The Quincy Whig Mar 18 1846
By the fire-side I was sitting, and my wife she was a knitting,
And a new heel she was fitting, to a stocking half worn out:
Joe was in the chimney corner, spelling how young Jacky Horner
Ate the plum, which from the pie his greedy fingers had torn out—
Plum, from out the Christmas pie, by him so greedily torn out:
This our Josey was about.
Joe huge lots of fun was quaffing, loud and long the lad was laughing,
Wife and I were more than half inclined to join in his glee;
Till the urchin, silent grinning, ceased the roar of his beginning,
Only chuckling, shuffling, shinning, smiling often on his knee—
Smiting hard upon the patch — the gray cloth patch, upon his knee,
As he looked at wife and me.
’Twas on Saturday, at night, and the fire was burning bright,
And my heart was glad and light, for my weekly toil was o’er;
All my Sunday chores were done up, and “I swon,” says I, “till sun up
I will lie a-bed and sleep, and if so be as I should snore,
If, in sleeping long and deep in bed, I happen for to snore,
’Tis what I have done before.”
Presently I thought I heard a cackling, as of barnyard bird,
Suddenly alarmed or stirred, by some stealthy enemy;
But methinks “It is a rustle, of Dame Bunty with her bustle,
Crowing closer, just to jostle other hens from off the tree—
Crowding on the rival hens to jostle them from off the tree—
The old black locust roosting tree.
Therefore quietly I sot, and the noise I heeded not,
Till at last my old wife got up with her new stocking heel,
And she says, “Now Jeremiah!” (and her voice was getting higher,)
“Get up, sir, and leave that fire, and go out, right off the reel—
Quit the fire, and go out-doors; straight away, right off the reel,
And see what makes the chickens squeal!”
I am very peaceable, and in all things feasible
I submit — for she’s able for to judge what’s best for both:
Quickly to my feet I rose — only stopped to blow my nose,
And, with staff in hand, I goes, albeit I was very loth;
Out of doors, with staff in hand, goes I, albeit very loth,
Thinking — something like an oath.
Stoutly strode I towards the tree, grumbling, growling sullenly,
“For,” says I, “I’ll only see what at first I understood:”
But full soon I stood aghast, — ere to that old tree I past,
Old Dame Bunty breathed her last, fluttering in a pool of blood—
At my feet old Bunty lay, fluttering, flapping, in her blood—
Dying — where aghast I stood.
Savagely I looked around, up the tree and on the ground,
If the villain might be found, who had done my hen to death:
“’Tis some thievish, murderous owl, in midnight darkness prone to fowling,
Or some bloody weasel prowling, that has stopped poor Bunty’s breath—
Some assassin, vile and bloody, choked the poor old lady’s breath;
May he die a felon’s death!”
This in grief and anger spoken, in the grass I went a-poking,
Lest perchance it might be cloaking the foul rogue I wished to seize:
Reckless was I of his biting, all my soul was bent on fighting,
And — my fierce, insane, delight in — down I went, upon my knees—
Through the grass, my wild delight in, scrambling on upon my knees,
“Gad!” says I, “I’ll raise a breeze!”
Groping in the hazel bushes, eager here and there I pushes;
Suddenly the caitiff rushes right before me, straight ahead:
Madly on his track I pitches, scuffling through the hazel switches,
Naught care I for ragged breeches, so I strike the murderer dead—
Burn my breeches! tear my shirt! only strike the murderer dead,
I’ll go home without a thread!
Fast the felon fled, but faster followed fierce and fell disaster,
Naught avails “The Poor Man’s Plaster” for such blows as then I dealt:
But while I thus swing my flail, in haste the devil tucked his tail in,—
Flung it out with his last failing breath — Oh! scissors! how it smelt!
That last flourish, in my nose, eyes, ears, mouth, stomach, it was felt—
Oh! Jemima! how it smelt!
Back I staggered, poison-tainted — how I wished that I had fainted—
Ne’er from bones of martyrs sainted, such ethereal essence flows:
And though relics may convert you, by their power to heal or hurt you,
None have such immortal virtue, as that either in my nose,
No such deathless, deadly, odour, as the horrid stench that rose
From that pole-cat to my nose.
All that night I washed and scrubbed me, long with soap and sand I rubbed me,
Still next day my dear wife snubbed me, “Jeremiah! how you stink!”
Once more to the creek I hasted; scrubbed and washed, and prayed and fasted;
All, alas! was labour wasted, by that fair stream’s flowery brink,
Vain were soap, sand, prayer, and fasting, by that fair stream’s flowery brink,
“Jeremiah! how you stink!”
And this odour, to my thinking, still is stinking, still is stinking,
Deeper in my flesh ’tis sinking, daily it is striking in,—
Rotten noisome imp of evil! Ruthless and relentless devil!
Quit thy foul and horrid revel, take thy stench from out my skin!
Take they foul, intolerable, charnel stench from out my skin!
’Tis too bad to rub it in!
This parody was mentioned in a letter by Abraham Lincoln (April 18, 1846, to Andrew Johnston), saying he enjoyed “The Pole-Cat”, but had not yet read Poe’s original.
Its publication was prefaced with a letter:
Mr. Editor — I should probably never have published the enclosed poem, did I not feel it a duty I owe to the republic of letters, to expose a culprit, who disregards its laws. Mr. Edgar A. Poe, to whom is was shown in confidence, has, in his parody called “The Raven,” most shamefully plagiarised both my stanza and my subject, with such silly alteration in both, as, in his feeble cunning, he thought would disguise the theft. Such, for instance, is the perpetual repetition of the rhymes, “Evermore” and “Nevermore” — a wretched shift to conceal the poverty of his invention: and such his transformation of the formidable pole-cat into a dull jackdaw, whose vocabulary is as monotonous as his own. Less I could not say in justice to my own pretensions, and more I cannot add, without doing violence to the proverbial modesty of
Your obedient servant,
Quincy, Illinois, March 3rd, 1846.
Return to the Quaint and Curious index for more pastiches and parodies of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”.