I long
To get one solid thump on the head of the chump
Who wrote the new popular song.

[Illustration: "The washwoman sings it all wrong."]

The office-boy hums it,
The book-keeper drums it,
It's whistled by all on the street;
The hand-organ grinds it,
The music-box winds it,
It's sung by the "cop" on the beat.
The newsboy, he spouts it,
The bootblack, he shouts it,
The washwoman sings it all wrong;
And I laugh, and I weep,
And I wake, and I sleep,
To the tune of that popular song.

Its measures are haunting my dreaming;
I rise at the breakfast-bell's call
To hear the new chambermaid screaming
The chorus aloud through the hall.
The landlady's daughter's piano
Is helping the concert along,
And my molars I break on the tenderloin steak
As I chew to that popular song.

The orchestra plays it,
The German band brays it,
'T is sung on the platform and stage;
All over the city
They're chanting the ditty;
At summer resorts it's the rage.
The drum corps, it beats it,
The echo repeats it,
The bass-drummer brings it out strong,
And we speak, and we talk,
And we dance, and we walk,
To the notes of that popular song.

It really is driving me crazy;
I feel that I'm wasting away;
My brain is becoming more hazy,
My appetite less every day.
But, ah! I'd not pray for existence,
Nor struggle my life to prolong,
If, up some dark alley, with him I might dally
Who wrote that new popular song.

The bone-player clicks it,
The banjoist picks it,
It 'livens the clog-dancer's heels;
The bass-viol moans it,
The bagpiper drones it,
They play it for waltzes and reels.
I shall not mind quitting
The earthly, and flitting
Away 'mid the heavenly throng,
If the mourners who come
To my grave do not hum
That horrible popular song.

* * * * *

MATILDY'S BEAU

I hain't no great detective, like yer read about, - the kind
That solves a whole blame murder case by footmarks left behind;
But then, again, on t'other hand, my eyes hain't shut so tight
But I can add up two and two and get the answer right;
So, when prayer-meet'ns, Friday nights, got keepin' awful late,
And, fer an hour or so, I'd hear low voices at the gate -
And when that gate got saggin' down 'bout ha'f a foot er so -
I says ter mother: "Ma," says I, "Matildy's got a beau."

[Illustration: Matildy's Beau]

We ought ter have expected it - she's 'most eighteen, yer see;
But, sakes alive! she's always seemed a baby, like, ter me;
And so, a feller after _her_! why, that jest did beat all!
But, t' other Sunday, bless yer soul, he come around ter call;
And when I see him all dressed up as dandy as yer please,
But sort er lookin' 's if he had the shivers in his knees,
I kind er realized it then, yer might say, like a blow -
Thinks I, "No use! I'm gittin' old; Matildy's got a beau."

Just twenty-four short years gone by - it do'n't seem five, I vow! -
I fust called on Matildy - that's Matildy's mother now;
I recollect I spent an hour a-tyin' my cravat,
And I'd sent up ter town and bought a bang-up shiny hat.
And, my! oh, my! them new plaid pants; well, wa'n't I something grand
When I come up the walk with some fresh posies in my hand?
And didn't I feel like a fool when her young brother, Joe,
Sang out: "Gee crickets! Looky here! Here comes Matildy's beau!"

And now another feller comes up _my_ walk, jest as gay,
And here's Matildy blushin' red in jest her mother's way;
And when she says she's got ter go an errand to the store,
We know _he_ 's waitin' 'round the bend, jest as I've done afore;
Or, when they're in the parlor and I knock, why, bless yer heart!
I have ter smile ter hear how quick their chairs are shoved apart.
They think us old folks don't "catch on" a single mite; but, sho!
I reckon they fergit I was Matildy's mother's beau.

* * * * *

"SISTER'S BEST FELLER"

My sister's best feller is 'most six-foot-three,
And handsome and strong as a feller can be;
And Sis, she's so little, and slender, and small,
You never would think she could boss him at all;
But, my jing!
She do'n't do a thing
But make him jump 'round, like he worked with a string!
It jest makes me 'shamed of him sometimes, you know,
To think that he'll let a girl bully him so.

He goes to walk with her and carries her muff
And coat and umbrella, and that kind of stuff;
She loads him with things that must weigh 'most a ton;
And, honest, he _likes_ it, - as if it was fun!
And, oh, say!
When they go to a play,
He'll sit in the parlor and fidget away,
And she won't come down till it's quarter past eight,
And then she'll scold _him_ 'cause they get there so late.

He spends heaps of money a-buyin' her things,
Like candy, and flowers, and presents, and rings;
And all he's got for 'em 's a handkerchief case -
A fussed-up concern, made of ribbons and lace;
But, my land!
He thinks it's just grand,
"'Cause she made it," he says, "with her own little hand";
He calls her "an angel" - I heard him - and "saint,"
And "beautif'lest bein' on earth" - but she ain't.

'Fore _I_ go an errand for her any time
I jest make her coax me, and give me a dime;
But that great, big silly - why, honest and true -
He'd run forty miles if she wanted him to.
Oh, gee whiz!
I tell you what 'tis!
I jest think it's _awful_ - those actions of his.
_I_ won't fall in love, when I'm grown - no sir-ee!
My sister's best feller's a warnin' to me!

* * * * *

"THE WIDDER CLARK"

It's getting on ter winter now, the nights are crisp and chill,
The wind comes down the chimbly with a whistle sharp and shrill,
The dead leaves rasp and rustle in the corner by the shed,
And the branches scratch and rattle on the skylight overhead.
The cracklin' blaze is climbin' up around the old backlog,
As we set by the fireplace here, myself and cat and dog;
And as fer me, I'm thinkin', as the fire burns clear and bright,
That it must be mighty lonesome fer the Widder Clark ter-night.

It's bad enough fer me, b'gosh, a-pokin' round the place,
With jest these two dumb critters here, and nary human face
To make the house a home agin, same as it used ter be
While mother lived, for she was 'bout the hull wide world ter me.
My bein' all the son she had, we loved each other more -
That's why, I guess, I'm what they call a "bach" at forty-four.
It's hard fer _me_ to set alone, but women folks - 't ain't right,
And it must be mighty lonesome fer the Widder Clark ter-night.

I see her t' other mornin', and, I swan, 't wa'n't later 'n six,
And there she was, out in the cold, a-choppin' up the sticks
To kindle fire fer breakfast, and she smiled so bright and gay,
By gee, I simply couldn't bear ter see her work that way!
Well, I went in and chopped, I guess, enough ter last a year,
And she said "Thanks," so pretty, gosh! it done me good ter hear!
She do'n't look over twenty-five, no, not a single mite;
Ah, hum! it must be lonesome fer the Widder Clark ter-night.

I sez ter her, "Our breakfasts ain't much fun fer me or you;
Seems's if two lonesome meals might make one social one fer two."
She blushed so red that I did, too, and I got sorter 'fraid
That she was mad, and, like a fool, come home; I wish I'd stayed!
I'd like ter know, now, if she thinks that Clark's a pretty name -
'Cause, if she do'n't, and fancies mine, we'll make 'em both the same.
I think I'll go and ask her, 'cause 't would ease my mind a sight
Ter know 't wa'n't quite so lonesome fer the Widder Clark ter-night.

* * * * *

FRIDAY EVENING MEETINGS

Oh, the Friday evening meetings in the vestry, long ago,
When the prayers were long and fervent and the anthems staid and slow,
Where the creed was like the pewbacks, of a pattern straight and stiff,
And the congregation took it with no doubting "but" or "if,"
Where the girls sat, fresh and blooming, with the old folks down before,
And the boys, who came in later, took the benches near the door.

Oh, the Friday evening meetings, how the ransomed sinners told
Of their weary toils and trials ere they reached the blessed fold;
How we trembled when the Deacon, with a saintly relish, spoke
Of the fiery place of torment till we seemed to smell the smoke;
And we all joined in "Old Hundred" till the rafters seemed to ring
When the preacher said, "Now, brethren: Hallelujah! Let us sing."

Oh, the Friday evening meetings, and the waiting 'round about,
'Neath the lamplight, at the portal, just to see when _she_ came out,
And the whispered, anxious question, and the faintly murmured "Yes,"
And the soft hand on your coat-sleeve, and the perfumed, rustling dress, -
Oh, the Paradise of Heaven somehow seemed to show its worth
When you walked home with an angel through a Paradise on earth.

Oh, the Friday evening meetings, and the happy homeward stroll,
While the moonlight softly mingled with the love-light in your soul;
Then the lingering 'neath the lattice where the roses hung above,
And the "good-night" kiss at parting, and the whispered word of love, -
Ah, they lighted Life's dark highway with a sweet and sacred glow
From the Friday evening meetings in the vestry, long ago.

* * * * *

THE PARSON'S DAUGHTER

Little foot, whose lightest pat
Seems to glorify the mat,
Waving hair and picture hat,
Grace the nymphs have taught her;
Gown the pink of fit and style,
Lips that ravish when they smile, -
Like a vision, down the aisle
Comes the parson's daughter.

As she passes, like a dart
To each luckless fellow's heart
Leaps a throbbing thrill and smart,
When his eye has sought her;
Tries he then his sight to bless
With one glimpse of face or tress -
Does she know it? - well, I guess!
Parson's pretty daughter.

Leans she now upon her glove
Cheeks whose dimples tempt to love,
And, with saintly look above,
Hears her "Pa" exhort her;
But, within those upturned eyes,
Fair as sunny summer skies,
Just a hint of mischief lies, -
Parson's roguish daughter.

From their azure depths askance,
When the hymn-book gave the chance,
Did I get one laughing glance?
I was sure I caught her.
Are her thoughts so far amiss
As to stray, like mine, to bliss?
For, last night, I stole a kiss
From the parson's daughter.

* * * * *

[Illustration: man feeding horse]

MY OLD GRAY NAG

When the farm work's done, at the set of sun,
And the supper's cleared away,
And Ma, she sits on the porch and knits,
And Dad, he puffs his clay;
Then out I go ter the barn, yer know,
With never a word ner sign,
In the twilight dim I harness him -
That old gray nag of mine.

He's used ter me, and he knows, yer see,
Down jest which lane ter turn;
Fact is - well, yes - he's been, I guess,
Quite times enough ter learn;
And he knows the hedge by the brook's damp edge,
Where the twinklin' fireflies shine,
And he knows who waits by the pastur' gates -
That old gray nag of mine.

So he stops, yer see, fer he thinks, like me,
That a buggy's made fer two;
Then along the lane, with a lazy rein,
He jogs in the shinin' dew;
And he do'n't fergit he can loaf a bit
In the shade of the birch and pine;
Oh, he knows his road, and he knows his load -
That old gray nag of mine.

No, he ain't the sort that the big-bugs sport,
Docked up in the latest style,
But he suits us two, clean through and through,
And, after a little while,
When the cash I've saved brings the home we've craved,
So snug, and our own design,
He'll take us straight ter the parson's gate -
That old gray nag of mine.

* * * * *

THROUGH THE FOG

The fog was so thick yer could cut it
'Thout reachin' a foot over-side,
The dory she'd nose up ter butt it,
And then git discouraged an' slide;
No noise but the thole-pins a-squeakin',
Or, maybe, the swash of a wave,
No feller ter cheer yer by speakin' -
'Twas lonesomer, lots, than the grave.

I set there an' thought of my trouble,
I thought how I'd worked fer the cash
That bust and went up like a bubble
The day that the bank went ter smash.
I thought how the fishin' was failin',
How little this season I'd made,
I thought of the child that was ailin',
I thought of the bills ter be paid.

"And," says I, "All my life I've been fightin'
Through oceans of nothin' but fog;
And never no harbor a-sightin' -
Jest driftin' around like a log;
No matter how sharp I'm a-spyin',
I never see nothin' ahead:
I'm sick and disgusted with tryin' -
I jest wish ter God I was dead."

It wa'n't more'n a minute, I'm certain,
The words was jest out er my mouth,
When up went the fog, like a curtain,
And "puff" came the breeze from the south;
And 'bout a mile off, by rough guessin',
I see my own shanty on shore,
And Mary, my wife and my blessin',
God keep her, she stood in the door.

And I says ter myself, "I'm a darlin';
A chap with a woman like that,
To set here a-grumblin' and snarlin',
As sour as a sulky young brat -
I'd better jest keep my helm steady,
And not mind the fog that's adrift,
For when the Lord gits good and ready,
I reckon it's certain ter lift."

* * * * *

THE BALLADE OF THE DREAM-SHIP

My dream-ship's decks are of beaten gold,
And her fluttering banners are brave of hue,
And her shining sails are of satin fold,
And her tall sides gleam where the warm waves woo:
While the flung spray leaps in a diamond dew
From her bright bow, dipping its dance of glee;
For the skies are fair and the soft winds coo,
Where my dream-ship sails o'er the silver sea.

My dream-ship's journeys are long and bold,
And the ports she visits are far and few;
They lie by the rosy shores of old,
'Mid the dear lost scenes my boyhood knew;
Or, deep in the future's misty blue,
By the purple islands of Arcady, -
And Spain's fair turrets shine full in view,
Where my dream-ship sails o'er the silver sea.

My dream-ship's cargo is wealth untold,
Rare blooms that the old home gardens grew,
Sweet pictured faces, and loved songs trolled
By lips long laid 'neath the churchyard yew;
Or wondrous wishes not yet come true,
And fame and glory that is to be; -
Hope holds the wheel all the lone watch through,
Where my dream-ship sails o'er the silver sea.

ENVOY

Heart's dearest, what though the storms may brew,
And earth's ways darken for you and me?
The breeze is fair - let us voyage anew,
Where my dream-ship sails o'er the silver sea.

* * * * *

LIFE'S PATHS

It's A wonderful world we're in, my dear,
A wonderful world, they say,
And blest they be who may wander free
Wherever a wish may stray;
Who spread their sails to the arctic gales,
Or bask in the tropic's bowers,
While we must keep to the foot-path steep
In this workaday life of ours.

For smooth is the road for the few, my dear,
And wide are the ways they roam:
Our feet are led where the millions tread,
In the worn, old lanes of home.
And the years may flow for weal or woe,
And the frost may follow the flowers,
Our steps are bound to the self-same round
In this workaday life of ours.

But narrow our path may be, my dear,
And simple the scenes we view,
A heart like thine, and a love like mine,
Will carry us bravely through.
With a happy song we'll trudge along,
And smile in the shine or showers,
And we'll ease the pack on a brother's back
By this workaday life of ours.

* * * * *

THE MAYFLOWER

In the gleam and gloom of the April weather,
When the snows have flown in the brooklet's flood,
And the Showers and Sunshine sport together,
And the proud Bough boasts of the baby Bud;
On the hillside brown, where the dead leaves linger
In crackling layers, all crimped and curled,
She parts their folds with a timid finger,
And shyly peeps at the waking world.

The roystering West Wind flies to greet her,
And bids her haste, with a gleeful shout:
The quickening Saplings bend to meet her,
And the first green Grass-blades call, "Come out!"
So, venturing forth with a dainty neatness,
In gown of pink or in white arrayed,
She comes once more in her fresh completeness,
A modest, fair little Pilgrim Maid.

Her fragrant petals, their beauties showing,
Creep out to sprinkle the hill and dell,
Like showers of Stars in the shadows glowing,
Or Snowflakes blossoming where they fell;
And the charmed Wood leaps into joyous blooming,
As though't were touched by a Fairy's ring,
And the glad Earth scents, in the rare perfuming,
The first sweet breath of the new-born Spring.

* * * * *

MAY MEMORIES

To my office window, gray,
Come the sunbeams in their play,
Come the dancing, glancing sunbeams, airy fairies of the May;
Like a breath of summer-time,
Setting Memory's bells a-chime,
Till their jingle seems to mingle with the measure of my rhyme.

And above the tramp of feet,
And the clamor of the street,
I can hear the thrush's singing, ringing high and clear and sweet, -
Hear the murmur of the breeze
Through the bloom-starred apple trees,
And the ripples softly splashing and the dashing of the seas;

See the shadow and the shine
Where the glossy branches twine,
And the ocean's sleepy tuning mocks the crooning in the pine;
Hear the catbird whistle shrill
In the bushes by the rill,
Where the violets toss and twinkle as they sprinkle vale and hill;

Feel the tangled meadow-grass
On my bare feet as I pass;
See the clover bending over in a dew-bespangled mass;
See the cottage by the shore,
With the pansy beds before,
And the old familiar places and the faces at the door.

[Illustration]

Oh, the skies of blissful blue,
Oh, the woodland's verdant hue, -
Oh, the lazy days of boyhood, when the world was fair and new!
Still to me your tale is told
In the summer's sunbeam's gold,
And my truant fancy straying, goes a-Maying as of old.

* * * * *

BIRDS'-NESTING TIME

The spring sun flashes a rapier thrust
Through the dingy school-house pane,
A shining scimitar, free from rust,
That cuts the cloud of the drifting dust,
And scatters a golden rain;
And the boy at the battered desk within
Is dreaming a dream sublime,
For study's a wrong, and school a sin,
When the joys of woods and fields begin,
And it's just birds'-nesting time.

He dreams of a nook by the world unguessed,
Where the thrush's song is sung,
And the dainty yellowbird's fairy nest,
Lined with the fluff from the cattail's crest,
'Mid the juniper boughs is hung;
And further on, by the elder hedge,
Where the turtles come out to sleep,
The marsh-hen builds, by the brooklet's edge,
Her warm, wet home in the swampy sedge,
'Mid the shadows so dark and deep.

He knows of the spot by the old stone wall,
Where the sunlight dapples the glade,
And the sweet wild-cherry blooms softly fall,
And hid in the meadow-grass rank and tall,
The "Bob-white's" eggs are laid.
He knows, where the sea-breeze sobs and sings,
And the sand-hills meet the brine,
The clamorous crows, with their whirring wings,
Tell of their treasure that sways and swings
In the top of the tasselled pine.

* * * * *

And so he dreamed, with a happy face,
Till the noontide recess came,
And when't was over, ah, sad disgrace,
The teacher, seeing an empty place,
Marked "truant" against his name;
While he, forgetful of book or rule,
Sought only a tree to climb:
For where is the boy who remembers school
When the cowslip blows by the marshy
And it's just birds'-nesting time?

* * * * *

THE OLD SWORD ON THE WALL

Where the warm spring sunlight, streaming
Through the window, sets its gleaming,
With a softened silver sparkle in the dim and dusky hall,
With its tassel torn and tattered,
And its blade, deep-bruised and battered,
Like a veteran, scarred and weary, hangs the old sword on the wall.

None can tell its stirring story,
None can sing its deeds of glory,
None can say which cause it struck for, or from what limp hand it fell;
On the battle-field they found it,
Where the dead lay thick around it -
Friend and foe - a gory tangle - tossed and torn by shot and shell.

Who, I wonder, was its wearer,
Was its stricken soldier bearer?
Was he some proud Southern stripling, tall and straight and brave and true?
Dusky locks and lashes had he?
Or was he some Northern laddie,
Fresh and fair, with cheeks of roses, and with eyes and coat of blue?

From New England's fields of daisies,
Or from Dixie's bowered mazes,
Rode he proudly forth to conflict? What, I wonder, was his name?
Did some sister, wife, or mother,
Mourn a husband, son, or brother?
Did some sweetheart look with longing for a love who never came?

Fruitless question! Fate forever
Keeps its secret, answering never.
But the grim old blade shall blossom on this mild Memorial Day;
I will wreathe its hilt with roses
For the soldier who reposes
Somewhere 'neath the Southern grasses in his garb of blue or gray.

May the flowers be fair above him,


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Online LibraryJoseph Crosby LincolnCape Cod Ballads, and Other Verse → online text (page 4 of 6)